You are here:-, GEM Awards, Regional, West-Meet the 2014 California GEM Award finalists

Meet the 2014 California GEM Award finalists is proud to introduce our 2014 finalists for the GEM (Giving Excellence Meaning) Awards.

The 30 finalists below will be honored June 27 at a gala event at the Universal City, (Calif.) Hilton in Los Angeles/Universal City.

For tickets or more information, visit


Bernice L. Coleman, RN, PhD, ACNP-BC, FAHA, FAAN: Nurse scientist, nurse practitioner, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles

Coleman is responsible for supporting the advancement of evidence-based practice and application of research with more than 2,800 nurses. She guides nurses in academic programs with their capstone research projects, and as chairwoman of the research council, she conducts workshops and mentors hundreds of nurses in the development of their abstracts and poster and podium presentations.

Described as someone who has made unique and outstanding national and international contributions to nursing, Coleman has advanced transplantation nursing practice as well as research in transplantation genetics, specifically with ethnic minority patient populations and nurses. Her roles as a clinician and scientist have provided the rare skill mix and opportunities for others to integrate basic science research questions with clinical practice and community education, according to her nominator, who said Coleman’s work embodies the concept of bench to bedside and beyond.

The future of pharmacogenetics for heart patients lies in genetically tailored medication prescriptions, and Coleman’s pioneering work in this area has far-reaching influence on heart transplantation and pharmacogenetics in general. She has shared her expertise in the development and evaluation of evidence-based practice to improve nursing practice for transplant patients, and has spearheaded the development of clinical policies, procedures and guidelines related to transplantation that have been widely adopted and disseminated around the world.

Her clinical expertise and research have placed her in a unique position to contribute to national health policy. She has been appointed to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Advisory Committee on Organ Transplantation, participated in the Health Equity Action Summit 2010 and served as a mentor to the National Coalition of Ethnic Minority Nurses. She also received numerous awards for her contributions to patient and minority healthcare, including the organization’s highest award, the President’s Award, and the Zifkin Family Nursing Excellence Scholarship.

Kathy R. Dawson, RN, MSN, NEA-BC: Vice president, patient care services/CNO, Saddleback Memorial Medical Center, Laguna Hills, Calif.

Dawson has led the institutions in which she serves as CNO in the development of nursing research and evidence-based practice programs and leads the quest for Magnet recognition. Described as someone who has vision, determination, confidence and a strong sense of leadership, she puts her talents to work and empowers these qualities in her staff.

She has collaborated with corporate leaders, nursing managers and community and professional development groups. Dawson is visible and accessible, day and night, and every area of the hospital has experienced leadership growth under her guidance. She is dedicated to patient and family-centered care, and even in the face of budget challenges and a recent yearlong renovation project Gallup Nurse Satisfaction scores climbed to all-time highs.

Dawson chairs the system-wide CNO value-added team, which provides guidance and direction for nursing strategy and practice for the organization. She also sponsors the patient flow value stream for the hospital, which has led to improved quality, financial and patient experience outcomes.

Recognized for developing innovative educational initiatives, Dawson has encouraged staff, educators and managers at all levels to present posters at professional conferences highlighting their work, whether it be on Lean methodology, the patient flow value stream or their nursing research. Dawson, along with the other CNOs in the system, supported and provided oversight for the Nurse Leadership Academy, a yearlong instruction for aspiring nurse leaders across the system.

A past president of the Association of California Nurse Leaders, she co-chairs the ACNL nurse leadership development committee. She serves on numerous local college and university nursing advisory committees, and accepts leadership preceptorships every semester. On behalf of ACNL, she has presented on numerous leadership and administration topics throughout California and provided testimony for the IOM Report on behalf of the ACNL.

Deborah Koniak-Griffin, RNC, EdD, FAAN: Professor and Audrienne H. Moseley Endowed chair, Women’s Health Research, UCLA School of Nursing

Koniak-Griffin is said to inspire faculty and students with her exceptional role-modeling and enthusiasm for advancing the nursing profession through education, research and clinical practice. She has served on numerous scientific review committees for the National Institutes of Health and the NIH Clinical Center; provided education and consultation with faculty and students in universities in the U.S. and globally; and represented nursing on expert panels for federal agencies.
She is founding director of the Center for Vulnerable Populations Research, which has been at the forefront of leadership in community-based participatory research, providing a foundation for application of this methodology across the nation.

Koniak-Griffin has the extraordinary ability to blend research, teaching, administrative leadership and clinical practice. She has achieved a balance between knowledge generation and intervention for mutual benefit of nursing science and the health of communities, according to her nominator.
As a women’s healthcare nurse practitioner and public health nurse caring for underserved vulnerable populations, Koniak-Griffin has transformed models of nursing interventions for adolescent teens to help reduce rates of teen pregnancy, decrease the incidence of sexually transmitted infections and improve teen pregnancy outcomes nationwide.

Federal funding for more than 20 years totaling about $16 million has enabled Koniak-Griffin and research colleagues to develop and evaluate nursing intervention programs for adolescent mothers and young childbearing couples and to establish the UCLA School of Nursing Center for Vulnerable Populations Research. Based on the scientific merit of the studies and the significant impact of the interventions, three programs have been selected as evidence-based models for replication across the country.

Her writings have been recognized for their quality and relevancy to promoting EBP and policy, and Koniak-Griffin has received numerous awards in recognition of her work.

Anita Girard, RN, MSN, CNL, CPHQ: Assistant director of practice and education, Magnet program director, Stanford Hospital and Clinics, Palo Alto, Calif.

A positive and inspiring role model, Girard is dedicated to teaching, translating science into practice and empowering nurses to navigate from the bedside to the board room, according to her nominator.

