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New England’s Nursing Excellence winners honored

The stage was set May 3 for a night of celebration and admiration for the 30 regional finalists of’s 2012 Nursing Excellence program. The stellar event, held at the beautiful Boston Marriott Newton (Mass.), 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 New England 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 New England in the national Nurse 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.

Patricia C. Dykes, RN

Advancing and Leading the Profession

Patricia C. Dykes RN, DNSc, FACMI, FAAN
Senior nurse scientist
Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston

“I am especially humbled by the Nurse Excellence Award, because the nomination comes from my nursing colleagues who are equally deserving of this honor,” said Dykes, a scientist and researcher internationally recognized for her body of work on falls-prevention research. Dykes’ most recent cluster-randomized study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, was conducted in four urban hospitals and indicated the use of a fall-prevention tool kit on hospital units significantly reduced the rate of falls.

Extremely generous with colleagues and accessible to nursing staff and leadership, colleagues say Dykes makes her research come alive on patient care units.

“I am most interested in conducting research that directly touches patients and families,” she said. “Practicing nurses come to work because they want to take care of patients, and in my experience, nurses value research but find it difficult to complete research projects that are separate from the work that they do every day.”

She believes that a responsibility of a nurse scientist is to observe the work environment carefully and to ensure interventions are introduced in a way that makes sense to nurses and is consistent with their workflow. This approach makes it possible for nurses to participate in research and to witness the effect of their interventions on the outcomes that nurses, patients and families value, such as preventing patient falls and pressure ulcers and reducing pain, Dykes said.

In her long-standing commitment to clinicians at the bedside, Dykes has applied health information technology to research and published articles on nursing workflow, and her interdisciplinary informatics research training provides a solid foundation for the innovative work she is leading locally, nationally and internationally.

“While we are making progress, so much of what we do in nursing is based on tradition, rather than evidence,” Dykes said. “Nurses are uniquely positioned at the center of patient care where they interact with patients, families and the entire healthcare team. In this position, they have an opportunity to question their practice, to conduct research and to apply what they learn to the work that they do every day.”

For the past 20 years, Dykes’ research has influenced care at Brigham and beyond. It has brought the institution recognition, her reputation is global and her work truly advances the profession.

Jenifer Ash, RN

Clinical Nursing, Inpatient

Jenifer Ash, APRN, MPH
Clinical nurse specialist
Hartford (Conn.) Hospital

Ash practices what she believes. Every day she witnesses the delivery of excellent patient care and she says that when patients and families are part of — and in fact, at the center of — all decision making, exceptional patient outcomes are achieved.

Honored and humbled to be recognized among so many nurses of true excellence, Ash credits her patients, nurse colleagues and the interdisciplinary team for her inspiration and professional development.

Using evidence-based research in patient care initiatives, Ash guides practice and practitioners to success.

Ash co-leads her hospital’s timely discharge initiative, a program that under her leadership has been extremely successful. She also plays a significant leadership role in the cystic fibrosis program and is an expert in CF care. Her work has enabled the hospital to achieve and sustain accreditation as a CF program among an elite number nationally.

Ash initiated progressive care rounds that focus on each patient, implementing interventions when needed and maintaining quality measures, including a review of core measures as appropriate. “Because of this collaborative relationship with patients and their families, I have learned so much from them, and I carry those life lessons with me,” she said.

Ash also recognizes the importance of advancing the nursing profession, especially during this time of healthcare reform.

She spends time working directly with nurses and APNs in patient care areas, takes a lead role in frontline clinician education and has helped the organization achieve best-practice goals. Under her leadership, critical test result reporting compliance outcomes have improved from generally less than 20% to approximately 75% overall.

Every year, Ash collaborates with the Hartford Hospital employee health department and the city to support the influenza and pneumococcal immunization clinics, which provide thousands of vaccines. Serving as a role model, she holds multiple community vaccination clinics and encourages staff to volunteer. In addition, she implements community outreach programs to meet health screening and immunization needs of the city’s underserved population.

