Since the early days of our company’s founding, Nurse.com has believed in publicly recognizing and celebrating nursing excellence and has made doing so part of our company mission. Now, after nearly three decades, the GEM Awards program is the largest and most prestigious of its kind in the nation. The program underscores our belief that excellence exists in all areas of nursing, and we consider it a privilege to give meaning to excellence by publicly acknowledging nurses every chance we get. Here, we proudly introduce our 2016 regional finalists, selected by our RN judges from the many nominations we received this year.
Excellence in Clinical Nursing
Kaitlyn Gregory, DNP, RN
Clinical Nurse Specialist, ICU
Fox Chase Cancer Center, Philadelphia
Gregory provides advanced nursing care to complex, critically ill oncologic patients in an eight-bed med/surg ICU at a specialty Magnet hospital. This enthusiastic nurse led a delirium prevention group that established an assessment tool for identifying patients at risk for delirium as well as algorithms and strategies to prevent delirium in the ICU setting. Based on its successful implementation in the ICU, this initiative is being rolled out to all med/surg units in the facility.
Gregory also has been a central figure in other initiatives, including the incentive spirometry project, which focused on aspiration prevention, and the nurse resident evidence-based practice projects, in which she mentored graduate nurses. She implemented the use of an emergency central line cart in the ICU and audited this process as a means of enhancing patient care safety in emergency situations. Gregory also served as a language of caring champion, promoting service excellence skill development with her colleagues, role modeling customer service skills and identifying ways to improve the patient experience.
She led a team of staff nurses in the ICU to work on an application for the Beacon Award, and she is recruiting participants for the center’s clinical nurse scholars program. Gregory is a dedicated nurse who has sustained an exemplary level of academic and professional achievement while balancing full-time work responsibilities with her enrollment in the DNP program at Temple University.
Her nominator wrote that Gregory’s “poise, and ability to passionately articulate her professional pursuits and inspire others, has made a significant impact in patient care at our institution.”
Jessy Jacobs, CMSRN, PICC
Penn Medicine, Chester County Hospital, West Chester, Pa.
Jacobs uses her vast experience in long-term care as a clinical nurse on a 20-bed med/surg and oncology unit. Known as the “Mother Teresa” of her unit for her gentle manner and quiet strength, Jacobs has attained chemotherapy competency and is called upon often to deliver these highly complex treatment regimens. Even when she is not the assigned nurse for chemotherapy, she always is available as a resource for chemotherapy and oncology education.
A key figure on the PICC/IV team that embarked on a quality improvement project to enhance IV insertion techniques through the use of ultrasound guidance, Jacobs has embraced ultrasound-guided technology to provide optimal care to patients with peripheral IV access. She has become proficient in ultrasound-guided peripheral IV insertion and has provided education to all units regarding the importance of flushing central lines as a way of preventing thrombotic occlusions and central line infections.
As a member of the hospital’s wound prevalence and incidence taskforce, Jacobs evaluates the care and documentation by physicians and nurses, and she has been an integral part in maintaining the organization’s low incidence rate of pressure ulcers as evidenced by NDNQI data and the attainment of Veterans Health Administration’s APEX Award for Pressure Ulcer Prevention.
She is dedicated to her co-workers and patients and exhibits true kindness. When she learned of a fire at the home of a young cancer patient with a poor prognosis, Jacobs came in on her day off to give clothes and supplies to the patient and her family.
Lauren Micale, BSN, RN, CPHON
Clinical Nurse Level IV
Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children, Wilmington, Del.
An expert pediatric hematology/oncology/blood and bone marrow transplant nurse on a 24-bed inpatient unit, Micale serves as a resource to all members of the interdisciplinary care team and often is recognized for her clinical judgment in caring for the most acutely ill patents, making patient assignments, and evaluating patients. She also takes on the responsibility of teaching and mentoring others by serving as a preceptor for nursing students and new employees, lecturing in certification review courses and core curriculum classes in pediatric oncology/BBMT, and providing staff inservices.
Her nominator calls Micale “one of the most caring and passionate patient and family advocates I’ve had the pleasure to work with in over 30 years.” As a bilingual nurse, Micale is especially driven in her advocacy efforts for Spanish-speaking patients and families. For team members who cannot speak Spanish, she is a proponent of the use of interpreters and electronic translation devices.
