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Meet our 2015 California GEM Award winners

By Janice Petrella Lynch, MSN, RN

Nurse.com prides itself on recognizing the accomplishments of nurses of excellence at the GEM (Giving Excellence Meaning) Awards events.

This year’s California GEM Awards dinner took place June 5 at the Hilton Los Angeles/Universal City in Universal City, Calif. Regional 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 and Patient and Staff Management.

The Nurse.com Lifetime Achievement Award also was presented to Heidi Crooks, MA, RN, CNO and senior associate director of operations and patient care services at UCLA Health System. The Lifetime Achievement Award is presented to a nurse to honor his or her lifetime of achievement in a career of the most distinguished and meaningful kind within the field of nursing.

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. This year’s California Rising Star Award winner is Stesha Selsky, BSN, RN, PCCN, clinical nurse and interim nurse informaticist, UCLA Health System.

Here are 2015 regional winners:

Advancing and Leading the Profession

Kathleen Ruccione, PhD, MPH, RN, CPON, FAAN, Professor of clinical pediatrics Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles/University of
Southern California
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Kathleen Ruccione, RN

“I am over the moon about this award, and particularly grateful to receive it because my nomination came from my peers the folks who truly get it,” said Ruccione, who has provided leadership for thousands of nurses involved in the care of children participating in clinical trials.

Her colleagues admire her stellar ability to teach, mentor, role model and attract outstanding people to nursing.

Ruccione is humble about her accomplishments. She credits a family member, who early on impressed her with her stories, enthusiasm and sense of humor, and a physician colleague, who had confidence in Ruccione and opened many doors for her over the past 40 years, as significant influences on her career choice and development.

“Of course the young people and their families who confront cancer or its after-effects every day have been a powerful source of inspiration,” Ruccione said. “Because of them, I continue to try to improve what we can do to help them survive and even thrive after a cancer experience.”

Ruccione is recognized for having exceptional vision in fostering nursing research in the Children’s Oncology Group, through groundbreaking State of the Science Summits. Throughout her tenure, Ruccione ensured nursing was represented at all levels in the cooperative group, ranging from serving on protocol committees to representation on the executive committee. She often has been the sole nurse at the table in pediatric oncology interdisciplinary research activities and strategic planning.

She is most proud of building services for patient and family education and support at CHLA, including the HOPE Resource Center, which supports families as they come through their cancer experience, as well as the LIFE Survivorship & Transition program.

Ruccione advises fellow nurses to be lifelong learners, nimble and kind, adding, “Change in practice is inevitable so we can never stand still and assume we have everything mastered. Unexpected opportunities may appear and we need to be ready to embrace them at any stage of our lives. And it’s true that people won’t remember what you say or do, but they will remember how you made them feel.”

Clinical Nursing, Inpatient

April Liwag, MSN, RN, CMSRN, PHN, Clinical nurse IV, St. Joseph Hospital, Orange, Calif.
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April Liwag, RN

Liwag was taken by complete surprise when her name was announced as one of the Nurse.com regional winners at the GEM awards dinner.

Her accomplishments and achievements speak for themselves and demonstrate she is a nurse of excellence.

Liwag received her Green Belt in Toyota Lean Methodology and has served as project leader on multiple rapid improvement teams. She led the clinical nurse IIIs on the unit in designing and sustaining the perfect patient room, following through with discharge medication efforts and improving the HCAHPS scores on questions pertaining to communication about medications and the quiet healing environment. Because Liwag has excellent writing and speaking skills, her participation is requested on multiple committees, task forces, brainstorming sessions and projects.

Liwag believes that due to the many changes in healthcare today bedside nurses need to become less task-oriented, more involved with overall patient care and address the diverse needs of every patient. Her advice to other nurses: “Besides formal education, learning is achieved through experiences with patients and collaboration with colleagues.” She lives by these words of wisdom she offers to others.

Prior to implementation of the electronic medical record, Liwag also served on a team for care plan design and continues to work on a health system team to improve the process. Additionally, she is the lead nurse for a unit evidence-based project. As chairwoman of the diabetes workgroup, she researched the clinical question regarding high-dose insulin administration and the use of two syringes to deliver the insulin. Her results led to a prestigious 2014 Excellence in Safety Award for St. Joseph Hospital.

Liwag serves as a superuser in electronic documentation, assists in teaching classes, and as an expert in computer documentation on the unit, internally publishing helpful tips and methods for the various functions of electronic documentation.

She credits her mother for being a role model and inspiring her to become a nurse, and recognizes the “boundless support” of her husband as well as the ongoing mentorship and encouragement from her unit manager, who she said continues to be a significant influence on her career.

Liwag hopes to always serve, inspire and mentor her colleagues the way others have done for her.

Education and Mentorship

Nancy Kimura, BSN, RN, PHN, Credentialed school nurse, Kings County Office of Education, Hanford, Calif.
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Nancy Kimura,RN

Upon receiving the regional award, Kimura said she was shocked and speechless, and then was quick to thank her colleagues for their dedication and support and recognize the work of school nurses everywhere.

“Through our work, we are helping to shape the minds of our future,” she said.

Serving the moderate-to-severely disabled student population, ages 3 to 22, Kimura witnesses firsthand the challenges students and parents face every day, physically, mentally, psychologically and emotionally.

