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Meet the 2015 Mountain West GEM finalists

This year’s Mountain West region GEM Awards finalists are among the best of the best in the profession. They will be recognized at the Mountain West GEM Awards Dinner on June 19 at  the Wild Horse Pass Resort in Chandler, Ariz.


Advancing & Leading the Profession

Ellen Anthony, MSN, RN, Director of women and infant services, Banner Desert Medical Center, Mesa, Ariz.

With 24-hour responsibility for the women and infant services unit, Anthony is dedicated to making changes in processes to better meet the needs of patients. She is described by her nominator as a proactive leader, always thinking with the end in sight and a strong communicator not afraid to ask difficult questions and willing to consider all options offered by those she leads. Her nominator also said Anthony “recognizes the efforts of others by taking the time to send a handwritten note or an email to let the person know she is proud to work with them.” Anthony identified the need for community education for pregnant patients diagnosed with gestational diabetes, and Banner recently developed and implemented this class. Anthony also was instrumental in facilitating a quality council team, which includes physicians and nurses, to improve processes and patient care. She is working on a program to support nurses to take care of themselves. Anthony believes that by offering support to nurses who often take care of critically ill patients, the nursing profession can retain this group of competent and experienced obstetric RNs. She recognized that nurses often become stressed over working in situations with critically ill patients and, as a result, sometimes leave the profession. In addition to being debriefed after critical events, staff will receive ongoing emotional and physical support as suggested by her program. Anthony is actively involved in a committee through March of Dimes in support of healthy mothers and babies.

Leslie Hunter-Johnson, MSN, RN-BC, CCRN, CNRN, CNPN, Palliative care coordinator, Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center, Las Vegas

Hunter-Johnson, who oversees the palliative care program, is a valuable resource to nursing staff and physicians, who often consult with her about the management of pain for operative and nonoperative patients. She provides expert pain management and end-of-life care, working with all disciplines to ensure patients have the best pain control possible. Her extensive expertise with the care of cancer patients, end-of-life care and overall pain management lends to the success of the palliative care program. Personable and caring, Hunter-Johnson is instrumental in the preoperative education of patients and their understanding of pain, postoperative pain and the management of individual pain needs. Her nominator wrote, “Patients remark on how instrumental in their process she has been in providing information and a plan for their care at home.” She initiated and continues to be involved with assisting each patient who meets the criteria for donation after circulatory death. She has submitted an abstract to an organ procurement organization on best collaborative practices of the organ donor network and the palliative care team. Hunter-Johnson is active on several hospital committees and provides regular staff education classes, such as Tame the Pain, citing case reviews so staff can identify and better understand how each of them can make a difference. She has been instrumental in writing and updating policy and procedures for pain management and the use of the patient controlled analgesia, as well as planning, educating and implementing improvement measures for the process of using PCAs.

Cheryl Lacasse, MS, RN, OCN, Clinical professor and program coordinator, The University of Arizona College of Nursing, Tucson

Lacasse is recognized as an outstanding leader, exceptional mentor and coach to the growing number of faculty members who teach in all programs of the College of Nursing. A clinical professor at the CON, where she has taught for 19 years, Lacasse has been a leader in curriculum development and evaluation; admissions and progression of students; and faculty recruitment, evaluation and promotion. Maintaining her oncology nursing certification since 1987, she uses her expertise to contribute to clinical oncology protocols at a local medical center and has been involved in oncology nursing education for more than 25 years at the national, regional and local levels. Her experience and understanding of nursing curricula, combined with her wisdom of real world circumstances, enhances her impact on those around her. One colleague said of Lacasse, “Cheryl’s leadership has no equal in my 23 years of nursing. She not only has immeasurable skill and knowledge as an educator but possesses an equal amount of aptitude in compassion and collaboration.” Three years ago, she accepted the challenge of developing a curriculum for a new RN-MS program in clinical systems leadership. She continues to teach as well as oversee, mentor and guide the team of faculty teaching in the program, which has grown from 19 students two years ago to 330 students. Aware of the national trend to make graduate nursing education available to nurses who otherwise might not have access to such education, this innovative RN-MS program is 100% online. The program was designed for ADN prepared nurses, but shortly after the program started, Lacasse designed a special track for BSN-prepared nurses seeking admission.