Admired as a leader among leaders, she is recognized for her clinical expertise in critical care and her role in nursing quality. She has developed programs in quality to prioritize care and reduce waste and has made significant differences by mentoring nurses at every level. She facilitated the development of visibility boards that empower nurses to understand data to improve patient outcomes. Highly skilled, compassionate and a strong collaborator who consistently emulates the highest professional and ethical standards, Girard is the ultimate nurse advocate. She motivates nurses to be the best that they can be by encouraging them to actively participate in decision-making and to take ownership of their practice every day. Key to her success has been her creative ways of solving problems and making education fun and innovative, creating an optimal environment for patients and staff alike. Girard has been successful at achieving one of the highest response rates to the National Database of Nursing Quality Indicators Nurse Satisfaction and Engagement Surveys, and she accomplished this by working with the IT department to secure unused workstations on wheels.

She initiated the OR skin integrity taskforce to decrease healthcare-acquired pressure ulcer occurrences by improving awareness, changing practice and creating policy in the perioperative department; initiated a monthly nurse manger pressure ulcer prevention committee for transparency in data and best practice solution sharing; and acted as nurse expert host and scribe for CMS, Comprehensive Stroke, and Joint Commission surveys.

She organized and participated in a traveling road show around the hospital to reinforce National Patient Safety goals before The Joint Commission survey. As a result, surveyors found nurses practicing to the fullest and understanding their nursing sensitive indicator data.

Heather M. Young, RN, PhD, FAAN: Associate vice chancellor for nursing, UC Davis/Dean and professor, Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing at UC Davis, Sacramento, Calif.

Young is an outstanding teacher and mentor who led in the curriculum development of the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing, taking it from idea to implementation. Under her leadership, the school completed the inaugural year in 2011 with great success. She has contributed to the overall vision and design of the nursing science and healthcare leadership curriculum as well as to specific courses.

A researcher and a nationally recognized expert in gerontological nursing and rural healthcare, Young has been involved in making influential changes in healthcare. Her work on family caregiving has had a significant impact on the field with more than 1,000 citations in Google Scholar for her
longitudinal investigations.

Her research among multicultural families managing dementia contributed to the successful application from UC Davis for a National Institute on Aging Research Center in Minority Aging Research grant, in collaboration with psychiatry and neurology. It led to the establishment of the Latino Aging Research Resource Center, for which she is co-director.

As one of the leading experts and researchers in community-based, long-term care, Young has had a direct impact on state regulations governing services for older adults in Washington state and New Jersey, and has influenced regulations in a number of other states. She is sought after as an expert on quality in long-term care settings, and recently was invited to chair a national initiative of the Long Term Care Quality Alliance to establish measurement for transitions of care across hospital and long-term care settings, resulting in recommendations made to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Her research has been published in the top journals in gerontology and is widely recognized, with more than 250 citations.

Since 2003, she has successfully raised more than $2 million for student support and education and is the principal investigator for the $100 million grant from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. She serves on numerous university and statewide strategic committees.


Symantha Kaufman, RN, MSN, MHA, CNL, PHN: Clinical nurse leader, VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare

Kaufman looks for areas to improve, conducts a needs assessment and revises systems to improve efficiency for staff and patients.

After identifying that incorrect restocking of Pyxis wasted time on a preop- and postop-day surgery unit, she worked with pharmacy to revamp Pyxis usage by reducing rarely used meds and increasing common ones, which improved staff satisfaction, reduced waste and saved $30,000. She improved policies and procedures to allow RNs to practice to their full scope of practice by ordering tests by protocol, reducing treatment time and improving satisfaction. She also conducted projects to improve end-of-life care for veterans. After reviewing a thorough analysis of X-ray and lab processing, Kaufman collaborated with both departments and decreased wait times by improving efficiency and reducing turnaround times.

With the support of the ED manager, Kaufman trained Armed Forces medics to provide care for patients in the ED. After orientation and training, staff and medics have flourished in this collaborative relationship and patient satisfaction has increased.

Kaufman educated multidisciplinary ED staff on women’s health issues seen in the ED including violence and suicide, resulting in improved quality care and comprehensive assessments for those who suffer from violence and possible suicidal tendencies. Female veterans are more willing to share these stigmatized issues with caregivers and, thus, receive the help and services they need. Because of this accomplishment, the ED medical director nominated Kaufman for the 2014 VA Secretary’s Awards in Nursing Excellence program, and she was asked to present on women’s health at a 2014
VA national conference.

She also trained ED nursing staff in computer medication administration, resulting in 98% accuracy in avoiding errors and workarounds, and was invited to present at the evidence-based practice fellowship class on successful quality improvement projects.

August Maggio III, RN, BSN, PCCN: Registered nurse, St. Joseph Hospital, Orange, Calif.

A role model for new staff, students and peers, Maggio is described as the nurse who sits at a patient’s bedside in the middle of the night and knows something personal about each patient. He approaches his patient care in a holistic manner and treats patients and their families with respect and honesty. He helps other staff members become better practitioners because he seeks excellence in care and helps those around him do the same.

As an active member of the hospital’s stroke clinical excellence team, Maggio brings intuitive, innovative and evidence-based practice ideas to the committee to improve care processes for better patient outcomes. Because of his knowledge, dedication and interpersonal rapport, Maggio collaborated with others to create a 36-page patient stroke education booklet for nurses and patients. He spent hours editing the booklet so that it would include the right content and language. He presented the initiative to the Board of Trustees and EMT services, and provided stroke nursing education during the medical telemetry and cardiac renal skills lab sessions.

Described as a team player and a voice for nursing, Maggio is dedicated to ensuring patients receive the best possible care. He listens to his peers and nursing staff when they express concerns about care processes that may be unsafe or could be streamlined for better patient care delivery.

Maggio currently is working on a medication communication teaching tool for patients and was a key player in preparing the unit for Magnet redesignation as the unit’s ambassador, all while completing his BSN degree.

Maggio is described as an example of a nurse who others would want to care for their loved ones, and someone who is always willing to share what he knows with his colleagues.

