Congratulations to the six national winners of the 2008 Nursing Spectrum/NurseWeek Nursing Excellence National Nurse of the Year Awards. These nurses combine a passion for nursing with individual talents and old-fashioned elbow grease to leave their mark on nursing and healthcare. Each winner has created a legacy of accomplishments in one of the following categories: Advancing and Leading the Profession, Mentoring, Clinical Care, Community Service, Management, and Teaching. The national winners were honored at a dinner Oct. 26 in Las Vegas. Finalists were selected from a pool of regional winners whose nominations were blinded and judged by Nursing Spectrum and NurseWeek National Advisory Board members.
Advancing and Leading the Profession
Patricia Cavanaugh, RN, MSN, is a nurse administrator who can envision the future, create an action plan, and effectively rally nurses and staff to achieve a goal.
As vice president of patient services and chief nursing officer of Capital Health System in Trenton, N.J., one of Cavanaugh’s many accomplishments includes blending two competing community hospitals into a single regional health system. She led the way for Magnet recognition by developing a unified culture out of two distinct and diverse groups of nurses, leaders, and practice environments.
“We used Magnet as our platform in building one organization with one mind-set for quality in nursing,” she says.
Cavanaugh has the ability to awaken a passion for professional development in nurses and has been key to the system’s development of successful programs for nursing research, evidence-based practice, competency-based education programs, preceptoring and mentoring, and nursing internships.
“Nursing is at the core of the programs we have put in place,” she says.
Marsha E. Fonteyn, RN, PhD, OCN, has an uncanny ability to inspire nurses to participate in scholarly activities. As a nurse scientist, Fonteyn’s work focuses on the support and promotion of scholarly activities, and she is a sought-out mentor at The Phyllis F. Cantor Center, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.
“Throughout my career I have been a teacher, both formally and informally,” she says.
Through Fonteyn’s direct involvement, poster and podium presentations by nurses increased by 60% over the past five years; and she has inspired those who may not have had the experience and know-how to publish to successfully do so.
Fonteyn regularly leads work groups for nurses and other staff who are working on scholarly activities, such as research and abstracts and PowerPoint and poster presentations for conferences. She also mentors staff in writing for publication.
“I always try to co-author with others, particularly those who are new at writing and research,” she says. “It is so gratifying to help someone to get into print who has never been published.”
Col. Joseph S. Blansfield, RN, MS, ANP-BC, is proud to have used his emergency and trauma skills during an 18-month deployment to Iraq.
“It was an honor and a privilege to have the responsibility of taking care of America’s precious resource — our sons and daughters in uniform,” says Blansfield, who is deputy commander of nursing services for the 399th Combat Support Hospital in Iraq.
Blansfield worked under extreme conditions, including gunfire and the constant threat of being the victim of explosive devices. Under his leadership his team relocated the CSH from northern Iraq to Anbar Province, where they rebuilt their operations. They had the first Army hospital in the region and the first to complete a move during combat operations.
“To help save lives there was one of the most gratifying experiences that a person can have,” he says.
Back at home in his position as trauma program manager at Boston Medical Center, Blansfield has become a great resource to his colleagues by sharing his combat clinical experience to help educate staff about emergency and trauma care.
Sandra Walters, RN, believes education plus a nurse’s compassion can equal peace of mind for underserved breast cancer patients. This belief led Walters, a breast specialist, to found the Andre Center for Breast Cancer Education and Navigation in 2006 in Denver. The center targets underserved populations with a mission of getting people with breast cancer the right treatment at the right place at the right time. She provides free educational and supportive services so patients can make informed decisions and navigate the healthcare system.
Unfortunately, many hospitals in Colorado do not offer this type of service, or uninsured and underinsured patients often cannot access them if they exist. “There was a gap in this area, and the center helps people from falling through the cracks,” says Walters.
To date, the Andre Center has served 250 women and men since May 2006, 70% of whom are uninsured or underserved. The center also helps find funds for patients for necessities such as housing, food, and transportation.
“I’m passionate about what I do because I know it makes a difference in men’s and women’s lives,” says Walters.
Debra Maitre, RNC, MS, believes what direct care perinatal and gynecology nurses do for families is a vital role and an essential investment in our collective future.
“There is nothing more gratifying than being able to support the nurses who do that important work,” says Maitre, who is director of Women’s and Infant’s Services at Presbyterian Hospital of Dallas.
According to her staff, Maitre is a champion of family-centered care and leads by example — she never asks others to do something that she is not already doing or is willing to do. Maitre also maintains her clinical certification, is a vibrant mentor and clinical teacher, and is highly visible and accessible to the staff. Maitre also implements evidence-based practices and helps develop nursing roles, such as clinical coordinators, clinical educators, outreach coordinators, and QI specialists.
During her tenure, the hospital has been named the Best Place to Have a Baby for 12 consecutive years by Dallas Child magazine.
“I’m not taking care of patients,” she says. “I’m taking care of nurses. But I still have the same philosophy as with patient care. I assess, evaluate, intervene, and re-evaluate what I have done for the staff.”
Sonya R. Hardin, RN, PhD, CCRN, ACNS-BC, lights up every time one of her students has an “ah-ha” moment of discovery and understanding.
“One of the great aspects of teaching is seeing the spark ignite when a student gets what you are trying to teach them,” says Hardin, who is an associate professor at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte School of Nursing.
Hardin also is a researcher, writer, and editor. She ignites many sparks because she has the ability to tailor alternative methods of teaching to an individual student’s learning style. One of her focuses is the practical application of theory, and she brings the real world into the classroom by using experiential learning methods. Examples include allowing a volunteer student to find out what it is like to live with a full arm cast for several hours or having students cut back on carbohydrates for a day to see how difficult it is for a diabetic to make dietary changes.
“Those little experiences can drill home how illness can change a patient’s life,” she says.