Marianne Lafleur, MSN-L, RN, MSHCA, FACHE, Senior director cardiovascular service line, Banner Desert Medical Center, Mesa, Ariz.

Lafleur is a well-respected leader who steadily has worked to build her team of managers by hiring for all the right reasons, said her nominator. She is a director of two critical care units, three progressive care units, the observation unit, the cath lab and cardiodiagnostics, overseeing more than 270 nurses. With Lafleur’s support, managers have seen their nurse satisfaction increase greatly, and they have developed an engaged workforce. Her nominator, a fellow nursing director who has worked with Lafleur for more than eight years, wrote, “Marianne always has a sparkle in her eye and of good humor. She is an advocate for nurses as she is consistently questioning why things are the way they are. She helps others to critically think through challenges.” As an example, her nominator wrote that during director meetings, Lafleur “speaks to the reality of being accountable for staffing levels and patient experience metrics and patient safety.” Members of Lafleur’s leadership team said they enjoy coming to work because of her leadership style. She helps those struggling with issues, and for those who need less direction, she simply supports and guides them as needed. Four years ago, Lafleur led a collaborative team of physicians and nurses to achieve heart failure accreditation, and the recent reaccreditation process was applauded by reviewers and received significant positive accolades. The cardiodiagnostics area also was reaccredited.


Clinical Nursing, Inpatient

Jill Arzouman, DNP, MS, RN, ACNS, BC, CMSRN, Clinical nurse specialist, surgery, Banner University Medical Center, Tucson, Ariz.

Arzouman’s role and responsibilities include rounding with the team to develop the best plan of care, educating staff and patients, mentoring staff and serving as consultant for the entire institution. Her nominator wrote that Arzouman, who specializes in surgery oncology, “has run marathons in her personal life and seems to continue that drive in her nursing career.” Known to provide flawless bedside care, Arzouman is determined to advocate and do what is right for patients, making sure every patient need is addressed. She is described as someone who works many hours with patients and loves every minute. Arzouman is a mentor to physicians, nurses, technicians and everyone else who works at the hospital. Arzouman also was instrumental in developing the rapid response team at Banner and improving response times of the multidisciplinary team. Arzouman and her nominator are working on decreasing catheter-associated urinary tract infections at their institution, with Arzouman taking a leadership role. She also assisted in the development of the bariatric protocol by forming a committee to develop the protocol, arranging equipment for the bariatric patient and educating staff. She has made it possible for patients with pancreatic cancer to go straight to the surgical oncology unit and not to the ICU first, allowing them to remain in one unit until discharge. The unit has won the patient satisfaction award three of the past four quarters.

Deborah Carter, BSN, RN, Perioperative services medical laser safety officer and coordinator, Oregon Health & Science University, Portland

Described as a tireless staff member and true mentor to her co-workers, Carter has been an OR nurse at OHSU since her graduation 37 years ago. She works in the Casey Eye Institute as the pediatric service coordinator. She also has served as a team leader and an education and orientation coordinator. Passionate about nursing, Carter focuses on developing and advancing technology, quality and safety and achieving best possible patient outcomes. A team player who is willing to share information with other staff, she works to provide the best possible care to patients and their families. Carter created the role of surgical family liaison, which updates families with information about loved ones in surgery. This initiative involved careful administrative coordination, education and social service involvement. She helped to create teaching videos, such as “What to Expect in Surgery” for patients and their families and implemented the first pre-operative holding area — today’s PACU. Carter researched, initiated and coordinated all aspects of the OHSU perioperative surgical smoke initiative, dedicating countless hours to this vital safety measure. Carter has served and donated her time and funding for medical missions, and as an accomplished singer, she has donated her talent to community causes.

