You are announces California Nursing Excellence Award winners announces California Nursing Excellence Award winners

The stage was set Aug. 24 at the Hilton Los Angeles/University City for a night of celebration and recognition for the 30 regional finalists of’s 2012 Nursing Excellence program. The stellar event culminated in the regional awards presentation during which six of the 30 finalists were named regional winners.

The evening was hosted by Judith G. Berg, RN, MS, FACHE, former vice president and nurse executive of’s West and Heartland/Midwest editions, who expressed the company’s continued commitment to honoring the many exceptional nurses in California.

“We consider it a true privilege to recognize nursing excellence in this beautiful way,” Eileen Williamson, RN, MSN, senior vice president and CNE at Gannett Healthcare Group, publisher of, said about the program. “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 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 California in the national Nurse Excellence awards to be announced this fall. The six regional winners each received an elegant, sail-shaped, etched-glass award to commemorate the evening.

See if you or someone you know appear in photos from the gala at

The program’s national sponsors are The Johnson & Johnson Campaign for Nursing’s Future and University of Phoenix College of Nursing.

Lifetime Achievement

Donna Kathryn McNeese-Smith, RN

Donna Kathryn McNeese-Smith, RN, BSN, MSN, EdD, professor emeritus, former coordinator Nursing Administrator Graduate Program, acute care section, School of Nursing, University of California, Los Angeles

To achieve success, McNeese-Smith said leadership must be taught to future nurses. She saw that success this summer when she celebrated her 50-year reunion at University of Washington, where she earned her BSN in 1962.

“Looking around that room, I saw not only nurses who are leaders in their hospitals and communities, but also experts in so many other areas and topics,” McNeese-Smith said. “While attending the 2012 Nursing Excellence Awards, I saw the same. I’ve attended these awards ceremonies so many times in the past, but never dreamed I’d be the person being honored for lifetime achievement.”

With the help of her husband, Bill, and her nurse colleagues, McNeese-Smith admits she was surprised to discover she was the one being honored for career success.

For years McNeese-Smith focused on research and writing for publications, and said her earliest research topics include “A Study of the Temper Tantrum As It Is Related to a Fear of Loss of Love: Application of White’s Unified Theory of Neurosis” and “The Impact of Leadership Behaviors Upon Job Satisfaction, Productivity and Organizational Commitment of Followers.”

“Though so much has changed over the years, there are so many areas of nursing that remain constant and have the same need for focus and attention, starting with the basics of patient care and outcomes,” she said.

Among her awards and achievements, McNeese-Smith is a Fulbright Scholar and winner of the 2006 Excellence in Advancing Clinical Practice given by the Association of California Nurse Leaders and the 2001 Excellence in Nursing for Teaching Award given by In 1997, she was selected for the Managed Care Research Team of UCLA-Rand.

She has been a visiting scholar and teacher in countries around the world, including China, Japan and Australia. In 1998, a scholarship was established in her name at the University of California.

“Nurses are a very special group of people,” McNeese-Smith said. “To be honored by peers among such an accomplished group is something that means a great deal to me as I continue to encourage others about the importance of future nurses.”

The Lifetime Achievement Award is sponsored by Cedars-Sinai.

Advancing and Leading the Profession

Pamela Kahn, RN

Pamela Kahn, RN, BS, MPH, coordinator, health and wellness, Orange County Department of Education, Costa Mesa, Calif.

Kahn said she smiles anytime someone asks her about how the role of being a school nurse has changed during the past few decades.

As coordinator of health and wellness for the Orange County Department of Education, she provides technical, advisory and consultative services in health education, nursing and health services to the 27 school districts serving 500,000 students from kindergarten to 12th grade.

“Some people still think of the school nurse as someone who is available to sit with a sick child in the main office until a parent arrives, though it’s so much more,” said Kahn, who previously spent 12 years as a school nurse in the Anaheim (Calif.) Union High School District, with a caseload of five schools and 10,000 students. “What’s not always realized is according to federal law, legally, we have to do everything possible to keep a child in school despite the challenges associated with illness. This involves finding an adequate care plan, while being independent, highly motivated and quick thinking in the role of school nurse.”

Looking toward the future, she is an annual presenter on school nursing and school health services to students in education and nursing programs at the University of California, Irvine, and has spoke on many topics at local, state and national conferences and workshops.

Kahn also created a communication system and website to provide a competent, informed forum to share effective school nursing practices with her nursing colleagues in school settings and to respond to each other’s questions electronically so others can benefit from the topics and answers.

“Today, more than ever, we are faced with some very clinically complex cases for the students we see,” Kahn said. “It can range from a child who needs total ventilation to someone else who might need a PICC line.”

Most recently, Kahn has been working on a project she calls the Breathmobile, a mobile asthma clinic that travels to school communities most in need. She also worked with the Orange County Health Care Agency to create a Pandemic Influenza School Planning Handbook.

