Each year, a national search is held to find the most exceptional nurses in the U.S. Nurses from across the country are nominated by colleagues.
This year, Nurse.com continues its tradition of recognizing and celebrating the achievements of these dedicated nurses at regional awards galas held throughout the United States, the culmination of which results in the naming of six special nurses as 2013 Nursing Excellence GEM awardees. In each region, five remarkable nurses in six specialized categories were chosen from the hundreds of nominations received.
“Our program has a sparkly new look and a shiny new name,” said Eileen Williamson, RN, MSN, Nurse.com senior vice president and chief nurse executive. “The GEM Awards are our way of publicly recognizing excellence in nursing by awarding nurses who were nominated, selected and celebrated by other nurses, and who represent the best of the best in our profession. It is our privilege to honor them.”
Advancing and Leading the Profession
Carlton G. Brown, RN, PhD, AOCN
Former Director for Nursing, Evidence-Based Practice
and Research, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York City
Throughout his career, Brown has received a multitude of awards for his leadership, including the Order of Military Medical Merit from the U.S. Army. But winning a Nurse.com GEM Award provided a different feeling. “I feel like Ms. Universe,” Brown joked as he stepped up to the stage to accept his award amid a spotlight and congratulatory music.
On a more serious note, Brown humbly thanked the extraordinary group of nurses who, like him, were recognized for their efforts to advance and lead the profession.
“I’d like to share this win with all the nominees, all of whom are obviously advancing the profession,” he said.
Brown was recognized for the many successes he has achieved on behalf of cancer patients and their families. His work at MSKCC included responsibility for the center’s nursing research agenda to promote improved care and for helping to guide its shared governance model. A former president of the Oncology Nursing Society, he has authored many publications and received an APEX Award for his guide on oncology symptom management, a text that is used by nurses seeking oncology certification.
A consummate leader, Brown shares his accomplishments with those seeking advancement in their careers. “If in some way my work helps them along the way, then my mission is complete, as I’m helping them provide expert nursing care, which ultimately helps the patient as well,” he said.
Of his Nurse.com award, Brown said he was honored just to have been nominated. “One never becomes a nurse for recognition or fame,” he said. “We do it to serve mankind, so this nomination really made my day,” he said. “I was nominated with some incredible nurses, so I felt like their work was as important as mine. I wish we all could have had our names called.”
Echoing the sentiments of other winners, Brown said he believes in nurses sharing the achievements of one another whenever possible.
“Nurses are under-recognized, so my nomination helps put the work of incredible nurses in the spotlight,” he said. “My nomination really belongs to the nurses on the front line … who care for patients every minute of every hour of every day. They are the ones who should get the crystal [award] and get the recognition for advancing the profession.”
Clinical Nursing, Inpatient
Katie Pierson, RN-BC, MSN, ONC
Saint Clare’s Health System, Denville, N.J.
Upon receiving her award, all Pierson could manage to say was “I don’t know what to say!” She was clearly at a loss for words upon hearing her name called as the winner in the Clinical Nursing, Inpatient category, something that doesn’t come to mind when one thinks of Pierson. Her bubbly personality came to the forefront immediately after she was handed the award when she high-fived the rest of the winners as soon as she walked off the stage.
“We had just listened to what all of the other remarkable people have done for the profession and I thought, ‘Wow, this must have been a tough decision!'” she said. “Then my name was announced, and I’ll admit I was in pure shock as everyone could see in my reaction. Hearing my name called was a great surprise. It was one of the most humbling, yet exhilarating moments of my life, and I will never forget it.”
As a nurse navigator in orthopedics, Pierson brings the same zest and enthusiasm she showed at the awards ceremony to guiding her patients through all phases of their care while in the joint replacement program. Her passion for providing quality care is evident in her commitment in enhancing the healthcare experiences of her patients.
Pierson’s research initiatives have resulted in reduced lengths of stay for ortho patients and a revision of blood transfusion criteria that significantly lowered the number of transfusions. That initiative, in which she collaborated with ortho surgeons, was a key factor in Saint Clare’s receipt of Joint Commission hip and knee replacement certification.
Pierson is quick to find new ways to help colleagues, too, such as creating a program reference binder for fellow nurses, for whom she has a lot of respect.