Dean Kotwica, BSN, RN, Team lead, critical care, Mayo Clinic Hospital, Phoenix

Known for his professionalism, Kotwica is quick to share his expertise, possesses an innate ability to give concrete feedback and points out areas of concern in an unassuming manner. He is a core team lead for a 30-bed, multispecialty adult ICU, and serves as an RN extracorporeal membrane oxygenation specialist, rapid response nurse and cardiac transport nurse. An active member of numerous hospital groups, he is seen as a resource to all nurses within the organization. He is not afraid to speak up to ensure the perspective of the bedside RNs is heard and taken into consideration. As a regular member of the rapid response team, Kotwica responds to patients throughout the hospital. His nominator wrote, “This role requires clinical expertise, professionalism and concise communication in very tense situations. [Kotwica] has great finesse and diffuses the room with his calm approach, always keeping the patient in the forefront of his thoughts and actions.” Last fall, during the height of the Ebola crisis, Kotwica volunteered to be one of the Ebola PPE trainers. He adjusted individual work schedules to ensure all nurses and physicians received the PPE education. Kotwica’s creativity has resulted in numerous improvements in the way team leaders function on the unit. As an example, he revised the ICU floating guidelines, using input from team leaders, a manager and supervisors, and the presented the document at a team leader meeting.

Brenda Lowrance, BSN, RN, Senior RN manager, Banner University Medical Center, Phoenix

Respected for her creative problem-solving abilities, Lowrance has been the RN senior manager of the med/surg/orthopedic unit for the past eight years. She has cultivated strong working relationships between nurses and physicians and displays kindness, caring, compassion and integrity in all she does. Lowrance truly cares about her unit, her patients and their families, said her nominator. Lowrance is respected for the way she holds people accountable without humiliating or diminishing them but rather encouraging them to grow from the experience. She is a member of multiple committees, EBP projects and process improvement teams, and she meets challenges with a sense of humor and good spirit. Her role includes managing the budget and productivity for her area, making Lowrance responsible for a multimillion dollar budget. In addition, Lowrance was instrumental in the implementation of a co-leadership model when Banner partnered with CORE Orthopedics, and she led a process improvement team focused on fall reduction, decreasing falls by 18%. Her unit has not had a CLABSI in more than a year and had only one CAUTI in 2014. Patient satisfaction scores consistently meet or exceed facility targets. Her nominator wrote: “She is an outstanding leader who is adored by her staff. She is a fine financial steward, with a strong understanding of labor utilization, productivity, staffing and budget. She is known to all as an out-of-the-box problem solver, always willing to collaborate.”

Education & Mentorship

Susan Bentley, BS, RN, CMSRN, Clinical educator, Tucson (Ariz.) Medical Center

Bentley’s job is to teach nurses, but her passion is to “grow and celebrate them,” investing herself in each one’s success. Bentley is responsible for the orientation and training of new clinical employees and ensures they have a smooth transition to their respective departments. Called a nurse’s nurse,” she is a strong supporter of continuing education who encourages staff to seek certification. Whenever an idea for change arises, she talks to the nurses at the bedside and finds out the roadblocks to doing the right thing for the patient and what processes can be changed to alleviate them. When asked to implement a new graduate residency program, Bentley embraced the challenge and helped develop a program that is receiving state and regional recognition. More than 300 grads have gone through the program with an attrition rate of less than 10%, well below the national average of 45% to 60%. Additionally, she is the organizationwide champion for two initiatives: glycemic control and organ donation. Bentley works with the diabetes nurse practitioner, clinical diabetic educators and unit managers to coordinate processes and education to improve patient glycemic control throughout the hospital. She works closely with the Arizona Donor Network to ensure training and polices related to organ donation are appropriate. Through her efforts, the number of certified trained requestors has increased significantly. She also facilitates education for staff and visitors on organ donation.

Kathryn Hughes, MSN, RN, Clinical educator, Tucson (Ariz.) Medical Center

A natural leader, role model and mentor, Hughes has enjoyed a long and distinguished career serving as an inspiration to nursing students, new graduates and professional colleagues. As one of the first nurses to work with new hires through clinical orientation, Hughes consistently received positive reviews not only for content but also for her creative and supportive style. Her many responsibilities include program development; leadership for the code team and cardiac initiatives; development of annual mandatory review programs for staff; oversight of ACLS/CPR classes; and oversight/review/revision of clinical policies and procedures. Using a calm and confident demeanor when training, Hughes is determined to make class participants feel comfortable with the equipment they will use in their departments. She holds them to a high standard through a nonintimidating approach. Hughes has a positive impact on new grads, experienced nurses, patients, their friends and family. “Her spirit is gentle but her influence is powerful,” Hughes’ nominator wrote. “She makes her life a mission by being reliable, caring and encouraging. She is the one that we can consistently rely on to always have a positive attitude, to be totally but respectfully honest and willing to assist in any situation. She is a warm, caring, unassuming, compassionate presence who speaks with confidence and grace.” A mentor to numerous staff over the years as a preceptor and educator, Hughes remains modest about her contributions to the profession, preferring to discuss the impact on nursing by someone she mentored over her own accomplishments.