“I’m so proud to be recognized with this award,” Kahn said. “My area of nursing is such a different genre and this is a wonderful way to raise public awareness of everything nurses are doing in today’s schools.”

Clinical Nursing, Inpatient

Craig Bosch, RN

Craig Bosch, RN, MSN, FNP, clinical nurse consultant, pain and palliative care, Memorial Medical Center, Modesto, Calif.

Nurse colleagues describe Bosch as an example of someone who knows the importance of being both a mentor and motivator.

“Nurses have to be innovative and able to find ways to solve problems that others might not know how to solve quickly and with a seamless effort,” said Bosch, who began as a novice nurse in 1999 at Memorial Medical Center. Today, he is a clinical nurse consultant for the facility with more than 800 nurses.

“Nurses are natural liaisons in the hospital community, and that’s the role I serve not only between nurses, but also with physicians, pharmacists, dietitians and the other healthcare providers we work with each day,” he said.

Bosch said communication and collaboration are the keys to success.

As a leader and member of the hospital’s Interdisciplinary Policy Procedure Committee, he pushed for a revision of the pain scale to incorporate safe practice of assessing sedation. Through the implementation of research and evidence, there has been less need for reversal agents because of instances of too much sedation. He also is a member of the Medication Error Reduction Program Taskforce.

Bosch devotes considerable time to answering the questions of future nurses who are part of the hospital’s Clinical Nurse Residency Program for post-graduate studies.

“I say I’m a poster face for the importance of continuing education,” said Bosch, who manages to strike a balance between his professional and personal life by earning advanced degrees while working and helping his wife with their three children. “Because I used to be a coach for my kids’ sports teams and a volunteer for organizations, it’s my added reminder of the importance of encouraging others to work as a team to achieve success as a group.”

He also teaches classes in the community about subjects such as multiple sclerosis and diabetes, along with assisting with renal screening events and prostate cancer clinics.

In a recent endeavor, Bosch said he’s found how closely patient decisions are linked to “the head and heart” while working in the field of pain and palliative care, assisting family members and patients with making challenging decisions for continued care.
“Where the needs are in medicine, that’s where I want to be,” he said.

Education and Mentorship

Anna Gawlinski, RN

Anna Gawlinski, RN, DNSc, CNS-BC, FAAN, director of research and evidence-based practice, Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, Los Angeles

Gawlinski has simple advice for nurses beginning in the profession. “Though patient care is our focus, no nurse can be perfect at absolutely everything and that’s why we need each other,” she said. “While guiding nurses … I advise them to find their gift and use it to make a difference.”

A tireless advocate for nursing practice research, she implemented EBP in nursing, back when it was still a new and broad focus in the medical field.

Her colleagues describe her accomplishments as “visionary leadership,” including her work as an adjunct professor in the medical center’s affiliated school of nursing.

One of her projects included the mentorship of a coronary care unit nurse who conducted a study using aquarium fish to provide a therapeutic environment for patients waiting for a heart transplant. After observing the loneliness and depression that often accompanies weeks or months while waiting for a heart transplant, the study resulted in positive therapeutic effects associated with pet therapy.

“This study isn’t referring to the fish tanks that have been seen in the lobby of [physicians’] offices and outpatient areas for decades,” Gawlinksi said. “This was conducted in the acute critical care setting, which is an area where others never thought it possible or desirable to have a pet presence. But it was possible and it made a difference.”

She said the positive outcomes of the project provided the push to incorporate the use of volunteer dog teams to offer companionship to patients in many hospitals that have implemented programs, including People Animal Connection, which provides visits to more than 500 critically ill children and adults each month.

Gawlinski was named Distinguished Research Lecturer and received the Excellence in Research Award from the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses, allowing her the opportunity to discuss her work in more than 300 publications and present lectures related to research nationally and internationally.

“I get emails from all over the country and all over the world, from nurses in places like India and Singapore and I’m happy to share what I know with them,” she said. “By asking and answering each others questions, we all learn from one another.”

Home, Community and Ambulatory Care

Peter Dennehy, RN

Peter Dennehy, RN, registered nurse, Department of Public Health, San Francisco

As an RN case manager specializing in caring for patients with HIV, Dennehy brings comfort and care to the homes he visits while managing the challenges of a complex environment of medical needs.

“Providing care for people with HIV who are living in their homes is something very specialized,” said Dennehy, who has spent the past decade improving the lives of patients who he said don’t always have family support. “There are many needs and requests from our patients that extend beyond basic medical attention.”

Dennehy serves as the primary contact to coordinate care plans that include other disciplines, such as physical and occupational therapies, speech therapy, social worker visits and caregiver presence.

“It is important to recognize how many responsibilities are required for nurses who visit homes,” Dennehy said. “I was so impressed with all of the other nurses receiving this year’s honors. But most of all, it was great to see an emphasis on nurses who aren’t just excelling in clinical research, but also all of the nurses who see and help patients each day outside of a hospital setting.”