Shari Moseley, RN, BSN, CCRN: Registered nurse, UC San Diego Health System, La Jolla, Calif.

Described as one of the most driven and motivating nurses on the unit, Moseley possesses compassion and empathy in patient and family care. She has earned respect from her colleagues.

As Magnet unit representative. Moseley assisted in informing staff about the meaning of Magnet and was instrumental in providing numerous educational posters that helped the organization attain
Magnet status.

Moseley donated three large display cabinets to allow staff to display Magnet information, quality initiatives, ongoing educational materials and staff pictures.

She composes a bimonthly newsletter, highlighting interesting patient diagnoses and important nursing interventions. She also invites interdisciplinary team members to submit write ups about their areas of interest, fostering unit cohesiveness and ongoing staff education.

Moseley donated goodbye cards that staff give to patients as they are discharged from the unit, and because of such efforts serves as an exemplary role model.

Now serving as charge nurse, Moseley continually strives to excel in patient care and in care initiatives. She is involved in the organization-wide palliative care committee and encourages other nurses to do the same. She is working on a project to write a comfort care order set in Epic.

Moseley is involved in an interprofessional collaborative practice project to ensure care coordination and continuity of care for end-of-life patients. Serving in a leadership role on this project, Moseley is working with the director of nursing, palliative care team members and clinical nurse specialists who focus on pain management to improve patient care and outcomes and enhance the patient experience and nursing practice.

Laurie B. Paletz, BSN, PHN, RN, BC: Stroke program coordinator, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center,
Los Angeles

Paletz provides leadership, consultation, education and patient care management expertise for both inpatient and ambulatory care patients with stroke. Said to possess a contagious and positive energy that inspires nurses and students, Paletz is called the “stroke awareness cheerleader” who educates others about the importance of early stroke detection and treatment.

Through her leadership, she made a significant difference in the quality of patient care and outcomes by developing a number of quality improvement projects. She has been instrumental in spearheading the rollout of the transient ischemic attack center pathways, which includes discharge planning, documentation, order sets, education and training for more than 2,800 nurses.

Paletz provides educational sessions before discharge with patients and their families to reinforce knowledge, and coordinates a stroke support group during which previous stroke patients talk with patients about their experiences.

Paletz developed and implemented Code Brain, a program that educates inpatient and ambulatory care nurses on completing a neurological assessment, recognizing stroke symptoms and taking the necessary actions if a patient appears to be having a stroke. She also provided badge cards with the symptoms of a stroke and penlights with the number to call to initiate a Code Brain.

In 2012, she was the nursing leader and ambassador for the stroke program when it obtained its first comprehensive stroke certification by The Joint Commission. Collaborating with all disciplines, Paletz worked with the multidisciplinary stroke team in developing Code Brain for the new crisis team.

Linda W. Ritter, RN, CPON: Clinical nurse IV, Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital, Palo Alto, Calif. • Ritter is respected by her colleagues for her expertise, clinical skills, critical thinking and compassion. Said to possess the unique combination of being a visionary and an innovative doer, she knows how to inspire, collaborate and overcome obstacles.

In addition to providing superb patient care, she also serves in the role of a charge nurse for either the pediatric oncology unit or the pediatric stem cell unit.
After completing the End-of-Life Nursing Education Consortium program, first as an attendee and then as a participant in the trainer program, Ritter created a yearly ELNEC program at the facility, now in its fourth year. The program has evolved and now offers exhibits, hands-on demonstrations and interactive stations during the conference.

She is someone who inspires others by her dedication, work ethic and ability to create changes in a large institutional setting. Ritter formed a palliative care committee to provide excellence in pediatric palliative and end-of-life care. Out of this unit-based committee, she and her colleagues created and developed current event staff meetings, a comfort cart, a holiday giving tree, staff mini-retreats and a palliative care manual for staff. They have implemented changes in staffing ratios for end-of-life patients and have added door decals, music, quilts and other comfort measures for patients, family and staff.

Because of the positive and successful interventions initiated on the unit, other units have implemented or are interested in implementing practice changes on their own units. Ritter helped raise the bar for providing excellence in pediatric patient care, and as a direct result of her efforts, improved the delivery of palliative care throughout the hospital. She is the nursing representative for the hospital-wide palliative care committee.


Debra Bakerjian, RN, PhD, FNP, FAANP: Senior director, NPAA clinical education and practice, Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing, UC Davis, Sacramento. Calif.

Described as someone who possesses an unwavering passion for and commitment to the specialty, Bakerjian has made significant and substantial contributions to geriatric care by advancing nursing practice and research.

She led the curriculum design and renovation of two new graduate programs focused on community connections and leadership, and she served as the primary expert for the content development of the nurse practitioner and physician assistant programs, upgrading the entire curriculum to graduate-
level study.

An exemplary researcher and expert clinician, Bakerjian is a co-investigator of a funded Mayday project, which involves the development of evidence-based pain resources for nurses in skilled nursing homes, and she serves as lead investigator in developing pain-related educational and quality improvement Web resources for Bakerjian is a co-primary investigator on a Center for Information Technology Research grant titled, “On-Demand Telemonitoring for Independently Living Older Adults.” She is a board member of Advancing Excellence in America’s Nursing Homes, a coalition of 30 organizations, dedicated to improving the quality of care and quality of life of nursing home residents.

Through post doctoral research at UC San Francisco and as a John A. Hartford Foundation Claire M. Fagin Postdoctoral Fellow, Bakerjian compared outcomes associated with primary care providers in emergency room transfers and acute hospitalizations of nursing home residents. Her grant is under review at the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality to serve as a simulation training intervention to prevent avoidable pressure ulcers in long-term care settings. She has published her research in the American Journal of Nursing and Research in Geronotological Nursing and has given numerous presentations, including at the Gerontological Society of America Scientific Conference, the Western Institute of Nursing, and to Institute of Medicine panels.