Elizabeth Reifsnider, PhD, RN, PHCNS-BC, WHNP-BC, FAANP, FAAN, Professor and associate dean for research, College of Nursing and Health Innovation, Arizona State University

This dedicated, renowned researcher finds the time to be a compassionate and supportive mentor for tenure-track assistant professors. Reifsnider addresses their concerns, sets realistic expectations and helps them create and meet goals. Not only is she a certified clinical nurse specialist in public/community health and a women’s health nurse practitioner, but also she is a fellow of the American Academy of Nursing and recipient of numerous regional and national awards and honors. Despite her impressive achievements, what sets Reifsnider apart, according to her nominator, “is her ability to remain accessible to colleagues and her willingness to share her expertise and help others develop their full potential in advancing their nursing careers as teachers, practitioners and/or researchers. She willingly and actively assists junior tenure-track faculty by valuing each individual’s potential to grow beyond the past accomplishments and present status.” Her nominator describes Reifsnider as “a great mentor with professionalism, commitment, caring and respect.” Her devotion to her work on research projects and to teaching and volunteering in a community clinic make her a role model who inspires junior faculty through her grace and generosity. Approachable and supportive, she encourages success while bringing a positive energy to those around her. Her mentorship excellence is not limited to Arizona State University. She has served as a consultant for PhD students and junior research faculty at other universities. She is on the editorial boards of a number of organizations and is a reviewer for NIH grants, journals, and external promotion and tenure proposals.

Linda Trujillo, MSN, BSN, RN, Nurse educator, Indian Health Service, Clinical Support Center, Phoenix

More than 2-1/2 decades of experience in clinical, community and administrative nursing helped prepare Trujillo to engage with nurses working in diverse environments. She uses innovative approaches to design educational interventions and promote student learning through successful collaborations with tribally operated facilities and other federal agencies. Her exceptional skill in this area assures quality educational experiences for a well-educated, highly skilled nursing workforce. Trujillo ensures that comprehensive, culturally acceptable continuing education opportunities are available and accessible to all nurses practicing in Indian Health across the country. She annually awards more than 19,000 nursing contact hours. As a member of the Navajo nation, she is described as an outstanding nurse who takes her work seriously and never hesitates to go above and beyond her duties, often working overtime without compensation. She is a dedicated colleague who also mentors Native American nursing students during her spare time and as a nurse officer in the U.S. Public Health Service, she is ready for deployment when the need arises. Under her leadership, the clinical support center received the 2014 Premier Program award from the American Nurses Credentialing Center for excellence in continuing nursing education, a first for the agency. Her commitment to excellence in continuing education for nurses and the interdisciplinary healthcare team contributes to an overall positive impact for improved nursing practice and patient outcomes.

Home, Community & Ambulatory Care


Reid Branson, BSN, RN, AAACN, Assistant nurse manager, Harborview Medical Center, Seattle

Colleagues describe Branson as having a positive attitude and motivational presence in the infectious disease clinic at Harborview, which provides medical care and social services for those living with HIV/AIDS. Although he has been in his role only since 2014, Branson brings more than 30 years of nursing experience to his patients and staff. Branson was instrumental in identifying a gap for patients receiving intravenous antibiotic therapy. Some patients need to be seen by providers at multiple locations, and, due to a lack of skill mix, many times they cannot receive needed dressing changes at the same time they are receiving IV medications. A successful pilot process for training across clinics was established and implemented to provide both dressing changes and IV medication at each clinic location.
Branson brought the issue to the attention of clinic nursing leadership and was a key figure in the development of a plan for training and ongoing skills practice throughout the clinic. He is responsible for the nursing care provided by the clinic, oversees a staff of RNs and medical assistants, performs administrative tasks such as hiring and performance evaluations and provides direct patient care. Highly skilled in the care of PICC lines and wound care, Branson values professional development and recently became certified by ANCC in ambulatory care nursing. What makes him a remarkable nurse is his humanness, such as the time he chose to grieve with the family of a dying, comatose patient rather than distance himself from their grief.

