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California Nursing Excellence Gala Celebrates Region’s Top RNs

“The lady with the lamp” was the theme for this year’s California
NurseWeek Nursing Excellence Awards Gala. The event was Sept. 25 at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Orange County, Calif. Hundreds of people gathered to honor 30 finalists in six award categories, all of whom had been chosen for their outstanding work as nurses.

After a delicious dinner, the finalists were each invited to the stage to receive their awards and to be recognized for their outstanding work. Winners were evaluated by a panel of expert nurse judges using a blinded selection process to choose them from the hundreds of nominations submitted. The six winners advance to the national program as contenders for a national award in their respective categories this fall.

Meet this year’s California winners:

ADVANCING AND LEADING THE PROFESSION: Linda Sarna, RN, DNSc, FAAN
Professor, UCLA School of Nursing

Sarna is an educator and clinical nurse specialist in oncology who is internationally recognized for her expertise on tobacco control, lung cancer, and quality of life. She has done pioneer work identifying smoking among nurses as having a devastating impact on the profession as well as a barrier to treatment of tobacco dependent patients. Sarna launched the first national program focused on helping nurses quit smoking and promotes nursing involvement in tobacco control. Her research includes a Web-based educational clinical trial to improve nursing delivery of smoking cessation interventions among nurses in 30 hospitals in three states.

CLINICAL CARE: Sarla Duller, NP
Nurse practitioner, Veterans Affairs Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System

Duller wears many hats as nurse practitioner in gastroenterology/hepatology for the VA Greater Los Angeles Health System — clinician, liver transplant coordinator, and case manager for pre-liver transplant candidates. Duller operates a private clinic as a one-stop shop for veterans with liver disease. She interacts with the healthcare system’s National Transplant Center staff as well as mental health and social workers, pharmacists, dentists and other professionals to ensure continuity and quality of care for VA patients before and after liver transplants. She also developed a tool to gauge patient satisfaction with the liver clinic that found 90% giving high marks for being treated with respect and dignity.

COMMUNITY SERVICE: Jeanette Panchula, BSW, PHN, IBCLC
Senior public health nurse/lactation consultant, Solano County Health and Social Services Department in Fairfield

Panchula consults on breastfeeding and maternal-infant bonding in hospitals and community agencies throughout California. She also leads a community-wide task force in her Solano County department and mentored six staff nurses to become certified International Board of Certified Lactation Consultants. She also supports improving prenatal and early postpartum care of low-income women as a comprehensive perinatal services consultant for Medi-Cal OB providers.

MANAGEMENT: Candy Canga-Picar, RN, BSN, MBA
Memorial Medical Center in Modesto

Canga-Picar rose from a charge RN to the role of nurse manager for surgical and nursing support by using strong communication skills, teamwork, and creativity. She worked on several projects, including a seamless documentation system that tied into patient care plans and helped the unit achieve deficiency-free surveys by the California Department of Health Services. She created a charge nurse leadership team that carried out strategies to round and ask surgical patients about their care and made improvements in bedside relationships that resulted in a big jump in both nursing and patient satisfaction scores.

MENTORING: Dawn Tucker, RN, MSN, CPNP-PC/AC
Cardiovascular nurse practitioner, CHOC Children’s Hospital in Orange

As cardiovascular NP, Tucker built a five-member team of NP peers for the CVICU and later formed an NP team of three for the surgical unit. She coaches new and seasoned NPs on aspects of cardiac care and led the entire redesign and update of the facility’s nurse practitioner credentialing process. She supports setting standards of care for her unit, developed the system’s NP protocols, and is a role model for the hospital nursing staff. Tucker also frequently presents at cardiovascular events and has a wide reputation for her expertise in treating children with congenital heart disease.

TEACHING: Susan Peterson, RN, MSN
Nursing professor, American River College in Sacramento

Peterson is an organized, adaptable, and goal-oriented professor for the RN degree program at American River College who guides and motivates students to succeed. She also is a role model and mentor to new and adjunct faculty. A former cardiac educator and clinical analyst at local hospitals, Peterson uses her experience to develop and enhance curriculum leading to better student outcomes and serves as assistant director of the nursing department. She stays active in continuing education events and participates in an annual California nursing teaching conference that keeps her updated on the profession.

LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD: Mary Dee Hacker, RN, MBA
Vice president of patient care services/CNO, Childrens Hospital Los Angeles

With the exception of her first year of practice, Hacker has spent her entire 35-year career as a nurse at Childrens Hospital in various roles. She led the way to CHLA’s Magnet designation in 2008. Ten years ago, she also was the driving force behind Versant, a 22-week evidence-based program providing new graduates with a comprehensive clinical experience. Today, it is a thriving independent venture, and there are Versant programs in 70 U.S. hospitals. She also was invited to become a voting member of the CHLA Board of Trustees — a rare honor.

By | 2020-04-15T15:20:48-04:00 October 5th, 2009|Categories: Regional, West|0 Comments

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