In addition to conducting research that influences the way long-term care of older adults is delivered, Bakerjian is a leader in the CMS quality improvement campaign, Advancing Excellence.

Lori Conconi, RN-C, MSN, NEA-BC, CPHQ: Director of professional development, Saddleback Memorial Medical Center, Laguna Hills, Calif.

Because of her extensive background in critical care, quality improvement and compliance, Conconi is said to be the “perfect educator and mentor” for the 1,500 nurses, 900 physicians and 500 volunteers in the organization. She also serves as the student-clinical liaison for the hospital, which provides clinical practicums for more than 500 students.

What distinguishes her as an educational leader is the level of her commitment to help others learn and develop. She brings out each nurse’s strengths, provides a steady and knowledgeable presence and adds grace and eloquence with her patience and listening skills, according to her nominator.

Working to enhance clinical practice skills in the hospital, Conconi has been instrumental in starting a simulation program by obtaining nearly $750,000 in California Employment Training Panel funds. This year, she will help design the first simulation laboratory for the hospital.

With the institution on a trajectory to achieve Magnet status by 2016, Conconi has supported the endeavor by reallocating her nursing education resources to support a Magnet coordinator position.

She has successfully developed informational websites and newsletters, and supports the Daisy Award process, as well as numerous staff-based partnership councils, giving nursing a full voice in
hospital initiatives.

Described as someone who possesses a strong work ethic and devotes herself to the success of others, Conconi supports the first yearlong Nursing Leadership Academy for aspiring nurse leaders across the corporation. She graduated from the Leadership Academy and was the recipient of the LOLA award in 2009 for living out leadership.

In 2014, she will be a part of the leadership team transitioning policies from a campus-level focus to evidence-based corporate policies, and her educational leadership will bring a new, state-of-the-art learning management system for all staff called YouLearn, which allows learners to remotely access education and information at or away from their worksite.

Charles A. Griffis, CRNA, PhD: Associate professor, West Los Angeles Medical Center

With more than 30 years of experience as an advanced practice nurse and 40 years as an RN, Griffis has a wealth of knowledge that he shares with nursing students and practicing nurses. He dedicates himself to clinical practice, education and research as well as to political endeavors, and has been recognized on several occasions for his accomplishments as a nurse anesthetist, teacher
and researcher.

He is a clinical instructor to nurse anesthesia students and teaches didactic courses to nursing students, practicing nurses and advanced practice nurses. Because of his knowledge and clinical experience on sedation, Griffis serves as the resident expert and has improved nursing practice in this area at
the facility.

His groundbreaking research focuses on chronic pain and its effect on leukocytes, which is predicted to change the way chronic pain is treated and make an impact on patient care and outcomes. Griffis is mentoring doctoral students who are interested in studying this aspect of pain management.

One of his greatest accomplishments is his enthusiasm for and dedication to mentoring nurses, whether it be nurses who are seeking advanced practice degrees, those who needed guidance in initiating and setting up doctoral research projects or those who want to improve their practice with more
focused training.

He has served on the board, as treasurer, and president for several decades on organizations such as the California Association of Nurse Anesthetists, the Council on Certification of Nurse Anesthetists, the National Board of Certification and Recertification of Nurse Anesthetists and the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists. He was awarded the UCLA Health System Teaching Humanism Award in 2013, and numerous other awards over the years, which are a testament to his signficant contributions to nurses, patients and the profession.

Keith W. Hoshal, RN-BC, MSN, OCN, CHTC: Education program coordinator, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles

Hoshal provides the clinical education for more than 450 nursing students and supports more than 2,800 staff in career development and advancement. As clinical instructor, Keith mentors and coaches students who are in the Western Governors University and UCLA master’s entry clinical nurse programs. He also is the education liaison and mentor to 100 new graduates in the nursing residency program.

Hoshal spearheaded recruitment and training of 10 clinical coaches who participated in a new collaborative program with Western Governors University. Because of his tenacity and dedication, the program offers RNs interested in receiving their BSN the ability to complete didactic curriculum online and clinical work at the hospital. This past year he and his colleagues reviewed the oncology internship and chemotherapy programs to ensure they met the Oncology Nursing Society requirements. They are in the process of providing additional training to the hospital’s 200 oncology nurses.

Hoshal is described by his nominator as someone who radiates high energy, possesses a contagious charism and succeeds at whatever he sets out to accomplish. In support of mid-level nurses and their advancement, Hoshal and colleagues developed a Rising Stars initiative, a yearlong program in which participants meet once a month for eight hours to develop competencies in human resources, fiscal management, quality, performance improvement and leadership. In its third cycle, the program has decreased vacancies in these positions from 25% to zero.

He is the president of the Sigma Theta Tau chapter at California State University after working for a number of years on the education committee and the membership committee. He has received several facility-provided Standing Ovation Awards for which he is recognized for quality of service.

Sandra Pieschel, RN-CDE, MPA, BSW: Diabetes educator, Valley Presbyterian Hospital, Van
Nuys, Calif.

Pieschel is said to be a beacon of hope in the world of inpatient diabetes management, and is described as someone who is focused on the nuances of glycemic control while, at the same time, helping staff and colleagues understand the multiple needs of patients with diabetes.

Pieschel has created online learning modules and provided interdisciplinary hospital-wide inservices; instituted walking teaching rounds to provide real-time intervention and education to patients, families and providers; revised the diabetic ketoacidosis and hypoglycemic protocols; and provided physician education based on the most current standards of care.

She is described as the ultimate educator, facilitator, change agent, consultant, leader and researcher.