Amanda Hundley, MSN-Ed, RN, Clinical instructor, Chamberlain College of Nursing, Phoenix

After joining the community health nursing course a few years ago, Hundley began providing creativity, consistency and passion in clinical instruction in the community setting. She continues to do so. She has an ability to develop and nurture relationships, and her networking skills and collaboration with leaders, agencies and constituents in the community has led to ongoing relationships and an increased number of clinical contracts. She has collaborated with other faculty members to design ways for Chamberlain to become involved in numerous community events. Hundley guides students at local health fairs and helps them recognize strategies for overcoming barriers in building healthy communities. The students benefit from exposure to diverse populations and gain experience in using evidence to create educational materials. Hundley consistently extends herself to the greater area network and in doing so, she provides outstanding opportunities to educate nursing students so they will be knowledgeable and experienced in community health nursing. Nurse graduates have been placed in desirable community positions, thanks to Hundley’s relationships. Hundley is described as a role model for senior nursing students and helps instill in each of Chamberlain’s BSN students the value of what one nurse can do.

Kristine Nelson, BSN, wound care certified/oncology certified, RN (Wound Care Clinic/Oncology Infusion), Cancer Treatment Centers of America, Goodyear, Ariz.

A compassionate, knowledgeable, born leader, Nelson takes the time to get to know her patients, and they appreciate her concern and warmth. She often is stopped in the halls by current and former patients who let her know how she has impacted their lives. Nelson identified the need to begin a wound care program for patients. She established protocols, practice guidelines, and went above and beyond to find the right products to manage complicated wounds and reduce pain. She also researched best practices for treating radiation dermatitis, fungating tumors and peristomal-radiated skin. In addition, she trains all new wound care RNs, inpatient and internal medicine nurses and empowers patients and caregivers through hands-on wound-care training. Nelson is known for her listening skills and kindness and makes sure patients are receiving the best possible care. She is described as someone who is not afraid to cry and laugh with her patients, and she always wants to know how they are doing. When caregivers are stressed, Nelson is able to help the patient and caregiver talk about their situation. “Kris is an outstanding person,” her nominator wrote. “Our patients, staff and visitors are all touched by Kris every day. We are all very fortunate to have such an amazing individual working here at CTCA-Western.”

Lee Paton, PhD, RN, Professional practice leader, Oregon Health & Science University, Portland

Although known for being theoretical and philosophical, Paton has a unique ability to transfer knowledge to audiences of all levels. She engaged the ambulatory nurse leaders, the ambulatory unit-based practice council and CNO in developing a conference to bring all OHSU ambulatory nurses together to learn and share best practices in ambulatory care. She brings humor, energy and passion for nursing and leadership, which is inspiring and motivating to those around her. She has been invaluable in developing, identifying and implementing new practice models for ambulatory care. She has been a PPL for three years, and in that short time she has led the construction of three professional development programs while fulfilling her other responsibilities in raising the standard of nursing practice and mentoring leadership for nursing students. She realized ambulatory care nurses had minimal exposure to OHSU’s professional practice model, the Magnet journey and the professional OHSU network of nurses, and developed a plan to remedy the situation. She implemented the use of nurse staff educators, who completed a self-assessment of learning needs, which then guided her in the development of a program to ensure nurses were well-informed on such issues.

Patient & Staff Management

Susan Cristante, MSN, RN, Nursing supervisor; cath lab/electrophysiology lab/interventional radiology, Mayo Clinic (Phoenix)

A driving force in the department, Cristante brings a positive attitude to everything she does. She is willing to tackle any issue, will ask the important questions and creates positive relationships with staff. Cristante is described as someone who is not hindered by difficult conversations and possesses an open mind that sees all sides of a situation before making any decisions. She helped the department grow and gave her manager the opportunity to work on areas that needed time and attention. Bringing an inquisitive and informed process to each interaction, Cristante meets with every employee to find out what they feel they need in their job to be successful, moving process workflows forward and addressing patient issues. She also works with many disciplines outside of the immediate unit, including anesthesia, transplant surgery and radiology, that provide care to patients. Her ability to multi-task and prioritize each issue is essential because of the complexity of many of the cases. She is a member of several nursing committees, including the nursing practice subcommittee, and through her work with the subcommittee, Cristante has brought key issues back to the unit, creating a safer environment for staff and patients.