As the leader of a unit-based central line-associated bloodstream infection prevention taskforce, Micale and her team employed creative measures to build awareness and create attention to preventing CLABSIs. Since the taskforce began in November 2015, unit CLABSI rates have fallen from 3.3 to 1.2 per 1,000 catheter days.
In an effort to improve nursing documentation, Micale was a leader of a team within the Practice Council that completely redesigned the nursing care planning documentation section of the electronic medical record. In all, 58 nursing documents were converted into a new format including patient outcomes linked to evidence-based nursing interventions.
Dawn Morris, BSN, RN-BC, PCCN
Paoli (Pa.) Hospital/Main Line Health
This dedicated staff nurse on a 14-bed PCU is a natural peer and patient advocate, her nominator said, who added that she is the go-to person on the unit for orienting new staff and puts in countless hours as the staff scheduler.
She promotes a high level of care in the nursing profession both as a mentor and as an advocate for patients and families. Morris is not afraid to question orders or a plan of care when things don’t seem right, and because of this, she has been a frequent nominee for the health system’s Great Catch Award.
Morris is pain certified and a member of the ICU/PCU education team who relays information after each meeting to all staff. She has been active in educating staff regarding pain measures and will provide one-on-one inservicing as needed, including coming in on her days off. This nurse serves as a dedicated role model, having attained her BSN while working full time as the mother of five children.
Morris’ poster presentation on device-related pressure ulcers was recently accepted at the National Teaching Institute and Critical Care Exposition, and she and her colleagues in the PCU will be recognized as a 2015 Silver Beacon Award winner.
Her nominator wrote that Morris “is one of the best examples I’ve met and worked with that represents our nursing profession. I’ve been a nurse for almost 30 years, and she has impressed me the most.” Her nominator added: “She sets the bar high in our unit, and the unit benefits as a whole from this.”
Lauren Orfe, BSN, RN
Registered Nurse, Neonatal, ICU
The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia
Orfe is a forward-thinking, passionate patient advocate who works in a 98-bed Level IV NICU. An excellent clinician, she continually has shown an ability to care for all NICU patients, from stable chronic neonates to critically ill infants. Orfe is an extracorporeal membrane oxygenation nurse, a member of the special delivery unit and an educator.
She strives to ensure the safety of the unit’s high-risk patients in her role as patient liaison, so it was no surprise she took the lead on the unit’s efforts to reduce harm from peripheral intravenous lines. The result of this work has been a dramatic reduction of peripheral infiltrates with harm. In the past fiscal year, the unit’s infiltrates with injury were reduced almost in half from the previous year. Furthermore, Orfe worked tirelessly to prevent the spike during the holidays through the use of screen savers and an educational PowerPoint display. The result was only one incidence in December, January and February.
Orfe goes above and beyond to make sure her patient and family needs are met. Because her clinical actions gain families’ trust, Orfe is able to develop therapeutic relationships with them. She always tries to make a family’s learning experience as positive and pleasant as possible to enhance their ability to learn and empower them to care for their infant.
In addition to her clinical responsibilities, Orfe serves as a preceptor for newly hired nurses. She is approachable, and her calm demeanor promotes a positive learning experience for new nurses.
Ave Preston, MSN, RN, CWOCN, ACNS-BC
Ostomy and Wound Clinical Nurse Specialist
Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia
Preston, who has been at the 700-plus-bed facility for 31 years, successfully oversees the hospital’s skin care evidence-based practice champion group, where she has engaged clinical nurses as champions on every unit. Her calm and poised demeanor has allowed her to effectively mentor these nurses to succeed beyond expectations, her nominator said. She involves them in EBP projects and unit-based education and has developed a group of nurses eager to learn and develop and improve their skin and wound care knowledge and skills.
In February 2015, the unit-acquired pressure ulcer rate was 2.9 ulcers per 100 patients. Preston and the skin care champions devised action plans to reduce this rate, and because of her clear vision and strong leadership, by June 2015 the rate hit a low of 1.6 and ended at 2.03 in November. This overall decline has resulted in the hospital’s continued path to clinical excellence, with 15 of 22 of the facility’s inpatient units outperforming the mean benchmark for Magnet-designated facilities nationally.
Furthermore, Preston noticed a significant gap in the continuum of care among patients who were discharged with ostomies, and she successfully advocated for the creation of an outpatient ostomy clinic at the facility, which provides comprehensive, holistic care to this group of patients.
