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Meet the DC, Maryland, Virginia Nursing Excellence winners

The stage was set June12 for a night of celebration and admiration for the 30 regional finalists of Nursing Spectrum’s 2012 Nursing Excellence program. The stellar event, held at the beautiful Martin’s Crosswinds in Greenbelt, Md., culminated in the regional awards presentation in which six of the 30 were named regional winners.

The evening was hosted by Eileen Williamson, RN, MSN, senior vice president and CNE for Gannett Healthcare Group, publisher of, who expressed the company’s continued commitment to honoring the many exceptional nurses who can be found in the DC/Maryland/Virginia area.

“We consider it a true privilege to recognize nursing excellence in this beautiful way,” Williamson said. “We wait with great anticipation for this night all year; truly it is one of the highlights of the year for us at”

During the course of the evening, guest facilities that participated in the Honor Your Own program presented their staff honorees with certificates of appreciation. Each of the 30 Nursing Excellence regional finalists were garnished with a corsage and received a plaque bearing his or her name and regional achievement. Of those 30, six extraordinary nurses were chosen to represent DC/Maryland/Virginia in the national Nursing Excellence awards to be announced this fall. The six regional winners each received an elegant sail-shaped, metallic, etched glass award to commemorate the evening.


Sherry Perkins, RN

Sherry Perkins, RN, PhD
Chief Operating Officer, CNO
Anne Arundel Medical Center, Annapolis, Md.

Perkins takes as many opportunities as possible to honor her nursing staff. But it was their turn to recognize her when she won in the Advancing and Leading the Profession category June 12.

Her love of her staff and patients makes her job easy, Perkins said.

“From my heart, I care most about the patients and the people who take care of patients,” she said. “Part of what I enjoy is connecting with staff directly.”

Perkins has made sure to take care of the hospital’s nurses. She created several councils for nurses — professional nursing, quality, staffing/scheduling, evidence-based practice and senior nurses — and created the Compassion, Outreach, Peer Encouragement program to help employees struggling with difficult situations, her nominator wrote.

Perkins “completely changed the culture of nursing in our institution” since she joined the 324-bed AAMC in 2006. She isn’t afraid to get in the trenches with the more than 830 medical staff members. She attends conferences with the hospital’s nurses and has fed babies and changed their diapers in the neonatal ward, said the nominator, a neonatal nurse.

“If you ask anyone at AAMC, ‘What do you think of Sherry Perkins?’ the answers will range from amazing to awesome to zealous about nursing and everything in between,” the nominator wrote.

Along with caring about nurses, Perkins has made a point to invite patient comments. She has encouraged patients to join certain councils to share their feedback.

Outside of the hospital, Perkins works on a statewide effort to improve nurse transitions into practice as part of the Robert Wood Johnson/Institute of Medicine recommendations for nurse residency, serves on the Maryland Hospital Association Council on Clinical Quality and is the president-elect of the Maryland Organization of Nurse Executives, her nominator said.

The results of her work include a ranking of 65th out of 1,200 hospitals by the Leapfrog Group for Quality and Safety in 2011.

Outside of work, Perkins recently finished an Iron Girl Triathlon in Columbia, Md., and in doing so, raised money for the Lighthouse Shelter for homeless people in Annapolis. She has inspired a team from the hospital to compete in the next event.


Kelly Krout, RN

Kelly Krout, RN, MSN
Clinical Nurse Specialist
Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, Baltimore

A lecture about caring for burn patients that Krout attended during nursing school inspired her career.

Krout, a clinical nurse specialist at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, joined the burn ICU after school and has continued in the field. Her work earned her the Nursing Excellence Award in the Clinical Care, Inpatient category.

Krout reaches out to community groups, as well as state police and members of the U.S. Air Force, to train them as first responders to burn patients. She presents lectures in five counties and provides hands-on training, including instructing EMT students on proper bedside burn-dressing changes and how best to stabilize and transfer burn patients, her nominator wrote.

With proper training, first responders can optimize the outcomes for burn patients, Krout said.

Krout, who has worked on her unit for about 10 years, also works in the surgical ICU. She noticed three to four cases of failed surgical tissue flaps that resulted in patient returns to the OR and increased patient stays and associated costs.

She collaborated with burn and plastics attending physicians to monitor those patients diligently and developed education to explain specifics about what to monitor and document, her nominator wrote. Working with the medical staff, she is revamping the hand-off process to allow for the surgeon and nurse to discuss flap specifics and ask questions postop, ultimately improving outcomes for those patients.