When asked what she is most proud of, she said, “We provide the best nursing care possible during the time the students are in school so they can achieve their highest learning potential. For some, that might be a smile/laugh, a spoken word, walking independently, or singing ‘The Star Spangled Banner’ at their junior high school graduation in front of hundreds of people. It’s these moments that [make me] most proud.”

Along with the multiple responsibilities that come with the school nurse role, Kimura provides staff inservice and training on health-related topics and student/parent health education on sex education, hygiene, nutrition and dental care. Dedicated to her staff, she is the supervising nurse for RNs and LVNs who work as specialized healthcare nurses, ensuring that training is complete. She developed a manual for the role and trains new nurses at her school site.

Because of the high teen pregnancy rate in her region, Kimura collected and compiled data on the rates, reviewed the findings with the assistant superintendent and presented the data to the county board of education. As a result of her hard work, a comprehensive sexual health program for special ed students was adopted.

She credits her parents, especially her father, for teaching her the value of hard work and challenging herself to do more. “After battling cancer for five years, he passed away when I was taking nursing courses,” she said. “I know he would be proud of my accomplishments.”

Kimura wants to continue to work in school nursing, which gives her “much joy and happiness,” and hopes to continue to make a difference in students’ and parents’ lives. Her colleagues said she already makes a difference every day.

Home, Community and Ambulatory Care

James  Trimmer, BA, RN, BA, RN, CCRN II, OCHCA Correctional Health Services, Santa Ana, Calif.
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James Trimmer, RN

“Winning this award gives me a feeling I can’t explain in words. If only my heart could speak for me,” said Trimmer after winning the Nurse.com regional award in the category of Home, Community and Ambulatory Care. He recognized the parents of the mentally ill population he serves, because “they are the ones who deserve recognition and often act as nurses to their children.”

As a passionate advocate for people with mental illness, Trimmer believes in educating patients, discussing with them the value of understanding their disease and taking small steps to help improve their lives. He is involved in getting patients in the crisis stabilization unit to participate in group discussions that focus on social skills and life skills.

Trimmer educates police officers and non-medical jail staff about the signs, symptoms and precautions they should know when dealing with diseases that commonly occur in the correctional setting. Because of Trimmer’s presentations to them about relevant topics such as suicide prevention and rhabdomyolysis, there has been a decrease in hospitalizations and suicide deaths.

He feels honored to be entrusted with the care of the mentally ill and underserved, and continues to look for ways to make a difference in the lives of his patients.

“I want to develop a uniform system for communication and documentation with family members who have mentally ill loved ones in the jail,” Trimmer said. “I also want to establish a program which will facilitate the delivery of National Alliance on Mental Illness, known as NAMI, services to patients inside the Orange County jail.”

On multiple occasions he has served as a preceptor to RN students and new nursing staff, and this year, he served as preceptor for five students while planning and coordinating mass vaccination clinics offering flu vaccines in inmates’ housing areas. As a result of his efforts, approximately 3,700 patients were vaccinated for the flu. In addition, he planned, coordinated and assisted in the World AIDS Day testing in the jail which resulted in 1,254 inmates screened in five facilities.

He offers words of wisdom to those who have joined the nursing profession. “Stay grounded and focused on the patient,” Trimmer said.

Patient and Staff Management

Glenn Pascual,  MSN, DHSC, MBA, RN, OCN, Director of operations/service, department administrator, Kaiser Permanente, Woodland Hills, Calif.
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Glenn Pascual, RN

“This Nurse.com GEM award signifies to me that my work is not done, and it inspires me to reach new heights in service and quality,” Pascual said after receiving the Nurse.com award in the category of Patient and Staff Management.

He demonstrates by his actions that he continually strives for and is dedicated to excellence in patient care.

Pascual developed a critical-challenge initiative called Standardizing Service Behaviors, a yearlong program that defined the quality of care staff provides and ensured safe and reliable care through improved communication. These standardized service behaviors were incorporated in all day-to-day encounters, which helped improve patient satisfaction scores.

He started the Patient and Family Focused Care Program, a six-step, evidence-based program that evaluates, transforms and co-designs care in partnership with patients and families. His Radiology Clinical Pathways to Service program committed radiology managers and technicians to check patients in the hallways every 15 minutes to ascertain patient safety. He has incorporated patients in his service meetings and working groups to promote partnership and collaboration.

Pascual speaks from experience when he offers advice to fellow nurses. “Success springs not from thought but from readiness for responsibility and accountability,” he said. “You can only live once. Find value from within in replacing the best with something better.”

Tireless in his efforts, Pascual also initiated a staff development program focusing on fundamental approaches of business ethics and business law that improved ethical discipline in clinical practice. He serves as a member of the national readmission committee to reduce hospital readmission rates, and developed a tool to best manage patients’ smooth transition to home. He outlined specific interventions based on best practices that would move hospital reduction programs toward the intended outcome measures.

The most significant influence on Pascual’s professional development is his grandmother, who raised him. He said he tries every day to live by the words she said to him before she died: “See my face in the face of your patients and you will find your success.”

By | 2020-04-15T16:07:08-04:00 July 13th, 2015|Categories: GEM Awards, Regional, West|0 Comments

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Special Topics Editor Deborah Filipek develops and edits content for OnCourse Learning’s Nurse.com 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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