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Meet Our 2015 Philadelphia Tri-State GEM Award winners

By Donna Novak, DNP, RN prides itself on recognizing the accomplishments of nurses of excellence at the GEM (Giving Excellence Meaning) Awards events.

This year’s Philadelphia Tri-State GEM Awards dinner took place May 11 at the Hilton Philadelphia City Avenue. Six winners were chosen from 30 finalists in the categories of Advancing and Leading the Profession, Clinical Nursing, Inpatient, Education and Mentorship, Home, Community and Ambulatory Care, Patient and Staff Management, and Volunteerism and Service.

A Rising Star Award also is given to a nurse who has worked for less than five years in a healthcare setting but possesses a strong nursing knowledge and good clinical skills.

Here are 2015 regional winners:

 Advancing and Leading the Profession

Rosemary Dunn, DrNP, MBA, RN, CNO, Hahnemann University Hospital, Philadelphia


Rosemary Dunn, RN

When Dunn received the GEM Award in the category of Advancing and Leading the profession, she expressed deep gratitude and said “it was an honor and privilege to receive the award.”

Dunn is CNO at Hahnemann University Hospital, and has been part of that organization for 25 years. As CNO, her responsibilities include oversight of all clinical services, a $175 million annual budget, and participation in the medical executive committee, the board of directors, and the community board for Hahnemann University and the college of nursing. Dunn became CNO in 2012 during a time of high staff turnover, and with visionary leadership, she built and strengthened the nursing department with a new model, the all-RN Care Delivery Model.

Through the innovative Care Delivery Model, Dunn created a culture of empowerment for the nurses at Hahnemann who provide direct patient care and collaborate with interprofessional teams. When Dunn saw the passion in her nurses and the impact an all-RN model of care made on patient outcomes and nurse satisfaction, she advocated for the resources needed to expand the model hospitalwide. In 2014, the final inpatient unit transitioned to CDM, and outcomes include an 84% decrease in infection rates, zero fall injuries and quality measures that are better than the national average.

Dunn’s dedication to the facility, staff and community was highlighted in January when Hahnemann received its first Magnet re-designation. The CDM that Dunn implemented was recognized as an outstanding example of best practice and innovation in the delivery of exceptional patient care.

Another example of Dunn’s leadership acumen is the implementation of Gemba rounds. Gemba rounds allow nurses at Hahnemann to talk directly with leadership about unit operations, staffing and patient acuity, and has significantly improved nurse satisfaction.

Dunn is a champion of shared governance, and works continuously to encourage nurse participation. Changes implemented by Dunn, such as keeping council meetings to 30 minutes and holding them all on one day, have increased participation by 60%.

According to her nominator, Dunn exemplifies the type of leader who “instills excitement to the work of professional nurses,” and is a great leader because of “her innate ability to allow others to lead.”

Clinical nursing, Inpatient

David Dacanay Jr., BSN, RN, RN-BC, Staff nurse, 4A acute pulmonary care, chairman, shared governance council, Virtua (N.J.) Voorhees Hospital


David Dacanay, RN

Winning the GEM award in the Clinical Nursing, Inpatient category is one of the two biggest accomplishments in Dacanay’s career as a nurse. According to Dacanay, it’s second only to migrating to the U.S. from the Philippines.

Dacanay said the GEM award also validates the many initiatives and process improvements he has implemented on the acute pulmonary care unit. He is most proud of starting his unit’s shared governance council in collaboration with unit leadership.

Dacanay serves as chairman of the council, and is involved in the teambuilding resource committee, the patient satisfaction resource group and the research committee. He is passionate about evidence-based practice, stating, “I believe that the future of nursing lies in effective utilization of evidence-based practices in patient care.”

One of the research projects Dacanay spearheaded is the Silent Hospitals Help Healing campaign. The project’s objectives are to enhance recuperation by promoting rest and sleep and decreasing noise in and around patient rooms at night. Positive outcomes include improvements in noise reduction and greater patient satisfaction scores.

Dacanay gives credit for his accomplishments to the team he works with on the unit. “I’ve been very fortunate to have worked along side the best and most compassionate group of individuals who are engaged in providing exceptional patient care,” he said.

Because he believes strongly in recognizing staff for going above and beyond their job descriptions, Dacanay helped initiate the STAR Card Recognition Award. This unit-based program provides rewards and recognition with the goals of enhancing employee engagement and work satisfaction, and increasing patient satisfaction. He presented a poster on this topic at the May 2014 Relationship-Based Care Conference, entitled, “STARS Align to Care for our Colleagues.”

Dacanay’s nominator said what makes him exceptional is his love of nursing, his compassion for patients and his commitment to the best possible patient outcomes. When asked what influenced his career choice, Dacanay points to his upbringing. As part of an extended family in the Philippines, he saw his grandparents care for several family members who were sick and infirm. “Having been exposed to that, I developed the heart of helping those in need,” he said.

Education and Mentorship

Emily Turnure, MSN, RN, NEA-BC, Administrative director of education and accreditation, Inspira Health Network, Vineland, N.J.