In collaboration with dietary, she developed color-coded menus and coordinated tray delivery, glucose checks and mealtime insulin administration to ensure safe glycemia management. With the lab, she coordinated critical value reporting, achieved ACCU-CHEK upgrade and learning modules with observed competencies. She worked closely with pharmacy and IT to redesign the clinical documentation screens for hypoglycemia management protocol, subcutaneous insulin order set, assessment form and the discharge flow sheet. Because of her encouragement and support, patient care and outcomes have improved significantly.

Pieschel is admired for her ability to engage and empower nurses to provide safe and quality care. Over a three-month period, Pieschel provided education to 100 nurses, ensuring competency and understanding of the changes in insulin management, organizational changes in protocols and medication administration. Along with the education, she performed countless focused reviews of patients charts to evaluate effectiveness of education and policy changes and to ensure specificity of learning needs of providers on various units and shifts. She also instructed more than 150 nursing students from five local nursing schools on finger stick technique, insulin pen/needle safety and injection technique. She uses a variety of tools, including case studies, self-learning modules and skill toolkits to support staff education.


Donna J. Beckman, RN, BSN: Credentialed School Nurse, Coordinator of health services, special education, San Joaquin County Office of Education, Stockton, Calif. • Along with her school nurse responsibilities in the special education department of the Office of Education, Beckman serves as supervisor of health services.

Besides the care and case management she provides to more than 350 special education students and their families, she collaborates with a local dentist to perform oral health screenings for developmentally disabled kindergarten students who are without access to dental care and provides CPR education to teaching and instructional assistant staff. Beckman provides annual training to special education staff in blood and body fluid and universal precautions and prevention of communicable disease transmission. In addition, she participates in annual staff tuberculosis testing clinics for the San Joaquin County Office
of Education.

Beckman’s previous clinical experience as a staff nurse, nursing supervisor and home health director enhances her current practice.

After the California School Nurses Organization released its 2nd edition, “Guidelines for Specialized Physical Healthcare Services in the School Settings,” also known as the Green Book, Beckman worked with a colleague to develop a Training of Trainers module for the updated publication. The interactive course supported school nurse trainers and provided professional development to school nurses and unlicensed personnel. Using the course she helped develop, Beckman was instrumental in training more than 300 school nurses throughout the state, and received positive feedback
from them.

She was chosen as the California State Nurses Organization School Nurse of the Year for 2014, and was selected as the CSNO Northern Section School Nurse of the Year in 2013. An involved member of professional and community organizations, she is described as a strong client advocate, educator and mentor who is dedicated to the care of students, families and staff.

Joanna D. Field, RN, BSN, Grant per diem nurse, community care, case manager, Greater LA Veterans Healthcare System

Field is as someone who strives to provide exemplary care to her patients and takes a proactive role to make things better. She works diligently to ensure that the quality of care she and her colleagues provide is outstanding, said her nominator.

One of Field’s key assets is her ability to work towards improving clinical practices. After a tuberculosis outbreak in the downtown Los Angeles area, she immediately consulted with the CDC and the Department of Health Services for recommendations and guidelines on TB control and prevention. She used the information to create a Los Angeles VA-specific pamphlet, which includes information on signs and symptoms of TB, recommendations for annual screening and how and where to obtain testing and treatment within the VA system.

Prior to giving patients the pamphlets, Field educated VA staff and leadership as well as staff in the transitional facilities that provide veteran housing and offered N95 masks as personal protective equipment. Because of her efforts more patients have been screened, reducing the effects of the outbreak in the housing facilities, and there has been “zero” reports of patients diagnosed with active TB in the programs she supervises.

In collaboration with inpatient social workers Field assumed a leadership role in determining safe hospital discharge of homeless veterans to a shelter or a recuperative care bed. Field created an assessment tool that serves as a guide in assigning appropriate facility placement, and she trained nurses and social workers who staff the grant and per diem program. As a direct result of the tool, Field, staff nurses and social workers have improved their clinical practice.

Paula J. Pope, RN, BSN: Charge nurse, Kaiser Permanente, Woodland Hills, Calif.

Wise and inspiring, Pope triages and provides care for more than 50 to 100 patients in a four-hour time frame at the walk-in clinic. Said to have superior clinical skills, she is respected for her ability to do anything that is needed, whether it be starting difficult IVs and PICC lines, giving wound care, fitting and applying splints and inserting nasogastric tubes.

Her experiences as an ED and labor and delivery nurse make her an extremely capable and competent charge nurse, said her nominator. Just by nature of the setting, the nurses see patients with a wide range of minor conditions and acute illnesses, and staff always can count on her to triage the most seriously ill ones so they receive emergency care immediately. Pope accurately assesses patients who present with abdominal and chest pain, and on occasion, she’s needed to send patients directly to the OR. She has even delivered babies. Nothing seems to rattle her, said the nominator.

Described as a real nurse’s nurse and an amazing troubleshooter, Pope possesses the clinical skills, theoretical knowledge and empathy required in this high-volume outpatient setting. She always takes the time to teach patients and staff, is calm, caring and understanding with every patient, family and
staff interaction.

Maria Louise Rienzo, BSN, PHN: Comprehensive care nurse II, Health Care Agency, Orange County, Irvine, Calif.

For more than 18 years at the James Musick facility, Rienzo has been the go-to nurse for her peers and colleagues within the Orange County Sheriff’s department. She cares for patients with a variety of chronic medical conditions and responds to their healthcare needs and medical emergencies at the facility, which houses approximately 1,200 adult male and female inmates as well as immigration and customs enforcement detainees.

Rienzo began her role within the jail by working in various departments of the five facilities, including triage, clinics, infirmaries and mental health units. With a growing patient population that has more acute care needs, the staff has a constant influx of new inmates who then return to the local communities.

Rienzo sees and evaluates approximately 40 inmates a day who have healthcare issues ranging from skin rashes to seizures. Besides daily sick calls, she manages the clinic area to ensure that patients are seen in a timely manner.

