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The final 6: Texas 2012 Nursing Excellence Award winners are chosen

The stage was set Aug. 17 for a night of celebration and recognition for the 30 regional finalists of’s 2012 Nursing Excellence program. The stellar event, held at the beautiful Omni Houston Hotel Galleria, 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 Texas.

“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 gala, two honorees from the University of Texas Health Sciences Center at Houston, were presented with certificates of appreciation by their facility as part of the Honor Your Own program. Each of the 30 Nursing Excellence regional finalists received a plaque bearing his or her name and regional achievement. Of those 30, six extraordinary nurses were chosen to represent Texas 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.

Advancing and Leading the Profession

Omana Simon, RN

Omana Simon, RN, DNP, FNP-BC
Facility telehealth coordinator
Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center, Houston

When Simon received her Nursing Excellence Award, she dedicated it to her veteran patients. “They are the heroes who keep this planet safe and sound. Without them I would not have achieved this award, which means so much to me,” said Simon, who is responsible for implementing telehealth in one of the largest Veterans Affairs medical facilities in the nation.

It’s a role she cherishes. “I strongly believe telemedicine is the future of healthcare. Veterans Affairs give more importance to telemedicine,” said Simon, a nurse for 32 years.

Simon’s mission is to improve healthcare access to veterans, particularly residents in rural areas. Telehealth services decrease travel for patients, lower cost, provide timely intervention and increase patient and provider satisfaction, her nominator, Crystal Tangabay, wrote. “It’s a great program, but that doesn’t mean [patients] don’t have to see their provider,” Simon said.

She said patients see their healthcare providers every three or six months, at which time patients can share what has happened between visits.

Simon has started the integration of clinic-based telehealth, such as telepreop, nutrition and diabetic group education and e-consults to educate providers, she said. Her innovation with telehealth led to the institution of best practices, such as templates used during Hurricane Ike that were shared with nine other facilities. “I want to make my facility No. 1 in the nation,” Simon said.

“As an NP, she collaborates with others disciplines to provide the best care to our veterans,” Tangabay wrote. “She upholds the image of nursing within the community, nationally and internationally. She volunteered to go to Florida to help with the Hurricane Ivan recovery. In response to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, she has taken assignments in the temporary New Orleans clinic, to serve evacuee veterans.”

Simon has held a variety of roles since she arrived at the hospital in 1990. She started her career in 1977 with a diploma in nursing in India. She moved to the U.S. in 1983. While working full time, she earned her doctorate in nursing practice in 1990.

An adjunct faculty member at Texas Woman’s University, Simon has served in the community as chair of a health fair for non-insured and underinsured individuals, volunteered in the charity clinic as a nurse practitioner and assisted with fundraising for the American Cancer Society and tsunami victims.

The recipient of many professional and academic awards, Simon said she enjoys reading and listening to music.

Clinical Nursing, Inpatient

Miranda Kelly, RN

Miranda Kelly, APRN, DNP, CNS, ACNP-BC
Nurse practitioner
Memorial Hermann The Woodlands (Texas) Hospital

While completing a DNP program, Kelly devised an enteral nutrition protocol that improved patient care. The success of the program has led to queries from APRNs outside of her hospital system eager to learn more. Her drive and success led to the Nursing Excellence Award, an honor that Kelly said left her “speechless.”

What Kelly enjoys most about her role as a nurse practitioner is “spending a lot of time with patients and their families and making sure they understand what’s going on, especially when I discharge patients,” she said. “I spend time with them so we can get them home safely with a good outcome and they’re not coming back to the hospital. I love working with the nurses and staff; they all have been supportive of me. I like to mentor and work with the staff and help with their learning.”

She is credited with establishing and implementing multiple evidence-based clinical practices, including insulin management protocols. Her work has led to the hospital’s recognition as a Primary Stroke Center by The Joint Commission.

The ENP project, which also involved a multidisciplinary team, a physician, nurse champions and critical care units, “has evolved and transformed the way our clinicians manage the nutrition of our critically ill patient population,” according to her nominator, Jody Collins. The program has shown positive, evidence-based outcomes, which she presented at professional nursing conferences, including the 2012 ACNP Clinical Conference that ran Oct. 3-7 in Toronto.

The protocol consists of an order form with guidelines for formula selection, administration, nursing care, monitoring and an algorithm for management of gastric residual volumes, Kelly said. The protocol was developed based on the most current evidence and the American Society for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition guidelines. The hospital adopted the order sets and standardized protocol for enteral nutrition, which is used as a basis for the facility’s computerized physician order entry development of enteral nutrition orders.