Ash forges close partnerships with providers, nurse managers, staff nurses, case managers and other clinicians. With her colleagues, Ash wants to continue to integrate patients and families in the decision-making process, and she sees it as a critical component in chronic disease management. “When we all work together — the patient, the family and the interdisciplinary team — we can make a real difference in our patients’ lives,” she said.

Rebecca L. Sherlock, RN

Home, Community and Ambulatory Care

Rebecca L. Sherlock, RN, PNP-BC
Clinical coordinator, Myelodysplasia Clinic
Children’s Hospital Boston

“It’s such a privilege to be recognized by my peers, validating the work we do to help improve the quality of life for our children with spina bifida,” said Sherlock, who upon receiving the award enthusiastically thanked her colleagues for their dedication and constant support.

Providing care aimed at treating and preventing complications, Sherlock has established coordinated care for children with spina bifida that begins in the early stages of life and continues through their transition to adult care.

Called “an extraordinary nurse and anchor” by her colleagues, she is a highly respected and expert clinician who provides exceptional assessment and clinical care for children with spina bifida and their families. Over the past few years, Sherlock has pulled together six different specialty care team members, from urology, neurosurgery, nephrology, orthopedics, primary care, social work and clinical psychology, who also provide care for these children.

Because she believes strongly in building her patients’ self-esteem, Sherlock established a camp for adolescent girls with spina bifida called Better Living in Girls (BLING) Camp, which helps them learn how to embrace their abilities, individuality and femininity. Sherlock arranged all of the finances so the young girls could stay with their parents at a luxurious Boston hotel for a weekend and have classes on diet and exercise, and receive massages and beauty makeovers.

The BLING Camp was such a success that Sherlock has developed a similar program for adolescent boys.

Sherlock also spends hours educating parents, communicating with community physicians, working with the Spina Bifida Association of Massachusetts and networking across the country with other caregivers. In addition, she advocates for community services for patients, whether it be for supplies, equipment or special programs.

Always looking for ways to improve care, Sherlock is in the process of developing a nurse practitioner-run clinic to provide immediate access and early intervention to patients with spina bifida and a life care center to treat adults in the later years of their lives.

“Whenever I help to set up a time and place where children with spina bifida can be with others who have the same condition and also can have special parent/child time together, then I feel as though I am making a difference in my patients’ lives,” Sherlock said.

Anne M. Steele, RN

Patient and Staff Management

Anne M. Steele, RN, DNP, CCRN, NE-BC
Nurse manager
Exeter (N.H.) Hospital

With more than 30 years of critical care and leadership experience, Steele possesses a strong and unwavering commitment to her patients, families and staff. “Receiving this award … means a great deal to me because my patients and staff are so very important to me. After all of these years in nursing, I am humbled and honored to be recognized for my service to others,” she said.

Always looking for best practice outcomes, Steele creates and sustains an environment of open inquiry and practice innovation. She is engaged in key clinical practice projects within the ICU, the hospital and in professional organizations. Steele seeks staff and leadership input in moving projects forward, always trying to remove obstacles and barriers to achieve positive outcomes.

Under her leadership, the ICU team has attained multiple measures of improvement in processes and care delivery and exceeds established benchmarks of national standards.

“I am proud to say that because of the staff’s efforts and hard work, we received the 2011 AACN Silver Beacon Award,” Steele said. Under Steele’s guidance, staff participated as authors and content experts in preparation and submission for the Beacon. Exeter currently is the second hospital in the state of New Hampshire to achieve Beacon recognition.

When the ICU and the facility’s palliative care team joined forces, Steele supported the collaborative work, which resulted in an improved patient and family decision-making process, better patient care and strong family support.

An advocate for lifelong learning, Steele’s actions speak louder than words. She recently completed her doctoral degree, maintains clinical care proficiency and holds dual certifications in critical care and as a nurse executive. “I have and will use the knowledge I have gained through my education to help others in their professional development and advancement,” Steele said. “Whenever you pursue educational opportunities, you think in a different and creative way, and that’s what I hope for my staff.”

Steele raises the bar by promoting education, certifications, conference attendance and hospital, community and council involvement, and she encourages staff to flex their schedules to participate in unit-based programs and professional committees and conferences.