Despite obstacles Dennehy has faced during more than a decade working with patients with HIV, his friends and colleagues cite his ability to demonstrate humor and conversation when interacting with patients and staff.

He describes his specialty of nursing care as “less than glamorous,” since he meets the needs of patients who sometimes also are diagnosed with addiction and mental illness, while living in homes that can be public housing and single-room occupancy hotels where violence and trauma can become factors.

He also has found new ways to convince patients to seek additional care, despite their fears of the stigma often associated with HIV.

As chair of the Department of Public Health HIV Nursing Network, which brings nurses together to create an effective continuum of HIV care for the San Francisco area, Dennehy provides education, training and networking for nurses and patients. He also leads HIV 101 training for hospital nursing staff to help further education and awareness.

“I love what I do because I know I make a difference for those I’m helping,” he said. “Patients and staff will often mention my accent. And so as soon as they hear my voice, they smile. And that makes me smile.”

Patient and Staff Management

Phan Dang, RN

Phan Dang, RN, BSN, education manager, Children’s Hospital Los Angeles

Dang said her caregiving traits come naturally because she is the oldest of nine children — four brothers and four sisters.

“Before coming to the United States, we lived in the small fishing village of Sung-Cau, which is just south of Saigon in South Vietnam,” said Dang, who describes the nursing role as one with many components closely related to that of the teacher. “We arrived in the United States in 1981 and nursing is what I wanted to do to help others.”

Dang has worked as the education manager in the inpatient acute pediatric rehabilitation unit at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles for four years and has 13 years of nursing experience.

While managing 64 staff members, she also works in partnership with several hospital departments to lead and develop protocols for the inpatient rehabilitation program. She said her calling as a nurse also includes a strong desire to help other nurses become confident leaders.

After starting at Children’s Hospital in 2008, she implemented orientation phases and guidelines for the new RN residents, along with a more structured evaluation system for personal growth and improvement. She also devised what she called “nursing huddles,” which began a practice of nursing staff meetings at the start of shifts to recap necessary information and updates for “common ground for more complete, informed care” on units.

“Since I come from such a big family, I’ve always known the importance of teamwork, which leads to better results,” Dang said. “What sometimes seems like something that is simply just nurses talking, is really the sharing of updated information, which makes communication so vital throughout a shift.”

In June 2008, she created the Medication Administrative Self-Assessment Algorithm because she thought her unit lacked an effective corrective action plan for medication errors. By studying plans other facilities had implemented, Dang adapted her own tool to help nurses identify where a mistake happened in the medication administration process. This tool allows RNs to develop an individualized plan of correction to prevent the mistake from repeating.

She also has been working with a multidisciplinary rehab team to design a new rehab unit for the hospital and recently presented data about MASAA and the nurse huddles at the eighth annual National Patient Safety Conference in Philadelphia.

Volunteerism and Service

Mary F. Klotzback, RN

Mary F. Klotzback, RN, BSN, MSN student, RN case manager, chair MADD National Public Policy Committee, John Muir Health, Walnut Creek (Calif.) Campus

During the 30 years Klotzback has been a nurse, the past 23 have been at John Muir Health Trauma Center. In addition to being a case manager, she has worked as a med/surg nurse, clinical documentation review nurse and trauma scribe.

On the trauma team, she often witnessed the consequences of drunk driving and assisted with reaching out to patients and families with care and compassion. But even her expertise and career exposure didn’t prepare her for the loss of her son, Matt, who was killed by a drunk driver.

Klotzback and her husband, Tom, keep their son’s legacy alive by educating others and working as advocates for better and safer driving laws.

The year after her son’s death, Klotzback became active with Mothers Against Drunk Driving, taking her family’s story of loss to schools and community events. With the help of two other families, she founded a local Bay Area MADD Chapter.

While attending a 2008 MADD convention, Klotzback learned about the latest technology for automobiles called Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety, which prevents an individual with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 or above from starting a car. By 2009, alongside Assemblyman Mike Feur, she helped establish a pilot program in four California counties requiring drivers convicted of DUI to have an ignition lock device installed in their cars.

Although the ignition feature prevents known offenders, Klotzback said it doesn’t stop first time offenders from drinking and driving. As the chair of MADD’s Public Policy Committee for California, she continues to try to pass legislation to support enforcement of such technology.

“As we continue to learn more … about drunk driving statistics each year, this problem is much more far-reaching than many realize,” Klotzback said. “As other countries around the world become more developed, drunk driving also become apparent as an international problem.”

She serves on the National Board of Directors of MADD and the Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving. She also encouraged the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Transportation to fund the DADSS technology.

“I am appreciative to my fellow staff and everyone at John Muir Health for supporting me and recognizing the importance of my mission,” she said.

To nominate a nurse for the 2013 awards or for more on the program, visit

By | 2020-04-15T09:45:36-04:00 October 3rd, 2012|Categories: Regional, West|0 Comments

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