“When my boss called me into her office to announce nominating me for this award, I felt a sense of pride … not so much for me, but for the team that had helped me reach this place in my career,” she said. “The reality is that without their willingness to collaborate with some of my crazy ideas, I would not have been as successful as I have been.”
Pierson said winning the award has encouraged her to strive harder to do the best work she can every day and serves as a catalyst to push her career to new heights.
“Nurses are doing extraordinary work every day and sometimes we forget to acknowledge one another,” she said. “It was a privilege to have been chosen as a nominee because it allowed me to see all the work that’s been accomplished in such a short amount of time and show others that with perseverance and an amazing team, anything can get accomplished.”
Education and Mentorship
Barbara Blozen, RN, EdD, MA, BC, CNL
Seton Hall University, South Orange, N.J.
Blozen said she was “shocked and very humbled” when her name was called as the winner in the Education and Mentorship category. Her students and colleagues, however, likely were not shocked by the accomplishment. Upon receiving her award, she thanked SHU College of Nursing Dean Phyllis Hansell, RN, EdD, FAAN, for giving her the opportunity to educate and mentor.
“I’ve always wanted to be a teacher and a nurse, and I’m blessed to be doing both right now,” Blozen said.
She said she was flattered, thrilled and grateful to learn her colleague and nominator, assistant professor of nursing Mary Fortier, RN, MA, EdD, CNL, thought so much of her and the work she does. Fortier’s nomination described Blozen as an accomplisher, a nurse who acts when she sees a need. It is because of her drive to get the job done that Blozen frequently is called upon to participate in, and even lead, various task forces and committees.
She also is said to bring the coursework to life for her students and successfully bridge the gap between what she teaches in the classroom and what students experience in clinical practice. Her quest to bring that same opportunity to students led her to help establish a BSN program in southern New Jersey and build professional relationships with clinical agencies in the area.
Working in this manner to ensure nursing’s future is part of Blozen’s professional beliefs. “I feel responsible to continue to guide and mentor new nurses, and to formally highlight mentoring and educating new and younger nurses,” she said.
Even with the accolades of praise that outlined her nomination, Blozen still couldn’t fathom her name being called at the June 5 gala.
“When I heard that my name was called as the winner, I was astounded,” she said. “I could not believe that I was chosen from this group of outstanding, high-caliber nurses.”
Like many other winners, Blozen said nurses should formally celebrate one another’s accomplishments.
“Other nurses need to be educated on how to acknowledge, endorse and recognize the work of their colleagues,” she said. “I feel my time and efforts have been formally recognized, and I need to continue to mentor, shape and mold the new generation of nurses.”
Home, Community and Ambulatory Care
Jill Goldstein, RN, MA, MS
Vice president, Congregate Care
Visiting Nurse Service of New York, New York City
Goldstein said her nomination for a Nurse.com GEM Award was “totally unexpected.” The winner in the Home, Community and Ambulatory Care category, Goldstein said she doesn’t take the responsibility of being named the winner lightly.
“I pride myself in this and set the best authentic example every day,” she said. “I’m committed to coaching and mentoring nurses to contribute to shaping our future nurses and paying this prestigious award forward.”
She high-fived the rest of the winners before taking the stage and congratulating her fellow nominees.
“First, I’d like to request a round of applause for everyone in this category,” she said. “It is a privilege to be among you and to be a nurse. I am most humbled.”
In her role at VNSNY, Goldstein oversees the daily care of about 2,000 patients who are elderly, disabled and mentally ill. During Superstorm Sandy, she took her dedication a step further by using her exceptional organizational and managerial skills to lead multidisciplinary teams of staff in their care of residents in the hardest hit areas of New York City, all while continuing to perform her regular duties. A true believer in the word “team,” Goldstein doesn’t neglect to recognize those who were there with her.
“I sincerely share this recognition with my colleagues across the organization for jobs done above and beyond the call of duty,” she said.
Of her honor, Goldstein said she is extremely grateful to be recognized. “I was humbled to be recognized in this category with four other outstanding and most deserving colleagues from New York and New Jersey,” she said. “I was overjoyed to have 20-plus VNSNY leadership and field staff, my mother, father, brother, and partner of 23 years in attendance [and taking] part in this achievement with me.”
Goldstein also spoke highly of VNSNY President and CEO Mary Ann Christopher, RN, MSN, FAAN, who nominated her for the award, and credits Christopher’s “bold nursing leadership” as a reason for Goldstein being able to perform the work she does.
