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Six stars rise and shine

After an exhaustive review of the 18 regional finalists’ nominations and numerous accomplishments, the Florida selection committee for’s 2011 Nursing Excellence Awards chose six regional award winners.

The decision was not an easy one, said Eileen P. Williamson, RN, MSN, senior vice president of nursing communications and initiatives at Gannett Healthcare Group, publisher of “All 18 nominees demonstrated such compassion and dedication to the nursing profession,” she said. “They make this country a better place for patients on a daily basis.”

Nominations were blinded and ranked by a panel of regional nurse leaders. Florida’s winners will go on to be judged against regional winners from across the country. National Nurse of the Year winners will be featured in the November issue of The Magazine.

“Congratulations to our regional winners,” Williamson said. “They are truly deserving of this honor. We thank them for their service toward patients and the teamwork they promote among colleagues and other healthcare professionals.”


Deborah A. Raines, RN, PhD, EdS, ANEF
Consultant, Educational Technologist and ProfessorIndependent Contractor
Boca Raton, Fla.

Raines has a long-term effect on her patients and students. The self-employed nurse often runs into children or parents of young patients she cared for who recognize her right away. Those meetings remind her that her care “really does make a difference, even weeks and years later,” she said.

Her leadership in online learning and classes, such as virtual field trips, games, roundtable discussions and debates, was recognized in 2007 with e-College’s Excellence in Online Teaching Award. The relationship Raines has with a former student who nominated her for this award is a testament to her philosophy that teaching is a long-term experience that doesn’t necessarily end with graduation. “Teaching isn’t just inside that classroom,” Raines said.

While Raines doesn’t provide direct patient care, she continues to have an indirect effect on patients through her students, which is important to her as a nurse. “It’s being able to make a difference in other people’s lives, and that includes both students and patients,” she said.


Lou Etta Hicks, ARNP, MSN, GNP-BC
Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner
Bay Pines (Fla.) VA Healthcare System

For more than 30 years, Hicks said she has cared for veterans who “are very appreciative of what we do for them.” Often inspired by her patients, she said she is “very humbled that they’ve given so much, and I can give back to them, as well.”

Hicks’ care for elderly patients has spread through several published works, and a poster she created called “The Use of Medication Boxes With Elderly Veterans” was presented at the seventh annual Florida Magnet Nursing Research Conference and is housed at the Virginia Henderson International Nursing Library of Sigma Theta Tau International.

Nominated by a coworker and former Nursing Excellence Award winner, Hicks said her recognition as the Nursing Excellence Award winner in the Clinical Care category reminds her of the importance of her work. She said she keeps a plaque honoring her nomination on her desk. “When I’m having a bad day, I look at it and say, ‘I do make a difference,’” she said.


Marie O. Etienne, ARNP, DNP, PLNC
Miami Dade College School of Nursing

The reasons for Etienne’s trip to help people after the January 2010 earthquake in Haiti were simple: “I have a passion for humanity. I have a passion for service. I have a passion for nursing,” said Etienne, who is from Haiti. “It’s a natural instinct wanting to help save lives, wanting to help people in need.”

Since that trip, she has returned several times to distribute thousands of pounds of medical supplies, hygiene products and clothing. Etienne also involves her students in community service projects locally and abroad, including the Dominican Republic. The students often expect to change the lives of those they help but are surprised to feel their lives change through the experience, as well.

Etienne is excited to instill her passion for service and nursing in her students. “Whether you’re in the classroom, whether you’re in the field, whether you’re in the clinical setting, wherever you are, I think you should be able to touch someone and change their lives forever,” she said.


Evan Ballantyne, RN, ASN
Nurse Manager
Florida Hospital Orlando

Ballantyne said her Nursing Excellence Award is the result of not only her work, but also the work of her team at Florida Hospital Orlando. “My team took the time to submit the application and tell my story and theirs,” said Ballantyne, a nurse manager at the hospital. “I believe my team feels they are supported, that I care and that I am truly dedicated to making sure our patients are safe, and [the team members] are happy in their workplace.”

The “wonderful words of recognition” from her team and the time they took to honor her are “something I will cherish for the rest of my life,” Ballantyne said.

Among her many accomplishments, Ballantyne designed and produced a shower glove for patients that reduces infection rates and saves time and resources needed to replace intravenous sites. She also encourages nurses to further their educations. Because of her leadership and support, many colleagues have earned certifications, according to her nominator.


Yvonne Brookes, RN, BSc
Director of Clinical Learning
Baptist Health South Florida

Brookes’ pay-it-forward philosophy evolved from her personal experience as a young nurse in England.

The director of nursing education at her school became her mentor, and “it made a difference to me,” Brookes said. “I always felt what she gave to me, I wanted to give back.”

Her experience led her to an effective solution to her facility’s high turnover rate of recently graduated nurses. Talking with nurses on weekends, Brookes noticed they hungered for a program to help them transition from nursing school to working at a hospital, she said.

By educating preceptors and sending new nurses through an 18-week program, the turnover rate dropped from 23% to 6% in the first year, she said. “Every nurse needs to leave a legacy,” Brookes said. “We own this profession, and we need to keep it great and make it great.”


Sarah Perron, RN, MS, CMSRN
Education Specialist
St. Joseph’s Hospital
Tampa, Fla.

For Perron’s 10-person department at St. Joseph’s Hospital, the third time is the charm. Two of her colleagues previously had been nominated for Nursing Excellence Awards in the teaching category, but Perron is the first to take home the award. “We feel it’s quite an honor in the department,” said Perron, an education specialist.

She takes pride in being a nurse, which she considers one of her top three accomplishments. “Included in that are my husband and daughter,” she added.

Perron, who also brought nursing research to the bedside and implemented preceptor workshops, revels in furthering the education of her fellow nurses. She organizes an annual Certification Tea that encourages and recognizes nurses who have obtained and maintained their certifications. She said her award will motivate her to continue her education efforts at the hospital.

“I feel that I now have a deeper responsibility to the nurses and the students who I work with,” she said.

By | 2020-04-15T13:27:42-04:00 October 10th, 2011|Categories: Regional, South|0 Comments

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