Rienzo takes her responsibility as healthcare educator seriously, said her nominator. She teaches inmates about their health and well-being during every interaction, and some of these conversations involve drug use, contraception, mental illness and other serious issues. A kind and understanding person, she is said to care for the inmates with grace and compassion.

Because of the recent influx of flu cases, Rienzo organized and presented a large-scale educational event to teach inmates about the importance of flu vaccinations. She spoke after the meeting to individuals who wanted to discuss their questions or concerns. In the 12 days that followed, she administered 3,451 flu vaccines.

Sandra Velasquez, RN, MN, FNP: CA state credentialed school nurse, district nurse, Castro Valley (Calif.) Unified School District

As a family nurse practitioner, Velasquez cares for more than 3,000 students and is said to have delivered outstanding healthcare for the past nine years. Along with her student responsibilities, Velasquez trains unlicensed staff to provide care to special needs students and school staff to learn and develop CPR and first aid skills.

After obtaining a grant from the local hospital, she implemented the IMpact concussion management program, which covered the cognitive preseason testing for every athlete. Described by her nominator as the best public school concussion management program in the state, it has raised the level of awareness about the incidence and care of students who have had a concussion.

Velasquez ensures that these students do not participate in activities until they have recovered and have been released from a physician’s care, and she coordinates communication between coaches, students, families and physicians.

Velasquez works closely with families who have chronically ill children, helping them to transition from hospital, home and back to school, and designed a home hospital flow sheet that outlines the steps necessary in the transitions. Along with the education team, she helps families with chronically ill children create an educational plan with the least restrictive environment. Also she manages the home hospital program at the high school, communicating with parents, staff and physicians about the best way to serve the students.

She is said to have the children’s best interests at heart, providing excellent frontline, preventive care, acute care as well as chronic care for those with seizure disorders, diabetes and chronic asthma.


Teri Armour-Burton, RN, BSN, MSN, MBA, CNML, NE-BC: Nurse manager, Sharp Grossmont Hospital, La Mesa, Calif.

Described as a proactive manager and an outstanding leader, Armour-Burton is admired for her dedication to achieving positive patient outcomes and streamlining nursing care processes. Colleagues recognize her commitment to advancing the practice of nursing through the proliferation of evidence-based practice and physicians see her as a partner in patient care.

After completion of an EBP project focused on decreasing hospital-acquired pressure ulcers, Armour-Burton worked with nursing colleagues and served as the primary author of an article that shared their project processes and outcomes. “The Healthy Skin Project: Changing Nursing Practice to Prevent and Treat Hospital-acquired Pressure Ulcers” was submitted, accepted and published in the June edition of Critical Care Nurse.

She also led her unit in submitting a comprehensive application for the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses and its Beacon award designation, which has traditionally been awarded to intensive care units. Armour-Burton engaged her leadership team to help write the application for the unit and motivated her staff to help achieve and sustain clinical care nursing outcome results.

In January 2014, the 4east Progressive Care Unit at Sharp was awarded the Gold level Beacon Award, representing one of many significant milestones on their unit’s journey to optimal outcomes and exceptional patient care, said her nominator.

She and her staff have implemented a Lasting Touch project that focuses on staff leaving a positive lasting impression with patients and family members and a discharge readiness checklist that documents specific discharge needs of the patient, which have improved HCAHPS to the 91st percentile.

Armour-Burton also has been a key contributor to numerous system-wide committees/projects. Most recently, she served as a member of the Sharp system policy and procedure committee and has worked with the group to approve 32 policies and procedures and implement 12 new policies.

Committed to lifelong learning, Armour-Burton is pursuing her PhD in nursing at the University of
San Diego.

Yingze Li, RN, Charge nurse, White Memorial Medical Center, Los Angeles

Said to bring excellent critical thinking to the role of charge nurse, Li can quickly and effectively assess a situation, create a plan of action and communicate the plan to staff. In the face of urgent and emergent cases, she remains calm and steadfast in her leadership, which keeps everyone focused on quality of care and better patient outcomes, said
her nominator.

She anticipates and plan for the unexpected, and always has a backup plan in surgery in the event of an emergency or a change in the case schedule. During two separate care events that involved uncontrolled bleeding in the OR, Yingze was quick to mobilize the teams, communicate priorities and ensure that backup staff, supplies and blood products were available. Li is a quick and effective decision-maker, and as a direct result of her efforts, the OR has developed a stronger team, according to her nominator.

She has earned the trust and respect of her colleagues and makes it her priority to identify their needs, seeking feedback and focusing on staff communication and team building.

Over the past eight years, the facility’s OR has continued to train new graduate RNs in surgery. Because of Li’s leadership, the unit has fostered staff training and mentoring, reinforcing quality and safety issues and promoting staff and physician satisfaction. In 2013, physician satisfaction with the surgical staff and with OR staff competency had reached an all time high.

Actively involved in shared governance, surgical services administrative council and in the professional practice committee, she energizes meetings, thinks out of the box and works with the teams to
find solutions.

Teri Loera RN, BSN, NE-BC: Operations manager, PICU, Children’s Hospital Los Angeles

Admired for her compassionate and caring nature, Loera has held a leadership role in the PICU for more than 25 years. She has the gift of being an adept transactional and true transformational leader, and her healthcare operations knowledge and expertise are unparalleled, said her nominator.

Loera meets staff members where they are, identifies their strengths and challenges and nurtures their professional development and success.

Loera has made notable contributions to the development of policies and procedures at the facility, and in one example, served as a consultant to human resources, the executive leadership team and her manager colleagues during the revisions of pay practices, attendance, and vacation and sick benefits policies and procedures.

Described as a servant leader, Loera develops bedside leaders who deliver complex nursing care to the most seriously ill and critically injured patients. She served as the project manager in the Beacon Award process, and the PICU received the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses Beacon Award for Excellence.