“I am so proud to be practicing as a registered nurse for 27 years, extraordinarily fortunate to be recognized by my nursing peers, Nurse.com and the Gannett organization, and extremely privileged to work for the Visiting Nurse Service of New York,” she said. “No matter what field of nursing we’ve specialized in, each of us has an opportunity to lead.”
Patient and Staff Management
Olga L. Husbands, RN, MSN, NP, ONC
Manager for Nursing Operations and Systems
NYU Hospital for Joint Diseases, New York City
Husbands’ dedication to patient care is easily identifiable by her increasing quest for knowledge to become a better nurse. Throughout her career, Husbands has moved from a nursing assistant to LPN to RN to NP and is pursuing a doctorate. She credits colleagues and leadership for their encouragement and belief in her.
“I’d like to thank my boss, who took a chance on me five years ago,” she said upon receiving her award.
To be among 30 of the most outstanding nurses who have accomplished so much in their areas of expertise was award enough, according to Husbands, who said she was humbled to be considered part of an elite group.
“I was content with just being recognized as a finalist and receiving the plaque,” she said. “But to be recognized as the regional winner from so many applicants, I could not breathe [when my name was called]! I was in disbelief! Did they really call my name? Just then I thought of my mom. … Without her guidance and inspiration, I would not be receiving this recognition.”
Husbands said she was surprised and honored when she learned that members of NYU HJD nursing leadership and her mentor, Althea Mighten, RN, EdD, DNP, director of nursing education and recruitment, had even considered her for this award.
“I honestly never expected to be recognized for my work because I love what I do,” she said. “I love being a nurse [and a] patient and staff advocate. I am honored and privileged to be in this position.”
Considered the go-to person by many of her colleagues, Husbands is a member of many of the hospital’s councils, has served as a mentor and preceptor, and participated in numerous initiatives to increase patient and staff satisfaction, including helping to design the hospital’s electronic records system.
The night of the GEM Awards program, Husbands also publicly thanked her colleague and fellow Patient and Staff Management category nominee Cecilia Alvarez, RN, who she believes represents the caliber of all nurses at NYU HJD.
“Our nurses have so much to offer,” Husbands said. “At the end of the day, our patients are what matters most, and we must do whatever it takes to continually exceed their expectations.”
Volunteerism and Service
Shyni Charley, RN, BSN
Nurse Manager, SICU and PACU
Nassau University Medical Center, East Meadow, N.Y.
Even though Charley and her family were homeless for a time after Superstorm Sandy wreaked havoc on the East Coast last year, she continued to come to work and deliver the same expert patient care she always had, giving patients no indication of her personal situation.
“I think the call of nursing itself is a service, a calling for service of others without anything in return and treating others as equals,” she said.
Charley said she was “surprised and honored” to know that she had been nominated in the Volunteerism and Service category for the GEM Awards.
“I was not expecting it at all,” she said. “But the moment I heard my name called, a big [feeling of] joy just overruled me. It was absolutely thrilling.”
She may have been surpised by the award, but Charley’s colleagues always have known about her penchant for giving deserved recognition. It was her nominator, Linda Condon, RN, MS, director of nursing, critical care at NUMC, who brought Charley’s many acts of kindness to the attention of the GEM Awards judges.
In addition to running local clothing drives and health fairs and volunteering at soup kitchens, Charley has taken her desire to help others abroad. Whether it was digging wells for clean drinking water in Ethiopia or trying to help teenage prostitutes in Guyana find other means of supporting themselves, Charley has proven her worthiness of a GEM Award many times over.
Her concern for others and giving spirit was formed early in her life and continues to be inherent in everything she does.
“When I was growing up in India, I watched the work of Mother Teresa,” she said. “I realized that no matter how little you have, there is always someone who needs more than you. I’m grateful to be able to give.”
Now that she has been chosen to represent the New York/New Jersey region in the national awards, Charley said her wish is for all nurses to have the same support and encouragement to give back that she has received from her family, friends and colleagues.
She said she is extremely fortunate to be a part of organizations and groups that give her the chance to play a part in sharing their blessings with others, and her win in this category only strengthens her commitment to serving those less fortunate.
“I think every human being should be selfless and giving,” she said. “I now have a greater responsibility to do so.”