As leader of the hospital’s rapid response team. Krout has expanded its scope to include inpatient and clinic areas of the hospital, her nominator wrote. The team is working on a plan to allow family members to activate the rapid response team. The team’s average response time is 2 minutes, and calls average 30 minutes.

The team has tended to about 150 calls a year since 2009 but has seen decreases in the number of cardiac arrest calls.

Other nurses soon will be able to learn from Krout’s burn care expertise.

She has co-authored a book chapter on the coordination of care for burn patients, focusing on treatments in the first 24 hours, that is expected to be published sometime in 2013.


Sandra Fields, RN

Sandra Fields, RN, BSN, NE-BC
Manager, Admit/Recovery and PACU
Martha Jefferson Hospital, Charlottesville, Va.

Imagine combining your hospital’s surgical, interventional and procedural departments in a new hospital and completing a move in one day. Fields was able to accomplish that at Martha Jefferson Hospital with a five-year project that included three years of planning.

“The discussions often became lengthy and heated, but [Fields] prevailed and challenged the rest of the managers to do what was right for the patients,” the nominator wrote.

Fields’ “excellent effort made the Surgical, Interventional, Procedural Center transition a big success,” according to the hospital’s CNE, Amy Black, RN, MSN, NEA-BC.

To achieve that accomplishment, which included increasing from a 19-bed unit to a 50-bed unit, Fields had to train staff — who previously had specialized in surgery, cardiac cath lab and electrophysiology lab, vascular interventional radiology and endoscopy — to have skills in each department. They had “a lot of anxiety,” she said, but her staff of about 35 came through and helped make the transition successful.

“They mean the world to me,” she said. “They’re the reason I go to work each day.”

Fields also revised documentation so all nurses use one form with general information then choose a second form that is specific to the type of procedure the patient is undergoing.

And she made sure the quality of care patients received wasn’t affected by the move. For the first quarter after the August 2011 move, Fields’ departments scored in the 90th percentile for excellence in responses to patient-satisfaction surveys conducted by Professional Research Consultants, making the hospital’s admit/recovery unit the “national benchmark or gold standard,” wrote the nominator, who began working at the hospital on the same day Fields did 30 years ago.

Fields’ focus on safety didn’t stop there. She “insisted” her staff use electronic medication records and a point-of-care barcode scan for medications, even though only inpatient units had that technology at the time. Now the scanning rates are 92% on her units, the nominator wrote.

She also improved compliance with the core measures of timeliness of antibiotic and beta blocker administration, improving rates to 98.7% and 93.6%, respectively, the nominator said.

When she’s not at the hospital, Fields works with nonprofit organizations including the United Way and Make-A-Wish Foundation.


Cheryl Keiller, RN

Cheryl Keiller, RN, BSN, CNOR
Director, Operating Room
MedStar Georgetown University Hospital, Washington, D.C.

Keiller has found the secret to improving communication among her staff — have them eat dinner together.

But not a run-of-the-mill catered meal. Keiller’s multicultural staff bring dishes to a potluck feast that represent their backgrounds, such as cuisine from the Caribbean, India and New Zealand.

“Everybody brings a different dish. We have a real cultural mix,” Keiller said. “Anything can be discussed over food.”

The meals are a way to thank staff for their hard work and have become a means for them to accept and celebrate their diversity.

“Our staff is diverse, and this breaking bread together has broken down barriers and created close friendships and improved working relationships,” her nominator wrote.

The door to her office, opposite the OR control desk, is open to staff, physicians, visitors and families. “All who enter feel welcome, valued and heard no matter what the question or issue,” her nominator wrote.

Keiller’s work also has led to positive results at her hospital. The OR flash rates have dropped to one. Quality measurements, such as surgical counts and medication labeling on and off the sterile field, are consistently at 100%. The hospital’s three-tier surgical safety checklist compliance is at 100%, and scores for patient satisfaction in the OR are above the benchmark.

Surgeons, anesthesiologists and OR staff came in up to two hours before their shifts to participate in a “complex, multidisciplinary fire drill” to educate them about how to respond to an OR fire, her nominator wrote.

Keiller also has built relationships with the hospital’s facilities team by going on weekly rounds “to ensure that physical plant issues are addressed quickly,” her nominator said.

During crises, Keiller has a “calm, yet decisive” manner and prioritizes patient safety. When a flood occurred throughout the ORs, Keiller led her team so effectively that patients and families were not aware of the problem, her nominator wrote.

