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A night of shining stars

Mountain West nurses took one night off from their hectic lives to attend an event that pays tribute to the heart and soul of nursing for which many don’t expect to be recognized.

The 2011 Nursing Excellence Awards, held Aug. 19 at the Wild Horse Pass Hotel & Casino in Chandler, Ariz., honored 24 finalists in six categories. The social gathering matched faces to the names of many nurses who were nominated with grace and gratitude by their peers.

After each of the finalists were called to the stage to be recognized,’s Judith G. Berg, RN, MS, FACHE, unveiled the six regional winners, one in each category.

“This is truly our favorite night of the year,” Berg said among the cheers, explaining that regional winners will advance to the national competition. National winners will be announced later this year.

When the last heartening acceptance speech of the evening was delivered and the lights in the ballroom faded, nurses headed back to their homes, their patients and their coursework. But they were left with a greater appreciation for one another, and an even greater sense of pride in four little words: “I am a nurse.”

View a photo gallery of this memorable evening at

Elizabeth (Betty) Falter, RN, MS, NEA-BC

Advancing & Leading the Profession:
Elizabeth (Betty) Falter, RN, MS, NEA-BC
Executive director, Arizona Healthcare Leadership Academy;
President, Falter & Assoc. Inc., Oro Valley, Ariz.

Falter’s legacy in Arizona is the development of the Arizona Healthcare Leadership Academy, based on her belief that developing leadership skills in frontline nurses is best served through an interdisciplinary approach.

She focuses on integrating leadership training with nursing operations. She serves on the board of Nursing Administration Quarterly and was book review editor, managing her own column, for more than five years. Falter strongly believes sound and effective leadership creates a better work environment, improves patient safety and enhances care. She is a champion supporter of frontline nurses.

“The people in our category are absolutely amazing, and I adore them,” she said. “I thank the nurse executives — in this room — who supported the Arizona Healthcare Leadership Academy.” Falter also thanked NurseWeek for creating the Nursing Excellence Award program. “I am so touched.”

Kara Snyder, RN, MS, CCRN, CCNS

Clinical Care:
Kara Snyder, RN, MS, CCRN, CCNS
Clinical nurse specialist
University Medical Center, Tucson, Ariz.

Snyder promotes change in the healthcare environment for the improvement of care. She developed a rapid-response team at her facility, acquiring grants to help with this project, which has improved outcomes. She mentors nurses in literature appraisal and is leading a communitywide review course for CCRN certification for the ICU nurses. She would like to see all ICU nurses to achieve national certification.

“It is in the spirit of collaboration with the multidisciplinary team that I accept this award,” Snyder said. “Thank you to the patients and their families who have been my most amazing teachers over the years. Thank you to the UA Health Network University Campus for being such a phenomenal place to practice nursing. Finally, thank you to the review panel and NurseWeek magazine for recognizing this group of nurses; I’m truly humbled.”

Kristin St. Clair, RN

Community Service:
Kristin St. Clair, RN
Homecare and hospice nurse
PMS Community Home Health Care, Santa Fe, N.M.

Understanding cultural relationships, St. Clair has found creative ways to provide opportunities for familial healing, sometimes in unsafe neighborhoods. She served on a physician-led community task force, addressing ongoing healthcare issues in very diverse areas. The task force confronted use of resources, cultural communication needs with Hispanic and Native American communities, educational needs of RN and clinical staff, and nursing holistic practice and process.

She has worked on project development regarding AIDS interventions in East Africa, forming an education foundation with a Masai RN.

“To educate a woman is to educate a nation,” St. Clair said. “My focus is educating women, whether in the pueblos in New Mexico or the bush of Africa. And all I’ve ever needed to do that is my RN license and the grace of God.”

Linda Cibulskis, RN, BSN

Linda Cibulskis, RN, BSN
House supervisor
Mayo Clinic Hospital, Phoenix

Cibulskis assisted in the creation of the RN house supervisor role and played a pivotal role in the establishment of organizational policies and procedures. A critical thinker, she ensures that daily staffing assignments are founded on each staff member’s clinical skill set and the patient’s comprehensive care requirements.

Cibulskis thrives in unfamiliar and unexpected situations and applies experiences to grow personally and professionally. No matter how busy the shift may be, she shows empathy and listens to the concerns and needs of each department. Her sense of humor makes even the most unbearable peak winter days endurable.

“What an honor. In June, I celebrated my 20th year as a nurse,” she said. “I am just so grateful that I went into nursing … to have the opportunity to make a difference in people’s lives and then have them do the same to us.”

Bonnie Gance-Cleveland, RNC, PhD, PNP, FAAN

Bonnie Gance-Cleveland, RNC, PhD, PNP, FAAN
Director, Center for Improving Health Outcomes in Children, Teens & Families
Arizona State University College of Nursing and Health Innovation, Phoenix

Gance-Cleveland has been a mentor and role model to newer junior faculty and is the primary adviser for numerous graduate, DNP, and PhD students.

She implemented a writing salon for the academic center, where center members and non-center faculty meet and share manuscripts before submission, providing feedback, sharing of ideas to strengthen the manuscript, and allowing members to learn from more seasoned researchers.

She has been funded by AHRQ to implement a creative obesity risk screening program for pediatric primary care providers, and has developed clinical practice guidelines for clinicians.

“It has been an honor and a privilege to work with the wonderful members of the Center for Improving Health Outcomes in Children, Teens & Families at ASU,” she said. “I have had some incredible opportunities given to me while working with national colleagues, and I feel very fortunate.”

Ellen L. Poole, RN, PhD, CCRN, CPAN, CNE

Ellen L. Poole, RN, PhD, CCRN, CPAN, CNE
Professor of nursing
Chamberlain College of Nursing, Phoenix

Poole has influenced students to enter the nursing profession and those within nursing to increase their professionalism and education. Her research has established that preoperative education impacts post-operative outcomes and patient satisfaction while relieving anxiety. This research has changed preoperative teaching with greater attention to what will happen in the OR and self care needed upon discharge.

She has encouraged staff members in area hospitals and surgery centers to continue their education. Over the past 10 years, she educated and/or facilitated 360 nurses in nursing research or evidence-based practice projects.

“It is an honor and a privilege to be nominated,” she said, adding her appreciation to J&J for its donation in her honor. “The future of nursing belongs to the next generation, so [with this award] I get to be a part of that.”

By | 2020-04-15T13:06:22-04:00 October 10th, 2011|Categories: Regional, West|0 Comments

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