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Meet the 2015 New England GEM Awards winners

By Tracey Boyd prides itself on recognizing the accomplishments of nurses of excellence through the GEM Awards program.

This year’s New England GEM (Giving Excellence Meaning) Awards 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; Patient and Staff Management; and Volunteerism and Service.

Here are 2015 regional winners:


Maria Winne, MSN, RN, NE-BC
Nurse director
Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston

Upon winning the award, Winne recognized Pat Brown, her first nurse manager, whom she said was the first to recognize her potential to be a nursing leader.

“I will always remember the day when Pat told me that I had innate leadership qualities, and that I would go far in my career,” she said. “She guided me to think about what I was passionate about and to work toward that goal.”

Many years later, Winne has proven Brown right many times over.

Winne has guided several staff members in their quest to receive recognition as advanced clinicians and has supported staff to receive med/surg certification through ANCC. She also played a pivotal role in the development of the Respiratory Acute Care Unit Family Guidebook that is given to each patient’s family to provide education, information and an understanding of their experience on the unit. Her nominators said she is a change agent who advances the profession through her compassion, hard work and dedication to implementing innovative ideas, such as a credo that outlines the unit’s goals and expectations. This includes fostering a welcoming environment, being mindful of others, delegating tasks with respect and courtesy and engaging in curiosity and learning.

Winne also is responsible for securing a device that allows patients to contact their care providers when they are unable to use the standard call light system because of medical conditions such as ALS. The device is used by many of the unit’s patients, affording a level of security for patients and their families that they otherwise would not have.

Winne said she looks forward to continuing her work in advancing the nursing profession.

“As staff nurses mature and move on in their career, the cycle begins anew with new graduates and people with less experience in the profession,” she said. “As such, my role remains new and exciting and provides ample opportunities for me to make a difference and feel rewarded as I watch the cycle unfold.”



Renee Walsh, RN, VA-BC
Vascular access team nurse
Exeter (N.H.) Hospital

Walsh is a clinically adept nurse who is routinely sought out by medical and nursing staff throughout the hospital for her expertise, according to her nominator. The recipient of the regional GEM Award in Clinical Nursing, Inpatient, Walsh is a leader in using ultrasound-guided technology and is founding co-chairwoman of the hospital’s IV best practices committee.

Passionate about educating Exeter’s nurses, Walsh uses formalized classes and authors a “PICC Tip of the Month” that focuses on best practices for the bedside staff. She also was part of a team that developed a nationally recognized program in orthopedics for new graduate nurse education. The program provided a structured orthopedic curriculum and orientation resource guide for both orientees and preceptors.

“I thoroughly enjoy teaching,” Walsh said. “I have had the pleasure of educating our new nurse graduates, as well as new nurse hires, on IV therapy care and maintenance in collaboration with the professional development department. This is an area that nurses are unfamiliar with, and to be able to help them grow and develop their IV knowledge and critical-thinking skills is very rewarding.”

Walsh is a leader in the hospital’s Professional Recognition Investment for Developmental Excellence Program, known as PRIDE. It recognizes nurses who excel in their careers by advancing their education, achieving and maintaining certification and participating in process-improvement plans or research, or who perform community service.

The program serves as a boost to nurses because it promotes professional growth and development. Helping nurse colleagues to advance is a passion because Walsh knows firsthand that it’s not always easy to carve out the time to pursue higher education.

“When my kids were little, I remember thinking I was too busy to go back to school and that I will do it when they are older,” she said. “My twin girls are 12 now and things are just as busy now as they were when they were 2, if not busier.”

Walsh will be graduating with a BSN in May 2016.

“My advice is that if you have a desire or goal to advance your degree, you need to make the decision and just do it,” she said. “The fact of the matter is life is crazy, and there is never really a good time.”