Beth Gross, BSN, RN, Team lead Ambulatory Infusion Department and PICC team, Mayo Clinic Arizona, Phoenix

This well-respected leader has the ability to collaborate with other disciplines, leaders, staff and patients to find solutions that will best meet the needs of patients. She works collaboratively with physicians, allied health staff and external agencies and vendors, and she interacts daily with patients and families. One of her peers said that Gross “is wonderful to work with, and kind and compassionate to patients. She is always willing to assist, and I know it is going to be a good day when she is here.” Described as self-motivated, detail-oriented and extremely efficient, Gross is conscientious of professional nursing practice and strives to provide safe patient care. She is admired for her ability to handle all situations with dignity and respect for everyone involved. She possesses a wealth of knowledge and clinical expertise and is always willing to share them with others. Gross is viewed as a valued team leader who is willing to go above and beyond in anything she is involved in and can be counted on to help in any way that is needed.

Chisa Hauber, MSN, BSN, RN, RN manager, Cardon Children’s Medical Center/Banner Health, Mesa, Ariz.

Using her positive attitude that is contagious, Hauber strives for change and improvement in a busy work environment. She focuses on advanced education for staff and also serves in a team leader role as well as a bedside nurse. Described as someone who is always available to help or offer advice, she provides stability and leadership on the unit. Hauber served as interim senior manager for 14 months and worked diligently to retain staff and provide a smooth transition as new physicians arrived. Her nominator said, “She genuinely has her staff’s as well as our patients’ best interest at heart. She is efficient and hard working. Working at Banner would not be the same without her.” Always striving to develop herself, Hauber obtained her master’s degree in nursing administration, while working full time and serving in the interim senior manager position. She worked with the clinical nurse specialist and pediatric educator to assist with new employee education and training, specifically helping to design a “how-to” program on educating patients and their families. A dedicated and giving person, Hauber organizes staff morale boosters such as potlucks, holiday theme events and events outside the hospital and often heads Banner community events.

Riana Kielly, MSN-L, BSN, RN, RN director, perioperative services and endoscopy, Banner Desert/Cardon Children’s Medical Center, Mesa, Ariz.

Gifted with the ability to combine a personal touch with strong leadership skills, Kielly takes the time to get to know each of her staff and connects with new hires in a meaningful way. Kielly leads the organization with her employee engagement results, and at the same time, she develops nurse leaders to be ready for advanced positions within the system. Several leaders have advanced from manager to director level positions under Kielly’s leadership. She is “a servant leader,” her nominator wrote. “She willingly supports her staff and leaders in a way that stands apart from other leaders. [Kielly] stands out in her ability to navigate relationships with a multitude of individuals, which includes surgeons.” In addition to being responsible for the daily operations of pediatric and adult perioperative services, Kielly ensures her departments adhere to the system’s strategic initiatives of finance, customer experience, quality metrics and employee experience. She supports system initiatives to standardize supplies across perioperative services, adhere to safe surgery recommendations and reduce hospital-acquired infections. Perioperative services under her leadership have sustained full compliance with safe surgery practices. Kielly finds creative ways to solve difficult problems, including balancing a high-demand calendar for OR time.

Volunteerism & Service

Cynthia Carsten, BSN, RN, ED manager, Tucson (Ariz.) Medical Center

Carsten serves as a role model through her professionalism, dedication and tenacity, said her nominator. She works tirelessly as the chairwoman of a hospital committee to create and support professional development and recognition programs for nurses. Outside of the work setting, she is actively involved in Tu Nidito’s Camp Erin and serves as a nursing support team member. This nonprofit agency provides support for children affected by serious medical conditions and death. The programs offered include grief support for children and young adults who have experienced the death of a loved one, support for children with serious medical conditions and support for children and teenagers who have a parent diagnosed with a serious medical condition. She mentors youths and adults at Tu Nidito, both one on one and in large group settings. Carsten also works with the Tucson Fire Fighters Association, National Fallen Firefighters Association (Tucson chapter) and the Be Safe Saturday events hosted by a local facility to provide families with meaningful information, resources and support to enhance their overall safety and welfare. Her nominator wrote that Carsten “understands that in the grand scheme, her humanitarian efforts need to reach outside of the hospital setting in order to assist in improving the quality of life for our community, not just those within the confines of the hospital. She is a beautiful soul who is a gift to our profession. She believes all, no matter how challenging their behavior, are entitled to compassion and can positively change. Her role modeling and community efforts are driven by this humanitarian premise.”