Augmenting Kelly’s professionalism is a pleasant personality. “She is compassionate, collaborative and innovative and strives to make a difference each and every day in the lives and outcomes for the patient, as well as all nursing and clinical professionals she encounters,” Collins wrote.

Every day she is driven by a desire to “try and make everything better,” said Kelly, who has been an NP for 12 years and has more than 24 years of ICU experience.
Outside the hospital, she enjoys riding her jet ski, spending time with family and friends and running. Kelly is training to run her first half-marathon.

Education and Mentorship

Pamela J. Hodges, RN

Pamela J. Hodges, RN, PhD
Assistant professor, clinical
The University of Texas Health Science
Center at Houston School of Nursing

Known as an exceptional teacher, Hodges always finds time to support and mentor students while demanding excellence.

What drives her is no mystery. “I was a student once,” she said chuckling, recalling mentors who helped her during school.

Working with students to support their growth and being recognized for doing so is a blessing, said Hodges, who conducts award-winning cardiovascular research and speaks at hospitals around the world. “I get to influence their lives and then get to see them walk across the stage when they graduate,” she said. “That’s the biggest blessing.”

Several individuals who nominated Hodges for the Nursing Excellence Award wrote about the impact she made on their studies and careers and her willingness to support and mentor them. Known for taking calls, texts and emails at all hours, Hodges said accessibility is key. “It’s my job to help them be successful,” she said. “If all they need from me is a hug or to listen to a complaint or problem … then I have to listen.”

One nominator credited Hodges for inspiring her to earn a master’s degree and teaching her to care for patients with the same compassion and standard of excellence to which Hodges holds her students.

During a postclinical conference, one of Hodges’ nursing students observed a nurse not using sterile technique when inserting a Foley catheter. The student spoke up, which Hodges commended. The nominator, also a former student, also confronts co-workers who compromise patients’ safety “because I was given the confidence to do so by Dr. Hodges,” the student wrote. “We were taught not to let our technique slip up or our standards loosen.”

Hodges also advocates for students. When the nominator enrolled in the new online program and had difficulty obtaining lab times and clinical experiences, such as viewing autopsies, Hodges met with the dean and advocated that the online students should have the same opportunities as traditional baccalaureate students, the nominator wrote.

Students at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston School of Nursing showed their appreciation when they voted for her to receive the John P. McGovern Outstanding Teacher Award, after only being at the school for 18 months, she said.

Recently, a student who had graduated texted her and said she missed everyone. Hodges said she texted back: “Time for grad school, come on back.”

Home, Community and Ambulatory Care

Karen R. Bell, RN

Karen R. Bell, RN, COHN-S, CHSP, CHEP
Employee health nurse
Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Southwest
Fort Worth, Texas

When Bell received her Nursing Excellence Award, she felt as if she also accepted it on behalf of her employer.

“I receive so much support from Texas Health Resources,” Bell said. “They encouraged me to pursue a career in occupational health nursing, to get certified, to attend national conferences, to change policies to make our workforce healthier. I feel like Texas Health also is receiving the award.”

As the only employee health nurse for 1,100 staff members at the 222-bed community hospital, Bell recognizes “the critical importance of each healthcare worker and the impact that employee wellness plays in delivering the best care to our patients and the community,” according to her nominator, Katherine Rhodes. “She is known as a workers’ compensation and light-duty expert, and often is called upon to facilitate issues at other facilities.”

Named a Great 100 Nurse for Dallas-Fort Worth in 2012, Bell created a multifaceted, transitional light-duty program at the hospital that resulted in improved outcomes, decreased workers’ compensation costs, prompted earlier returns to work and increased employee satisfaction. In 2010, the average cost per injury decreased by almost 40%. She led a team that focuses on the seven departments responsible for 60% of the work injuries. As a result, one department had no injuries, she said.

“I get to take care of the caregivers in the hospital,” said Bell, a nurse for 33 years. “I love that because they are dedicated to their work and they, too, need a nurse to help them. I enjoy helping the organization have the best occupational program and safety program for their workforce.”

Known for her warmth and listening skills, Bell treats employees with compassion. When an employee returned to work after the sudden death of her father, Bell offered a hug and listened while the employee shared her difficult experience returning to work, Rhodes wrote.

Outside the hospital, she has a strong record of community service that includes administering vaccinations at grade school immunization fairs and providing flu shots at community outreach programs. Through her church, she supports an urban-based, after-school program for boys of single mothers. She is working to expand the program to include girls.