Loera’s colleagues rely on her attention to detail, sense of fairness and solid understanding of state human resources law. She is regarded as a thought leader in budget development and supply chain management. It is said by her nominator that Loera is on speed dial for many of her colleagues and staff, both novice and experienced.

One of the most significant contributions Loera has made in the PICU is her recognition and respect for the whole person. She is a champion of family-centered care, ensuring that patients and families on the unit have the emotional support they need.

She is a fierce advocate of work-life balance and her interactions consistently recognize and appreciate the unique needs and gifts of each person.

She served as the component lead for the Magnet document section on policies and procedures and was an active member of the Magnet champion group.

Ellen Pollack RN, MSN, Chief nursing informatics officer, UCLA Health, Los Angeles

Pollack implemented an enterprise-wide electronic health record and took responsibility for all inpatient workflows, system deployment and training.

Her team trained 18,500 nurses, staff, and physicians the three weeks before the go-live event, and she worked collaboratively with trainers, communications experts, inpatient flow analysts and nurses. To promote professional practice, she required that nurses provide support for clinical staff during the EHR go-live, engaging over 500 nursing superusers, 80 nursing readiness leads and 16 credentialed trainers. Her can-do attitude and vision were responsible for the successful training and support of thousands of users in three hospitals for a big-bang EHR implementation that replaced 65 computer systems with one.

Under her leadership, the team supports systems for clinical documentation for nursing and ancillaries, barcoded medication administration and specimen collection, bed management and transport, nurse call and a forms portal. She successfully championed putting a computer in every patient room to promote patient safety, quality patient care, real-time documentation and an improved patient experience.

When implementing the EHR, she designed and implemented a custom screen that relayed the patient story and facilitated the many hand-offs that occur with the facility’s care teams. Her paper and data on the efficacy of the patient story was selected for publication and highlighted at the annual
Epic Conference.

As a result, nurses are able to articulate the patient’s plan of care from all disciplines on one screen — all users see the same multidisciplinary information about the patient and bed planners can access the information needed to place patients in the appropriate bed in a timely manner.

She is working on using system functionality to improve care coordination, patient throughput and capacity planning. She has worked to include quality measures and regulatory standards in the EHR to ensure they are easily measured and the data is available to everyone.

As a result of staff input, she is working with groups in multiple areas to trial a tablet for daily work as an alternative to a desktop or workstation on wheels, especially in areas where space is limited or the staff member is mobile. Her vision is for every patient to have a tablet device for easy access to their chart, educational materials and for communication and entertainment while hospitalized.

Kim Rossillo, RN, BSN, PCCN: Manager, Medical Telemetry Department, St. Joseph Hospital,
Orange, Calif.

As manager of a new unit, Rossillo developed a cohesive unit originally made up of staff transfers from other departments and has led her team to provide quality care to patients and their families.

When the unit became the designated stroke unit, she became a member of the stroke clinical excellence team and collaborated with the stroke coordinator to provide education to staff. Rossillo took the lead to develop the policy and procedure for bedside swallow evaluations, providing resources and encouragement to develop stroke champions. Recently, Rossillo and her team provided stroke education at elementary schools, providing age-appropriate classes on recognition of stroke symptoms.

With a management style that blends efficiency and compassion, Rossillo is described as an authentic servant leader. She welcomes new graduate RNs to the unit, and makes sure that they are adapting to their new role and the work environment. Rossillo provides an open forum for discussion, sharing positive feedback and giving specific patient examples. The new graduates know Rossillo is sincere when she says, “What can I do for you, and how can I help you?”

Her actions speak louder than words. She answers call bells, responds to patient needs and assists with patient care. She values her staff members’ input and ideas, and is admired for her ability to listen to and implement their suggestions.

As a Caritas coach, she teaches staff about the Theory of Human Caring and its application to practice and ensures that there is time in the annual skills days for Caritas presentations. Rossillo and her team successfully piloted the patient experience training as part of an effort to improve HCAHPS scores, and she collaborated on an end-of-life educational program for nursing assistants, Also she teaches in the ministry formation class, providing inspiration and guided imagery instruction to participants.


Sheila Erickson RN, BSN, MBS, NE-BC, CNML: Nursing manager, 5 East Progressive Care Unit, Sharp Grossmont Hospital, La Mesa, Calif.

What sets Erickson apart from others is her dedication to stroke screening and educating the community about the prevention and early detection of strokes. Partnering with the San Diego Padres, she provided stroke education as baseball fans entered the Petco Park stadium and arranged for a public service announcement during the game. Erickson has assisted in screening countless patients for risk of stroke and also has assisted in providing vaccines during many community events.

Erickson’s volunteerism and service extends inside the hospital as well. She has volunteered to precept leadership nursing students in the last semester of their BSN programs so they can experience the nurse manager role. She offered to serve as the interim manager of another progressive care unit and was admired for her ability to work closely with the unit’s leadership team to provide consistent support over an extended period of time. Because of her outstanding work and willingness to go above and beyond to help others, Erickson was nominated by the CNO and received the facility’s January 2014 Leader of the Month award.

Always looking for ways to promote the profession, Erickson volunteers her time to develop high school students’ interest in nursing by providing observational experiences.

She is described as someone who leads by example and promotes a trusting and a healthy work environment, and colleagues respect her advice and problem-solving ability. She has a pro-staff and pro-team approach in everything she does, according to her nominator. Never to be deterred, she overcame obstacles and designed a plan that would meet the educational needs of the organization prior to a Joint Commission comprehensive stroke recertification.

Richard de Mesa Flores, RN, BSN: Nursing supervisor and bed management solution coordinator, VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare

Modest about his volunteerism and service, Flores spends an incredible amount of time outside the hospital helping others in the Los Angeles community and in other countries, said his nominator.