Preston frequently engages in consultation regionally on ostomy and wound care, and she recently assumed the role of skin care safety adviser to Thomas Jefferson University Hospital as part of the Hospital Association of Pennsylvania’s Hospital Engagement Network.
Excellence in Community Care
Susan Cooke, MSN, RN, NEA-BC
Elder Care Coordinator
Kennedy Health, Turnersville, N.J.
Cooke combined her leadership qualities and passion for elder care to improve the quality of a care delivery system for a vulnerable population. She was hired in 2014 as the first elder care coordinator for a multicampus university health system to help the organization reduce gaps in care as elderly patients transition across healthcare settings. Her nominator wrote that Cooke has developed the role in such a way that it would be difficult for anyone else to match Cooke’s achievements in such a short period of time.
Among her many accomplishments, Cooke worked with the health system’s interventional radiology team to create a feeding tube decision tree. The initiative has provided a workflow to allow for long-term care and other facilities to prevent sending frail patients with feeding tubes to the ED for unclogging or replacement. She also was instrumental in implementing a palliative care program within the health system at all three hospital locations. After only three months of implementation, 212 patients benefited from a palliative care consult.
This proactive nurse identified the need for ED physicians to know what services each post-acute care facility performs, i.e., intravenous fusion, trilogy, ventilator management. Cooke supported 20 of 39 post-acute facilities to create a stop form that is placed on each patient’s chart before his or her transfer to the hospital that states, “Before you admit, here are the services we perform.” This program has prevented numerous unnecessary admissions and increased trust between the hospital’s ED physicians and the facilities.
Diana Iacovo, BSN, RN, OCN, RD
Clinical Nurse Educator
Thomas Jefferson University Hospitals, Philadelphia
This inspirational leader is responsible for the education and training of a 38-member nursing staff in an outpatient cancer infusion center that is part of an academic medical center. She also assists with education and clinical issues for the physician practices.
Iacovo, who developed the shared governance unit-based council, has led her team to successfully complete many unit-based projects, such as piloting a vein finder, which has benefited nurses in obtaining IV access in the challenging oncology patient population. She led the successful effort to move the pilot project to senior level operations for budget approval. Iacovo also reviewed evidence-based practice regarding peripheral IV access and the administration of vesicant drugs and revised policy incorporating the use of the vein finder.
When questions often arose about handling a port without blood return and chemo administration, Iacovo conducted a literature review and developed a straightforward algorithm, which is now referred to when this issue arises, and has created an objective way for staff to work through most port issues independently. Regarding port issues, Iacovo not only arranged pharmaceutical inservices but also collaborated with the physician team to present to the nursing staff as well.
She uses a variety of talents and skills to nurture a creative, supporting learning environment in which the infusion staff can learn and grow. Nurses often describe how this effective communicator has helped them gain confidence, supports those who are struggling with time management and provides the unit with a much-needed layer of support.
Toni Ann Messina, RN
Division Director, Home Health
Bayada Home Health Care, Lansdale, Pa.
Messina oversees the directors, as well as the clinical and rehabilitation managers, at five offices, spanning multiple counties. The offices include community-based home healthcare providers and senior living-based providers. Messina has worked for the same company for more than 16 years at all levels, in the field as a nurse, as a clinical manager, as a client services manager, as a director of a single office, and now as a divisional director of multiple offices.
She has helped bring home healthcare to an increasing number of people and helped keep them safe at home longer. She has won several awards for lowering rehospitalization rates along with implementing appropriate therapy programs among clients. Messina still finds time to mentor those around her in professionalism, critical thinking and nursing skills.
However, Messina’s accomplishments go beyond her role as an executive. She has an innate ability to relate to people, no matter where they come from or their social status. Guided by her humanitarian and loving nature, she takes her vacation time to visit Haiti, where she uses her nursing skills to provide care.
“She holds hands with frightened children and elderly women, she laughs and cries with them and gives them a new reason to continue on in desolate conditions,” Messina’s nominator wrote. “Toni doesn’t bring just health to those she cares for in Haiti, she brings them hope, happiness and helps provide them with a brighter future. She is a beacon of hope to those lives she touches.”
Rose Moore, BSN, RN
Registered Nurse, Children’s School Services
Children’s National Health System, Washington, D.C.
This tireless promoter of immunization compliance works at an elementary school, providing care to 265 underserved students. Moore also goes to other schools as needed to cover for absent nurses, and in the summer she is assigned to a school that has summer classes. She also is responsible for health screenings and ongoing monitoring of any unusual occurrences.