She said she enjoys her “cats, quilting, yoga and most especially the activities at my church.”

Patient and Staff Management

Michael Brennan Bryant, RN

Michael Brennan Bryant, RN, MSN, MSHCAD
Director, acute care services, emergency services,
Stroke Center, Diabetes Services and Wound Care
Baylor Medical Center at Garland (Texas)

Quick to share credit when honored, Bryant never has been comfortable in the spotlight.

Winning a Nursing Excellence Award meant “our teams have done exceptional work in improving the outcomes for the patients [for whom] we care,” Bryant said. “My whole role is to help people do what they can to take care of their patients and remove barriers.”

But it is Bryant’s performance in a demanding role for the 240-bed hospital that deserves the limelight. He is a change agent who “possesses transformational leadership skills and the ability to bring out the best in his team, from management to bedside staff, a quality not found in many leaders,” according to his nominator, Jennifer Adams.

Bryant oversees an ED staff of more than 100, as well as staff on inpatient units and the Diabetes Center and administrative supervisors. He also is an associate professor for the MSN program at the University of Texas at Arlington.

He leads by example. “From the very first day as the ED director, [Bryant] earned the trust and respect of the staff, not only as a co-worker, but [also] as their leader by coming out to the floor in scrubs to help out at the bedside,” Adams wrote. “Of the many ED directors I have worked for, he is the only one I have ever seen come onto the floor, in the trenches, and work in staffing to help with overcrowding or when the unit is short staffed.”

Bryant’s leadership led to improvements for patients in the ED that include reducing arrival time to triage from 19 minutes to 2.2 minutes and cutting the time it takes a patient to see a provider from 44 minutes to 27.2 minutes.

In recent years, he said he has transitioned from “being a staff nurse, who cared for a couple of patients per shift, to a nurse in a leadership role in which I can, hopefully, care for the staff so they can care for more patients.”

Bryant also participates in numerous committees, including the institutional ethics committee, grievance committee, event analysis team, physician referral committee, cardiovascular task force, sepsis task force and stroke committee. He was named one of the Great 100 Nurses in Dallas-Fort Worth in 2005.

His next goal is to “complete my doctorate in nursing practice, and then keep doing what I love to do,” said Bryant, who relaxes by teaching. “It’s a totally different focus. Teaching lets me give back to nursing in general.”

Volunteerism and Service

Celine Chacko, RN

Celine Chacko, RN, BSN
Clinical nurse
The University of Texas MD Anderson
Cancer Center, Houston

Chacko, a breast cancer survivor, strives to make each day matter for people directly under her care and for others who benefit from her caring nature. She not only works with cancer patients daily; for the past 10 years, she also has either donated her entire salary or half of it to provide medical care to impoverished residents in remote villages in India. “The Nursing Excellence Award is near and dear to my heart,” said Chacko, who decided to donate her salary toward the charity she and her husband created after successfully battling breast cancer. “I never thought someone would notice what I’ve been doing.”

Chacko was diagnosed with breast cancer 12 years ago. “While undergoing chemotherapy treatment, she made the decision to donate her salary to do charity work in India, once she regained her health and returned to work,” according to her nominator, Wendy Lynn. “She also decided she would use her cancer survivor story to help others battling cancer.”

In 2000, Chacko joined the staff, and from 2002 to 2008 she donated her entire check to the charity. Since then, she keeps half of her earnings to help her family. Since 2002, Chacko and her husband, a protestant minister, have organized medical missions to West Bengal, India. “They go to two villages along with numerous volunteer nurses from the United States,” she said. “A month before arriving, they hire 10 physicians, one pharmacist and five or six nurses to help with the two-day medical mission that enables 1,000 registered patients to get medical attention and 3,000 people to be fed.” They also travel to other villages to promote health awareness about hygiene and disease prevention.

Chacko’s donations also fund a small health clinic with a physician and a nurse, the first health access for the villagers, and literacy classes in 16 locations for children who otherwise would not be educated, Lynn wrote. She started a tailoring institute that has trained more than 100 women so they can have the skills needed to earn money and help take care of their families. The charity also has created 29 bore wells in locations where no drinking water existed. Each well provides water for about 500 villagers, she said.

Chacko does what she can because God allowed her to live, she said. “God blessed me with a nursing profession as a career, and I can take this home,” said Chacko, who plans to start a small hospital. “When I retire, I will go back to India.”

By | 2020-04-15T12:54:29-04:00 October 8th, 2012|Categories: Regional, South|0 Comments

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