Described as selfless in his service to those less fortunate, Flores has volunteered his time in the past two years with the PS, I Love You Foundation, a 501 c3 non-profit dedicated to nurturing at-risk youth through educational and inspirational enrichment programs and events. Inspiring others to join him, he has provided food and clothing for the homeless at the Long Beach Martin Luther King Community Center and through the Meeting Professionals International organization and Meals on Wheels. He and his colleagues collected nearly 300 pairs of shoes and donated them to the homeless in Peru and have purchased sandwiches to feed the poor and homeless.

Flores joined the Global Health Force team to assist the people in the Philippines with their healthcare needs. Traveling to the cities of Palawan and Manila, he cared for approximately 1,500 patients of all ages, and was instrumental in acquiring and bringing a three month’s supply of medications on the mission. Flores is planning to join other medical mission trips in 2014 to the Philippines, Peru and the Dominican Republic.

Flores started as a volunteer in the VA Medical Center, and now is employed as an off-tour supervisor, bed management coordinator and bar code medication administration coordinator.

His responsibilities range from safe staffing, problem-solving patient issues and transporting emergent patients to and from other facilities. Flores was instrumental in implementing the organization’s bed management system, which creates less waiting time for patients in the ED and ensures that they are transferred to the appropriate level of inpatient care. Described as a natural leader who is committed to the care of veteran patients, Flores is respected for his ability to collaborate with the interdisciplinary team.

Sonia S. Olivar, RN, MSN, RAC-CT, H+CBC: RN coordinator, VA Palo Alto (Calif.) Healthcare System In her role, Olivar works closely with VNA Hospice to transition veterans to home health and hospice care.

Because of her wealth of knowledge in transition care coordination and community services, her care is described as seamless, thoughtful and superior.

Said to be someone who is calm, compassionate and nurturing, she has a strong desire to give back to the community and has compassion for those who are underserved and disenfranchised from
their communities.

Her dedication to the care of veterans and those in need go far beyond her role as RN coordinator.

Olivar has traveled down to the Monterey Peninsula on numerous occasions to spend time with hospice patients and veterans she serves. She has joined the VNA Hospice and other groups in helping to organize social events for the elderly who are alone. Last November, because of her involvement, the outreach group touched the lives of more than 200 individuals. She has organized fundraising efforts to feed the homeless and help disaster victims all over the world.

Olivar is recognized as someone who always is available to provide support, help and consultation, even on her days off. She willingly assisted the VNA Hospice at the Veteran Stand Down, a two-day outreach to more than 2,000 veterans in five counties. Through her works of charity, she reached out to churches, nursing organization, and non-profit businesses to gather more than 125 nurses who joined to help at
the event.

Because of Olivar’s guidance, the VNA Hospice was inducted into the United Veterans Council; the hospice agency is the only non-profit, non-veteran organization to be part of this group.

James J. Webb, RN, BA: Emergency department nursing manager, VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare

An exceptional nurse manager who is respected by his staff, Webb dedicates himself to helping children with special needs. As a board member of the Bridges to Ability Foundation, a community group serving clients with disabilities, Webb established the first Santa Clarita Valley, California special needs ice hockey team. With approximately 500 children on the local teams, they compete with one another and Webb and his colleagues can be found manning the medical unit.
As a coach, Webb teaches snap football, and at the same time, improves the participants’ socialization, communication skills and physical well-being. The program also offers cooking classes, cruises, dinner and movie night for special needs individuals who may feel isolated, and Webb encourages others to volunteer in trips to Universal studios, Disneyland and bowling. He has helped raise thousands of dollars for the organization.

Webb has a personal interest in helping individuals with special needs. His daughter was born with multiple disabilities, and now, she sings in the choir, is a high school cheerleader and manages the freshman softball team, just to name a few of her activities.

Always looking for ways to give, Webb donates stuffed animals, games and toys for children of veteran ED patients. He also is committed to educating the community and healthcare professionals about mental disorders and champions legislative and awareness efforts for those with mental and developmental disabilities. After learning Iraqi veterans had a higher chance of having children with spina bifida, he advocated for programs to assist them with the special needs care.

As a result of his relentless support and determined advocacy, his daughter and many others in the community participate on sports teams, serve on school boards and are involved in all aspects of school and community life.

Linda E. West-Conforti, RN: Registered nurse, Kaiser Permanente, Blue Jay, Calif.

Seven years ago West-Conforti created Angels In Waiting, a nonprofit 501(3) organization that gives RNs who are skilled neonatal and pediatric intensive care nurses the opportunity to work at home and care for medically fragile foster care infants and children.

The organization helps to facilitate moving these infants and children from hospitals, institutions, group homes and poorly supported foster homes into private residences and under the skilled and nurturing care of experienced RNs and LPNs, who serve as their nurse foster parent providers under the Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnosis and Treatment programs. Also the infants receive early intervention services under the EPSDT programs.

A NICU nurse at Kaiser Permanente, West-Conforti has been an RN and a neonatal and pediatric intensive care nurse for more than 25 years. She has watched her dream unfold over the past seven years, and now has more than 40 nurses who have joined AIW. Certified as a foster parent for medically fragile children and an independent nurse provider with the state, she has cared for micro preemie babies who present special needs and challenges as well as children with multiple defects and health conditions. Because of West-Conforti’s dedication and commitment, many of the foster care children are in healthy, permanent homes and well on their way to a more promising future, said the nominator.

Through AIW, West-Conforti speaks at healthcare and foster care conferences to help bring awareness to the program as well as information about the new state law.

In October 2013, Governor Brown signed the Angels In Waiting’s Assembly Bill, and it became state law on January 1, 2014. The state bill requires that, when determining placement of a foster child who is medically fragile, “priority consideration” will be given to placement with a foster parent who is an independent nurse provider, as defined in state law; who provides health services under the federal EPSDT programs.

— Compiled by Jan Lynch.

By | 2015-04-23T21:22:38-04:00 June 9th, 2014|Categories: Awards, GEM Awards, Regional, West|0 Comments

About the Author:


Leave A Comment