Heidi Doucette, MS, ACCNS-BC, RN, CNRN
Clinical nurse educator, neuroscience intermediate care unit
Brigham & Women’s Hospital, Boston

As a testament to Doucette’s commitment to education and mentoring, she received six separate nominations from colleagues.
“When I found out that my mentors, those that I admire and respect so deeply, nominated me for this award, it truly took my breath away,” Doucette said. “It is an indescribable and immense honor to be selected as the regional winner.”

Doucette has been instrumental in a number of educational endeavors at Brigham and Women’s. She developed a comprehensive orientation program that paired more than 20 new nurses with compatible preceptors. To ensure the program’s success, she first met with each nurse to get to know them and identify their learning needs and styles to provide the nurses with the best mentors for them.

She also worked with preceptors to ensure they were supported. Doucette is a founding member of the Nurses Improving Care for Healthsystem Elders program on her unit, resulting in it and the hospital receiving recogntion as a NICHE facility. Four years later, she continues to ensure the NICHE mission to achieve patient-centered care for older adults is ongoing.

“I would like to help spread the NICHE knowledge throughout the hospital,” she said. “We are working to strengthen the interdisciplinary team of physicians, nurses and ancillary staff throughout the hospital around the care of our elder patients.”

Doucette has partnered with a neuro-endocrine surgeon and nurse practitioner to develop a clear care pathway for patients who are undergoing pituitary lesion resection via trans-sphenoidal surgery.

As part of this partnership, Doucette helped develop an order set that is currently in use, as well as a timeline of events in the pre- and post-operative phases, including when and when not to administer steroids and what time to draw blood. She worked closely with the phlebotomy department to ensure blood tests were performed exactly when they should have been and taught them when to advance activity and diet, how to manage pain and how to recognize and manage complications.

“As an educator, you should do what is best for your staff and patients, and I believe that Heidi genuinely works to achieve this goal every day,” one nominator said.



Marcy Bergeron, MS, ANP, RN
Director of nursing and clinical operations for primary care
Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston

Bergeron was one of four nurses who participated in the creation of the hospital’s primary care nurse leadership council. The group effectively gave primary care nursing a voice in an institution that comprises nearly two dozen traditional practices and several specialty practices with more than 1.5 million outpatient visits a year.

Until recently, these primary care practices principally were led by medical and business/administrative personnel with little nursing input.

There was no previous universally defined nurse manager/director role across those practices. The council represented one of the first formal and far-reaching efforts to organize and give voice to primary care nursing within the organization.

Bergeron, the regional award winner in Home, Community and Ambulatory Care, said she strongly believes primary care was the catalyst for major change at MGH.

The council’s work to bring primary care nursing to the forefront resulted in the establishment of the director of nursing and clinical operations for primary care role and the creation of a leadership triad with the existing medical and business/administrative leadership positions.

Bergeron’s exceptional leadership did not go unnoticed, according to her nominator, and she was named the first nurse to hold the newly created position.

As co-chairwoman of the council, Bergeron worked with committee members to develop standards for safety reporting, scope of responsibility, standard orders protocols and shared best practices. She also established a medical assistant academy, designing the curriculum and recruiting each member of the council to take on a teaching role.

The group redefined and expanded the medical assistant role, providing more specialized training and raising the bar on the knowledge base. Bergeron is sure to blaze other trails for primary care nursing.

“I am pursuing my doctorate of nursing practice to bolster my knowledge, skills and expertise as I continue to advocate for a high-quality, empowered nursing workforce at the highest levels of my organization,” she said. “It is my hope that this award, and the platform that potentially is associated with it, will afford me the opportunity to highlight the importance of the nursing role.”

Bergeron offered advice to those who are joining the profession.

“First and foremost, have as the foundation of all career growth and advancement pursuits a steadfast commitment to compassionate, evidence-based patient care,” she said.



Maria Smyth, BSN, RNC-OB
Nurse manager
Mount Auburn Hospital, Cambridge, Mass.

As nurse manager of The Bain Birthing Center at Mount Auburn, Smyth manages almost 200 RNs, PCAs, scrub techs and unit coordinators on the labor and delivery, post-partum and nursery units. Under her leadership, the center has experienced tremendous growth, handling close to 2,800 deliveries in 2014.