Mahala Castle, RN, GI lab manager, Tucson (Ariz.) Medical Center

Quick to recognize staff for a job well done, Castle inspires others to provide the best possible patient care. That selflessness can be seen in every aspect of Castle’s approach to her job and life. She works alongside her staff, empowering them to make appropriate decisions, inspiring them to grow personally and professionally and always making patient advocacy a priority. She shows true compassion for her patients, families and co-workers. When she is not at work, she focuses on providing care and support to those who are less fortunate. Whether it is softly breaking the news of a patient’s diagnosis of pancreatic cancer to his wife or spending her vacations helping underserved populations, Castle puts others before herself. She organized a camp to help teach life skills to young girls susceptible to sex trafficking in a small village in Peru. Castle also offered free glucose testing to locals in a remote town in Mexico and was able to diagnose several people with diabetes and help them arrange for treatment. Closer to home, Castle collects and organizes clothing and helps distribute it to Tucson’s underserved adults and children through Hope Fest. She volunteers weekly to help rescue produce that otherwise would be thrown out and distributes fresh fruit and vegetables to more than 500 families a week. “Her random acts of kindness and genuine concern for others make her a true inspiration to those fortunate enough to meet her,” Castle’s nominator wrote.

Ana Lisa Lagman, BSN, RN, Staff RN Mayo Clinic Hospital, Phoenix

An RN for more than three decades, Lagman provides care to a complex, diverse patient population and is willing to do whatever is needed to support patient care. Her exceptional contributions are manifested in the unparalleled care she provides to patients, her work ethic, her willingness to lend a hand and the positivity she radiates. “[Lagman] is not only a very knowledgeable nurse, [she] is also caring and compassionate,” a fellow nurse said. “This nurse always has a way of making patients feel at ease.” Lagman demonstrates professionalism, passion, integrity and consistency and shows flexibility with her work schedule, as her fundamental priority is providing the highest level of nursing care, said her nominator. She has participated in numerous volunteer projects and events as a representative of Mayo Clinic and in her personal life, including working the medical tents at a professional golf tournament and spending afternoons helping at a local food bank. For the past year and a half, Lagman has contributed time and care to the Andre House of Hospitality, a ministry to the homeless and poor populations in the Phoenix area. She organizes a group of volunteers each month, encouraging colleagues and others to participate in a day of service, preparing and serving food to the homeless. Lagman, who is studying to obtain certification as a med/surg RN, takes pride in the nursing profession and is an active member of the Philippine Nurses Association. She is the first to promote and support nursing projects and initiatives at both the unit and organizational levels.

Sara Reagan, MSN, RN, Patient navigator, oncology, Tucson Medical Center

Passionate about her work, Reagan leads by example, takes the time to build strong relationships and is a true role model. She is a team player who is willing to help her fellow nurses when they are short-staffed. Seeing many friends and family affected by cancer, she created opportunities to improve the time from diagnosis to treatment for her patients. The gift of time is important to cancer patients, and she helps ensure every minute is spent wisely. She has a deep love for humanity and always goes the extra mile to ensure the patient’s needs are being met. She involves the patient and family in the treatment plan and willingly provides her cellphone number to them. She volunteers at her church, is involved in the children’s ministry and serves as a key spouse for U.S. Air Force military families. In this role, she trains spouses to promote readiness and family support during deployment, provides resources and emotional support to 115 Tucson military families and visits each family at least once a month to ensure their well-being. She also offers these families contact information for resources that provide financial support for food and rent and emotional support. Reagan believes it is important to share her experiences with others and help them through trying times. She was nominated for U.S. Air Force Key Spouse of the year for 2014 because of her dedication and commitment to others.

By | 2015-07-21T17:18:50-04:00 May 4th, 2015|Categories: Awards, GEM Awards, West|0 Comments

About the Author:

Special Topics Editor Deborah Filipek develops and edits content for OnCourse Learning’s blog, which covers news, trends and features relevant to nurses. She has more than 25 years of writing and editing experience, having previously worked for weekly newspapers and ad agencies in the Chicagoland area.

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