To show their appreciation, the OR staff physicians held a surprise Cheryl Keiller Appreciation Day that included a wall-sized mural of thanks, her nominator wrote.

Keiller encourages her staff to give back to the community by organizing a campaign to provide backpacks for needy children before the school year starts. She also makes sandwiches and lunches for the homeless at a local shelter.


Cynthia Heer, RN

Cynthia Heer, RNC-OB, RN-BC, MSN
Clinical Educator/Perinatal Services
MedStar Georgetown University Hospital, Washington, D.C.

Heer was excited to bring new life into the world when she worked on the postpartum unit. Now as a clinical educator of perinatal services at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital, Heer trains many new nurses who are on the unit.

Her role focuses on ensuring they have the fundamentals to provide good care.

“It’s laying a good foundation for them to get started,” she said.

With Heer as the point person, the hospital has become a Baby-Friendly facility. The Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative is sponsored by the World Health Organization and United Nations Children’s Fund to promote the 10 successful steps to breast-feeding, which include buying formula at fair market value, rooming in, having pasteurized donor milk available, prenatal breast-feeding education and increasing the knowledge and skills of perinatal medical and nursing staff, according to her nominator.

“This nurse is instrumental in ensuring that we meet the 10 steps to successful breast-feeding because it is the right thing for our patients,” the nominator wrote. “This was a gigantic change in care for all.”

Heer has been a nurse for almost 30 years and has certifications in inpatient obstetrics and nursing professional development.

Heer performs an annual needs assessment to develop, implement and evaluate a professional development curriculum for 75 staff members, her nominator wrote.

“Her efforts have impacted hundreds of nurses who care for thousands of women, infants and families 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” the nominator wrote.

She also works on the hospital’s Mother-Baby Couplet Care initiative that promotes mother-infant bonding and optimal infant feeding.

Heer has trained hundreds of nurses in neonatal resuscitation and has managed a fetal heart monitoring educational program, including developing manuals, videos, CDs and tests for topics such as fetal monitoring, the nominator said.

In 2010, Heer received the Sigma Theta Tau Top 100 Extraordinary Nurses award. She also has received the Unsung Hero Staff Award from the Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses. She will give a presentation titled “Increasing Exclusive Breast Milk Feeding Rates at an Urban Academic Hospital” at the association’s conference this year.

“She is passionate about her work and is inspirational to the direct care nurses she serves,” her nominator wrote.


Jonas Nguh, RN

Jonas Nguh, RN, PhD, MSN, MHSA
Director of Nursing
University of the District of Columbia, Washington, D.C.

Some people use vacations to relax and unwind. But Nguh takes teams of students to remote areas — in Alaska, Kenya, Sudan and South Africa — to provide vaccines and supplies.

“I do a working vacation,” Nguh said, adding he likes to combine volunteering with time off. “I like to keep active.”

That activity earned him the Volunteerism and Service award June 12 at the DC/Maryland/Virginia gala.

The students are eager to learn how to provide care outside of hospitals, he said. Because of fundraising and federal government assistance, the students travel for about $200 each.

This summer, students are working with local hotels on a project to collect discarded soaps to take on the missions to improve hand hygiene, Nguh said.

During the school year, Nguh oversees 50 nursing faculty and teaches med/surg nursing. He has expanded the nursing education program from one to four campuses to serve more than 500 students a year in eight healthcare specializations — CNA, home health aide, phlebotomy, patient care tech, LPN, RN, community health worker and medical records.

Nguh, a 12-year nurse, secured funding in 2011 for more than $500,000 in scholarship money for low-income students, underserved regions of Washington, D.C., and underrepresented ethnic groups in healthcare so they could gain skills and find jobs. “The program has successfully placed over 600 DC residents into stable jobs where they can provide for themselves and make a contribution to the economy,” his nominator wrote.

In 2005, Nguh founded Community Leadership Inc., a business that promotes networking for women. “Coming from a family background of seven women and witnessing first-hand the disenfranchisement experienced by minority women, Nguh continues to be a tireless advocate for women, for civic leadership and for community service,” his nominator wrote.

He also has set up a nonprofit organization, Dove House Assisted Living in the Baltimore area, that provides assistance with daily healthcare needs for the elderly and people with developmental disabilities or cognitive impairments.

Nguh has received other accolades, including outstanding alumni of the year honors from Strayer University and a Washington Business Journal Diversity Award.

“I really love what I do,” he said.

Karen Long is a freelance writer.


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By | 2021-05-25T16:21:24-04:00 June 19th, 2012|Categories: Nursing Awards|0 Comments

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