At a time when local hospitals were vying for qualified staff, Smyth successfully added not only nursing, but also physician and midwifery staff. She is co-director and developer of the center’s team-based OB Simulation Training Program, an initiative for which she is extremely proud.

“This is both an interprofessional and interdisciplinary model in which all OB staff are required to participate,” she said. It includes interactive team training with emergency simulation drills that help to improve efficiency, patient safety and outcomes, she said.

“This program has been very successful and we have identified and implemented many system and process improvements,” said Smyth, the regional GEM Award winner for the Patient and Staff Management category.

She also implemented a team concept in the departments. Each member of the team has a voice in the care of the patient. Team meetings are held at least twice a day, with the understanding that any member of the team — regardless of title — can call for a meeting to discuss concerns with plan of care, a fetal tracing or questions regarding the management plan. All members’ concerns are treated with respect and addressed. This ensures that all members of the unit have a voice, she said.

Smyth’s nominator describes as her as “the hardest-working leader we have had in a long time,” and a person who “continually strives to make our unit run smoothly and as a highly efficient team.”

Dedicated to the center’s continued success, Smyth often is working long after other department managers have gone for the day.

“The Bain Birthing Center at Mount Auburn Hospital has great staff, and to lead these nurses in caring for mothers, babies and the family unit is such a privilege,” she said.



Suzanne Hally, RN
Staff nurse
Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston

Hally’s caring spirit was recognized by a neonatologist, who recommended she become involved in the Tikur Anbessa NICU Project. The initiative is dedicated to improving the quality of medical care for newborn infants and their families in Ethiopia through training and research specifically designed to address the needs and resource constraints of the country.

Hally travels to Ethiopia on her own time, working with the nurses and medical staff. Between trips, she is heavily involved in planning and collecting donated equipment and consumables, which she delivers to the nursing staff at the project hospitals.

As part of the Ethiopian Maternal-Infant Quality Improvement Project, Hally uses her more than 20 years of experience to orient new volunteers in preparation for upcoming trips. Recognizing her passion for this project, one of her nominators asked her to be director of nursing education for a new nongovernmental organization he formed. She will supervise the development and implementation of a comprehensive neonatal nursing curriculum to be coordinated through the Addis Ababa University School of Nursing and linked to Ethiopia’s Federal Ministry of Health.

Her notable works earned Hally the regional GEM Award in the Volunteerism and Service category.

“I want to continue my work in Ethiopia teaching and empowering nurses in the field of neonatology,” Hally said. “I’m also currently working on my BSN-to-MSN in public health. I want to push the boundaries of my own practice, to continue to grow and learn, sharing that knowledge with nursing colleagues around the globe.”

Hally said important goals of the project are ongoing education and building strength and independence for Ethiopia’s nurses and physicians to improve the care of mothers and infants.

“One of my favorite moments occurred on the last day of my most recent trip,” she said. “One of the nurses said, ‘I feel like we are real nurses in a real NICU now.’ This was such a humbling moment for me.”

Each year, approximately 120,000 Ethiopian babies die during their first four weeks of life because of prematurity, perinatal asphyxia, sepsis, tetanus, diarrhea or congenital anomalies. Hally’s passion for helping to reduce that number is inspiring, according to colleagues.

He nominator shared a story of how on one trip, Hally gave carved ebony figures of a hand holding a mother and infant to each NICU nurse involved in the Ethiopia project.

“[Hally] said that as NICU nurses, we hold the lives of mothers and their infants in our hands every day,” her nomintor said. “She felt it important we have this … as a reminder that we’re all part of a worldwide family of NICU nurses.”

Tracey Boyd is a staff writer.

By | 2015-08-04T15:52:48-04:00 August 4th, 2015|Categories: Nursing Awards|0 Comments

About the Author:

Barry Bottino
Barry Bottino is a freelance writer and editor who has more than 25 years of experience at various newspapers and magazines.

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