Known for her regard and compassion for all, Steele is grounded in her roles as nurse and leader, and her work is said to be a key asset in both.

Janet Madden, RN

Education and Mentorship

Janet Madden
Clinical nurse specialist
Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston

After a long round of applause and many congratulatory hugs, Madden accepted her award and expressed gratitude to all the mentors in her life. “For me, the most meaningful part of mentoring is that I can hone in on the individuals’ strengths and talents, support them in their development and then watch them grow,” Madden said.
And she has fun in the process.

Responsible for the orientation and education of almost 70 NICU nurses, she positively has affected outcomes and quality and advanced the care of premature newborns. She researches and reviews current literature for new practices that would enhance the care provided to NICU patients and inspires nursing staff to do the same by facilitating the NICU Journal Club. Her work on prevention of retinopathy of prematurity has led to practice improvements and highlighted Madden as a true leader in patient safety.

In addition to her wealth of knowledge and critical thinking skills, what makes Madden stand out is her ability to guide and encourage the advancement of others.

She has developed, implemented and supported a comprehensive and well-designed orientation program tailored to the new hires’ individual needs. In addition to the orientation process, she helps staff members expand their practice in a variety of meaningful ways. In this effort, she has advanced the practice of countless clinicians by helping them become preceptors, transport nurses, delivery room nurses, published authors or applicants for clinical recognition.

Madden shares her expertise locally, regionally and nationally with membership on the education provider committee for the National Association of Neonatal Nurses. She has given a voice to neonates in a number of hospitalwide initiatives, and in doing so, has helped many realize that neonates have unique needs and are not just smaller versions of pediatric patients — a culture shift essential to patient safety.

“Most of my mentors have been part of my life for most of my career, and I will be grateful if I can pay it forward and offer the same support to those I mentor,” Madden said. It looks as though Madden already is achieving this goal because she was nominated by a group of her staff who say she is an inspiration, role model and mentor, citing specific contributions that have made measurable differences to them and their patients.

Deborah Rideout, RN

Volunteerism and Service

Deborah Rideout, RN, BSN, CNOR
Director, perioperative services
Southcoast Hospital Group, New Bedford, Mass.

Bursting with pride and enthusiasm as she accepted her award, Rideout said, “You don’t have to go far away to give of your time and talents. You can volunteer in your own backyard, your family or your parish, but whatever you choose to do, I know it will enrich your life forever.”

Rideout has volunteered as an operating room nurse with Medical Missions for Children on 20 surgical missions in the past 15 years spanning three continents and six countries — Tanzania, India, Bhutan, Ecuador, Peru and Guatemala — providing nursing care for children who need surgeries for facial deformities, such as cleft lip and cleft palate.

Rideout says she can’t imagine not having volunteer work as part of her life, whether it be at home or abroad. “I hope to inspire young nurses to join in our volunteer efforts because they have much to offer, and we need them,” she said.

Using her own personal and vacation time on these trips, she also pays MMFC yearly for them. She believes smiles and tears have no language barriers, and surgery for these children is life-altering, and in some instances even life-saving.

On one mission, Rideout, through a series of unexpected circumstances, found herself speaking with the minister of health in Bhutan, discussing his challenges and possible options for improving healthcare.

Rideout said the service is a personal and private experience for her; that it isn’t about the accolades, but rather the joy of giving.

Her colleagues couldn’t agree more and describe her as a skilled, calming and focused presence in and out of the OR who shows her love for the children, the experience, the team, the results and the hope and future given to these children. Her coworkers say she always is willing to go the extra mile to help them and her patients, and she simply lends her hand wherever and whenever needed.

According to the mission director, she is a true professional who does this work for one reason — the children.

“I have learned that the world is big but it is small, and that we are more alike than we are different,” Rideout said. “With MMFC, we take the babies, fix them and give them back. It is that simple, and yet it is profound.”

Janice Petrella Lynch, RN, MSN, is a regional nurse executive.

By | 2020-04-15T09:54:11-04:00 July 16th, 2012|Categories: National|0 Comments

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