Emily Turnure, RN

Working in a three-hospital regional health network, Turnure has many responsibilities, including nursing professional development, community education, and national accreditation and regulatory compliance. She said she “was honored to be recognized for something I do every day and I hope that the award will stimulate others to reach higher in their careers.”

When asked what she is most proud of, she named several accomplishments. “I am very proud of being part of the promotion of education and certification, which is one of the cornerstones of a Magnet organization,” Turnure said.

Turnure also is proud of the part she played in leading her health system to be the first in New Jersey to attain International Organization of Standardization 9001:2008 certification. She served as the lead ISO auditor, and she mentored an additional 19 interdisciplinary professionals to the role of auditor.

Turnure is passionate about the role she plays in the nursing clinical ladder program called PRIDE, which stands for “Professional Recognition in Developing Evidence.” Working with the professional development council, she surveyed nurses to identify barriers to professional growth, and then restructured the PRIDE program to address these issues. Under her leadership, the program saw an increase of more than 200% in the number of nurses achieving advanced levels, and the number who attained national certification increased by more than 20%.

Turnure said her goal is to see 100% of the nursing staff at Inspira achieve their national certification. The number of nurses holding a BSN or higher has increased dramatically in the past four years, and Turnure is committed to continuing that trend.

“I am also looking for more ways to help more of our staff complete their BSN degree by 2020,” she said.

Turnure reminds others that it is about the journey and not the destination. She recommends nurses establish both short-term and long-term goals since they can provide a way to measure success. “If you can only take one class at a time in the beginning, start with one class,” she said.

Turnure also recommends finding a mentor, “someone who you admire and is in a career path that you find intriguing. Ask that person if they will mentor you along the way. Give back to others when you accomplish a goal.”

Home, Community and Ambulatory Care

Barbara McCormick, MSN, RN, Specialty care transport nurse, STAT Medical Transport, Kennedy Health System, Voorhees, N.J.


Barbara McCormick, RN

McCormick said she feels “overwhelming emotion and gratitude” for the colleagues who wrote and submitted her nomination for the GEM Award in the category of Home, Community and Ambulatory Care. She views all the congratulatory emails and words of praise she’s received after winning her award as validation of the work that nurses do every day.

“This award speaks volumes to the community we serve and to the nurses we honor who provide care on a daily basis to those in need,” she said. “The healthcare experience is not a one person job, and this award belongs to all my co-workers who have helped care for the patients we serve.

McCormick has worked for Kennedy Health for more than 20 years. She is responsible for the general operation of a service that provides patient transportation in specialty care transport units for those requiring medical monitoring or interventions that go beyond the capabilities of regular ambulances and crewmembers. McCormick’s gained her transport experience in the U.S. Air Force where she was deployed as a critical care air transport team nurse out of Afghanistan.

McCormick manages the teams of critical care RNs and emergency medical technicians who staff the SCTUs, and one of her key goals is to encourage lifelong learning. She said her advice to her colleagues is, “Never stop learning. Education is something that cannot be taken away or lost. Formal education, certification and other continuing education opportunities are the keys to individual and organizational growth.”

McCormick is an instructor for Kennedy Health’s life support program, teaching life support to her staff and other healthcare professionals. She also is an adjunct faculty member for the accelerated BSN program at Rutgers University, Camden, N.J., and precepts senior students in medical/surgical and critical care units at various area hospitals. In addition, McCormick is continuing her education as a student in the DNP program at Drexel University in Philadelphia.

McCormick recently was promoted to lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Air Force Reserve, based on her ability, performance and potential. Last year, she was chosen by U.S. Air Force leadership to present on the requirements and responsibilities of being a reservist. Her commanding officer praised her as “the best officer I have worked with in my 24 years of service. She is an exemplary leader, clinician, mentor and educator with boundless abilities. I can count on her for anything.”

Patient and Staff Management

Mary deSimone, BSN, MHA, RN, CEN, NE-BC, Nurse manager, emergency department, Bryn Mawr (Pa.) Hospital—Main Line Health


Mary deSimone, RN

When deSimone heard excerpts of the finalist nominations read aloud at the regional GEM Award dinner, she said she was humbled by the extent to which nurses effect positive change — both in their institutions and to the nursing profession. “I also am very aware this honor is reflective of an entire team of individuals whose contributions are invaluable to any individual’s success,” she said.

The GEM winner for Patient and Staff Management is stimulated by the pace and the challenges faced by ED nurses. “There is nothing static about the work we do nor the new knowledge and opportunities afforded to us,” she said.

As nurse manager for Bryn Mawr Hospital’s ED, deSimone has made a positive impact on patient care outcomes, through the patient-centered culture she maintains for her staff. She said a healthy workplace embodies teamwork and mutual respect, and believes “it is the only way to create an environment where challenges are met with skill, and new ideas are met with enthusiasm.”

