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Greater Chicago’s Top-Notch Nurses

Whether they’re helping sick children feel better, leading staff toward new challenges, improving patient care, or changing public policy, some nurses go above and beyond the line of professional duty.

Six top nurses in the Greater Chicago area were recognized for their dedication May 8 during the 2008 Nursing Spectrum Excellence Awards Gala at Drury Lane in Oakbrook Terrace, Ill. Nominated by their peers, the winners were chosen from 30 finalists in the categories of Advancing and Leading the Profession, Clinical Care, Community Service, Management, Mentoring, and Teaching. Finalist nominations were blinded and ranked by a judging panel of regional nursing leaders.

“It’s important because it’s nurses recognizing nurses,” says Sheri Hey, RN, BSN, CEN, clinical leader of the pediatric ED at Edward Hospital in Naperville, Ill. She helped nominate her colleague, Radek Hoffmann, RN, who received the regional Clinical Care award. “It’s people who actually do the same job as you saying you do it better than most people.”

While only six nurses were chosen as regional winners, Hey says the stories she heard during presentations at the awards gala are evidence the Chicago area boasts many phenomenal nurses.

“It was incredible listening to all the stories,” she says. “There is some stiff competition out there.”

Although the regional winners play different roles in their nursing professions, they share one thing in common: gratitude. All agree they would be unable to accomplish what they do every day without the help and support of their colleagues and others who work in their departments.

Advancing and Leading the Profession

Darcie Brazel, RN

Over the years, Darcie Brazel, RN, MSN, CNAA, BC, chief operating officer/chief nurse executive at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, Ill., has encouraged her staff to nominate fellow nurses for Nursing Excellence Awards. But she was surprised to learn she herself had been nominated for an award recognizing her leadership work. She was even more surprised when she won.

“It was really an honor,” she says. “I was really shocked. I certainly didn’t expect to win. There were wonderful finalists in that category.”

Brazel, who says she always wanted to help people by becoming a nurse, started her career at Advocate Christ 33 years ago. She sums up her feelings about leadership by quoting one of her favorite authors, Max DePree.

“The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say ‘Thank you.’ In between, the leader is a servant,” Brazel says. “That’s how I like to think of leadership. I’d like to think that I need to keep working with nurses on helping define what our goals and responsibilities are for the year and continue to thank them. But in between all of that I need to help obtain resources, manage conflict, and prepare for future generations of nurses.”

Clinical Care

Radek Hoffmann, RN

Chronically ill children who come through the pediatric ED at Edward Hospital in Naperville, Ill., often ask specifically for staff nurse Radek Hoffmann, RN, BSN.

The perspective kids have and the unique challenges they present make his job worthwhile, Hoffmann says.

“Kids, some who are pre-verbal, can’t tell you what’s going on,” he says. “The young school-age kids don’t want to tell you what’s going on because they’re afraid of getting shots or painful procedures. I think the challenge is to get down to their level and explain what you’re going to do in a way they can understand and try to gain their trust.”

One case in particular sticks out in Hoffmann’s mind and helped to inspire his nomination. The case involved a newborn baby suffering from meningitis whose twin had just died of the illness. Hoffmann didn’t hesitate to provide his assistance in the care for the infant while his colleague offered emotional support to the parents.

“All the doctors, the nurses, the techs all work collaboratively on a daily basis,” Hoffmann says. “We’re there for the goal of taking care of the kids and their parents. With kids, it’s not just about taking care of that child, it’s about making sure the parents are OK and are educated about what’s going on.”

Community Service

Diana P. Hackbarth, RN

Diana P. Hackbarth, RN, PhD, FAAN, started working to change tobacco laws at a time when educating the public about the dangers of smoking wasn’t popular.

A professor at Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing at Loyola University Chicago, Hackbarth has devoted the past 30 years to doing public health advocacy work. She chairs the Illinois Coalition Against Tobacco and sits on the board of directors of The Respiratory Health Association of Metropolitan Chicago.

“In terms of changing public policy, you have to work in a coalition,” Hackbarth says. “You have to have relationships with legislators. You have to be persistent and come back year after year. When I first started doing anti-tobacco work, people didn’t think second-hand smoke was that bad. We really had to start with a lot of education.”

Hackbarth says she was grateful and honored to receive a Nursing Excellence Award. She hopes to see more nurses become involved in public health advocacy and policy.

“Nurses can be very effective in the policy arena,” she says. “When you say you’re a nurse and you’ve taken care of someone with cancer and that’s why you want laws to restrict smoking in public places, you have a lot of credibility.”


Roseanne Niese, RN

A fractured knuckle at the age of 13 led Roseanne Niese, RN, MBA, to become a nurse. Now the director of emergency and intensive care services and nursing resources at Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital in Barrington, Ill., Niese still remembers visiting the ED after falling off a friend’s bike.

“I thought that was the coolest thing in the world,” she says. “When I had to choose what I wanted to do, that’s the first thing that came to my mind. I wanted to be a nurse.”

Niese assisted in the tremendous task of building Good Shepherd’s new ED, which was completed in April 2007. When she thinks about receiving recognition for her role in management, she has a sense of pride.

“It’s a personal foundation of my own that I be the best leader that I can be,” Niese says. “I hope that in the years that follow, I can continue to be that excellent leader.”

That pride extends to Niese’s staff, which she says is instrumental in helping her be a strong leader.

“I have some terrific people working for me,” Niese says. “There’s a lot of teamwork in the emergency room. I really do like nursing. It’s my passion. I am a nurse.”


Barbara Holmes Gobel, RN

Throughout her career, Barbara Holmes Gobel, RN, MS, AOCN, has met many people she thinks of as mentors. Gobel, an oncology clinical nurse specialist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Western Springs, Ill., is flattered to be put in that category.

“Nursing is a challenging profession,” she says. “We all need to be very cognizant of finding a mentor or mentors to help us along that journey. There’s so much to learn in nursing.”

Earlier this year, Gobel and a team of fellow nurses won an Excellence in Oncology Nursing-Sensitive Patient Outcomes Award from the Oncology Nursing Society for their work on a project at Northwestern Memorial that involved the identification of delirium in hospitalized cancer patients.

After working in oncology nursing for 25 years, Gobel says she loves making an impact on patients’ health.

“In cancer care, we can’t always cure the cancer,” Gobel says. “But we can make them feel better and treatments nowadays have become so sophisticated and aggressive. The knowledge base that nurses have is tremendous. It’s exciting to teach the next generation of nurses to care for patients with cancer.”


Maryanne Locklin, RN

In 1973, Maryanne Locklin, RN, PhD, APN, decided to enroll in college at the age of 32. A course in anatomy and physiology prompted Locklin’s interest in nursing. Now director emeritus, associate professor at Aurora University School of Nursing, one of her passions is teaching others who are returning to school later in life.

“I truly love teaching, and I especially love teaching nurses who are going back for their education,” says Locklin, who also teaches at hospitals throughout the western suburbs of Chicago and sits on the board of directors at Rush-Copley Medical Center in Aurora. “I believe we can have a good dialogue about the profession and challenge the nurses to understand what it means to be a professional nurse.”

The most rewarding part about her work, Locklin says, is having students tell her they think differently about nursing because of conversations they’ve had in the classroom. She credits feminism of the 1960s and 1970s for motivating her to go to school and discover her calling to become a nurse.

“Women were going back to school and working outside the home and challenging themselves,” Locklin says. “I was all caught up in it and wanted to be part of it.”

By | 2020-04-15T15:42:04-04:00 May 19th, 2008|Categories: Greater Chicago, Regional|0 Comments

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