Lisa Schavrien and Erin Smith
Together with nursing colleague Erin Smith, Lisa Schavrien (left) promotes the importance of voting. (Photo: Lisa Schavrien)

This nurse delivers … in more ways than one

It takes a special person to be an obstetric nurse. The profession demands dedication, compassion — in short, someone whose caring commitment literally brings new life into the world.

If that someone is also an advocate for social action by helping hospital patients exercise their right to vote, then she represents someone whose career path has brought both challenges and rewards.

Lisa Schavrien, RN, BSN, 46, of Manhattan is just such a person. The former West Bloomfielder, who attended Temple Israel and graduated from University of Detroit’s McCauley School of Nursing, today works at Lenox Hill Hospital, where she’s served as an OB nurse, advanced to assistant nurse manager of labor and delivery and, in 2014, created the obstetric nurse navigation program, which streamlines and personalizes patients’ needs.

It is Schavrien’s continuing commitment to helping patients that led her to realize the importance of being able to participate in an activity that defines the American democratic system — voting.

“In 2016, a patient was admitted after her water broke prematurely,” she said. “She felt very strongly about voting, and since I’m about ‘finding the yes,’ I was committed to finding a way to obtain her absentee ballot. While working to accomplish this, I was shocked to learn there’s no process in most states for a person to vote who’s unable to get to a polling station due to unexpected circumstances.

“My colleague Erin Smith suggested we formalize what I did for that patient and institute a hospital initiative for the 2018 midterm election. Despite the barriers we had to overcome, we finally got the Albany board of elections to grant us the ability to make obtaining absentee ballots possible.”

Schavrien personally saw how important voting was to patients, which was the impetus for her action to assist the sometimes-forgotten population of those unexpectedly hospitalized who still want to vote. A patient was in the hospital on Election Day, Nov. 6, and wanted to vote, but didn’t think it would be possible.

“He told me he had voted in every election since Carter, and he wasn’t about to stop,” she said.

The following excerpts are from a letter of commendation he wrote:

“I found out it was too late to get an absentee ballot … the deadline was the day before and I was having a surgical procedure that day. I thought I would miss the opportunity to vote until I met Nurse Lisa Schavrien. She offered to drive to Queens, to the Board of Elections to get the form … to obtain an absentee ballot.

“I was so grateful for her willingness to do this. I signed the form and she drove back to Queens and went before a judge to lobby on my behalf in order for me to vote. The judge granted me an absentee ballot. She drove back to the hospital, and I filled out the form and she drove back to Queens and dropped off the ballot.

“I was able to vote, something I very much wanted to do.”

What started with Schavrien and Smith has grown into a team of hospital volunteers and friends who are passionate about voting advocacy.

“Our campaign has been well received, and we won the president’s award from Northwell Health for our region. We’re now working toward November with the hope this will become a statewide initiative with our hospital leading the crusade.

Lisa Schavrien helping deliver a baby
Lisa Schavrien helps deliver a friend’s baby boy, Brody Lisa Schavrien

“We thought patients might feel like their health was their priority, not casting a vote,” Schavrien said. “But after spending time with them, we saw just how important this was. Once we understood what a difference this made for our patients, we vowed to commit to doing this for every election moving forward.

“As we know, voting is not only a right but a responsibility,” she continued. “With the uncertainty of what the future holds, any and every opportunity to make this happen needs to be explored.

“Both Erin and I feel very strongly that every person should be granted the opportunity to exercise their right to vote should they choose to. As far as public health is concerned, with the possibility of mass hospitalizations come fall, the vote-by-mail option would certainly help to support this right.”

Whether it’s nursing or social action, Schavrien credits the inclusivity, forgiveness and acceptance in Judaism with keeping her centered in all she does.

“What resonates with me from my Jewish teachings is the humanistic quality I grew up with at Temple Israel,” she said. “This is something I strive to live by — understanding people as people first and patients second.

“There’s so much that’s been rewarding throughout my career, I’m almost immune to the feeling of reward,” Schavrien said. “Sometimes I take a step back to observe my actions, and I do feel a sense of accomplishment. I’ve had a great run, and if I stopped working tomorrow, I’d know I’ve made a difference.”

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