She credits the nurse managers and directors she has worked with for nurturing and challenging her to step out of her comfort zone to impact change. She was instrumental in creating a rapid evaluation unit that significantly lowered the time for patients to be seen by an ED provider to an average of 16 minutes. She and her staff collaborated with the cardiac catheterization lab to ensure the door-to-balloon time for patients with heart attacks is lower than the 90-minute requirement 100% of the time, with an average of 63 minutes. A leader in Ebola preparedness, deSimone has ensured that all ED staff nurses are trained in the use of personal protective equipment, and regularly perform functional drills. She takes special pride in her role as mentor.

“My greatest satisfaction as a manager is in the development of others,” deSimone said. “It is a special joy to see staff [members] realize their full potential. When staff feels supported and when they have a voice in a change they are very willing to try new ideas.”

As chairwoman of the nursing quality council and nursing peer review, deSimone has mentored staff nurses from every unit who are members of these committees. She and other council members initiated a hospitalwide program that has improved patient call light response time. The program, called “No Pass Zone,” mandates that staff in all disciplines never pass a room with a call light on without stopping to answer it.

Her future aspirations include being part of a formalized mentorship program, and addressing the “great need to prepare the next generation of nursing leaders.”

Volunteerism and Service

Kathleen Ashton, PhD, RN, ACNS-BC, Professor, Thomas Jefferson University, Jefferson School of Nursing, Philadelphia


Kathleen Ashton, RN

Ashton’s ambition to become a nurse started when she was a child. She loved reading biographies, and her interest in learning more about people and the lives they lived prompted her desire to become a nurse.

As a nurse, Ashton was especially drawn to serve people who experience significant barriers to healthcare access in the U.S. and abroad. When asked what winning the GEM award for Volunteerism and Service meant to her, Ashton said, “I am humbled because I was chosen based on my work with those who have so little and who are in such need. I am truly blessed to be a nurse.”

Her dedication to improving health outcomes for diverse and underserved populations is impressive. For the past 15 years, Ashton has participated in annual medical missions to Lima, Peru, caring for more than 2,000 patients on each eight-day trip.

In 2004, Ashton developed and implemented the Teen Esteem Program at Trenton (N.J.) Central High School, aimed at improving nutrition and lowering cardiovascular risk factors in sophomore girls. She has presented the outcomes of this program both nationally and internationally, and her model is being used in programs to prevent obesity and promote fitness in elementary and middle schools.

Ashton volunteers at her hometown Good Samaritan Center in Hammonton, N.J., serving hot meals to the needy and elderly. In addition, she volunteers as president of the board of trustees of Atlantic Prevention Resources, a New Jersey-based nonprofit organization focused on preventing drug and alcohol abuse. Ashton is a member of the Red Cross Disaster Health Service Volunteers, and is trained to set up and coordinate shelter operations. In 2005, she provided humanitarian aid to the victims of Hurricane Katrina.

Ashton works as a professor at Thomas Jefferson University’s Jefferson School of Nursing. As a faculty adviser for the Global Nursing Club, she has inspired many students to become involved in international nursing. Several of her students participated in a course she developed on healthcare in China, which included a 10-day visit to that country.

Ashton said she is most proud of her students, “who always give me fresh ideas, keep me on my toes, and who go on to accomplish amazing things in their own careers.”

Rising Star Award Winner

Angela Nguyen, BSN, RN, 
Clinical nurse III, Penn Presbyterian Medical Center, Philadelphia


Angela Nguyen, RN

A nurse who began practice just three years ago, Nguyen is respected throughout the medical center. Upon receiving the Rising Star award, she said, “To be recognized for something that I love to do is astounding to me. There is nothing more rewarding than taking care of the sick and impacting people’s lives every day.”

Identified immediately as someone who is a leader and who readily takes on responsibilities, she was asked to participate in the interprofessional clinical leadership team, and after attending two leadership development programs was appointed co-chairwoman.

One of her early committee projects was to improve communication during rounds by using a script and ensuring participation by all disciplines. The work resulted in better care plans, and Nguyen presented the project at a national nursing conference.

When facility National Database of Nursing Quality Indicators results revealed relations between RNs and CNAs could be improved, Nguyen was selected as one of the RNs who would participate in a new RN/CNA committee and look at standardizing the CNA role. The committee worked on decreasing cost and waste of supplies using LEAN processes and received a best quality project award.

Understanding the important role nurses play in healthcare, Nguyen continually works to improve care at the bedside, and strives to make a difference in her clinical practice by stepping up to take on the care of the most challenging patients. She is planning to become an acute care nurse practitioner, has pursued professional certification, and is enrolled in a graduate program. As a lifelong learner, she takes classes and attends conferences in and out of the medical center, and serves on the community service and gift of life committees.

The recipient of various awards for quality and excellence, Nguyen has been recognized for her work as a registered nurse at Penn Presbyterian and alumna of the University of Pennsylvania. One of her nominators said she is a role model for other nurses, and is enthusiastic and passionate about improving patient care.

Donna Novak, DNP, RN, is a freelance writer.


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By | 2021-05-28T09:11:19-04:00 June 8th, 2015|Categories: Nursing Awards|0 Comments

About the Author:

John Roszkowski is a freelance writer.

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