She is a leader in immunization surveillance and has consistently maintained 100% compliance since 2006. In February, she was nominated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for the CDC National Immunization Champion Award, given to one person in each state who is going above and beyond to foster childhood immunizations.
Knowing she cannot be successful without help, Moore uses all resources to accomplish her goals. She works with office staff and receives help from the principal. She provides parents with resources such as state DOH immunization letters, flyers and locations of immunization clinics. She calls parents to inform them what immunizations are needed, answers questions, and schedules physician appointments and follows up to make sure the immunizations are completed.
Moore promotes health in many other ways, including launching The Fit Kids Club in collaboration with the physical therapy department to fight childhood obesity. She provided a one-hour workshop with parents and staff regarding Healthy Hearts, which was based on the Simple 7 steps toward a healthier life. That has led to an ongoing series of health workshops. Dedicated to helping others, Moore donates shoes, clothes, books, toys and food to students, many of whom live in shelters.
Reba Scharf, MSN, RN, CDE, CWS, CWCN
Director of Wound Care Center
Inspira Medical Center, Elmer, N.J.
Committed to improving the health of the community through education, Scharf serves as the clinical, operational and administrative leader of 12 employees who provide inpatient and outpatient wound care services, consultations and healthcare provider education. In the program, about 75 outpatients and about five inpatients are seen a week. She is responsible for the organization’s inpatient wound care program, which includes a comprehensive post-discharge care plan.
She assumed leadership responsibility for the development, implementation and operation of the organization’s hyperbaric oxygen treatment program, a first-of-its-kind endeavor in the area. Since its opening in May 2013, the program has provided more than 6,000 treatments to almost 150 patients, saving them the cost and inconvenience of having to travel out of state.
Scharf was involved in each phase of the process, from conception through design, budgeting, construction, licensure, and training and implementation.
Scharf led an initiative to conduct interprofessional care management rounds on all wound care center patients who require recurring treatments. Since the implementation of this process in March 2015, the average days to wound healing for these patients has decreased from a mean of 80-82 days to a mean of fewer than 55 days, an almost 35% reduction.
In addition to her more than 20 years of experience in community-based wound care, Scharf served as both a community-based nursing and community-based patient educator. She is described by her nominator as “a tireless advocate for the education of the students, her clinical care staff at the wound care center, her patients, and their families.”
Meghan Walker, MSN, RN, CBCN
Breast Nurse Navigator
Paoli (Pa.) Hospital
Compassionate and caring, Walker provides emotional support, education and advocacy throughout breast care, both with benign and cancer findings, at the hospital’s breast health center. She supports each patient from the beginning of an abnormal mammogram through each step along the journey from biopsy to surgery to follow-up care.
Walker was instrumental in developing the hospital’s relationship with two local community clinics caring for patients without jobs and without insurance or who were underinsured. She noted patient care was less timely and poorly coordinated, resulting in delays in care. Walker built a trusting collaboration with the clinics to ensure all patients received the same high level of care, regardless of insurance or socio-economic status. Before Walker’s arrival, patients in these community clinics were not seen by a surgeon before biopsy, which was a different method of inpatient management from all others seen in the breast care center.
Working closely with the surgical office, she saw to it that all patients in the clinics now are seen by a surgeon before biopsy to establish a relationship and receive important information.
Walker has been a supportive figure for her co-workers who have been diagnosed with breast cancer and look for reassurance and education. She has worked with a local organization to provide free breast screenings to women in the community who are uninsured or underinsured. She will organize a team that includes physicians and technologists to provide patients access to screening mammograms and a clinical breast exam as well as follow-up for any abnormal findings.
Excellence in Education and Mentorship
Amy Lipsett, MHA, BSN, RN, ONC
Staff Development Nurse
Thomas Jefferson University Hospitals, Philadelphia
This highly skilled, expert nurse serves as a clinical resource for changes in practice for a staff of 70 nurses, techs and aides on a 48-bed orthopedic unit. She also is responsible for all decentralized clinical nurse orientation and ongoing continuing education. Lipsett is dedicated to staff education to improve staff and patient satisfaction, quality and coordination of care.
She recognizes the value of professional nurse specialty certification and assisted in developing a plan and setting a year-end goal to increase certification among the facility’s orthopedic nurses. The financial burden was identified as the greatest barrier preventing nurses on the unit from applying for certification. Although the hospital reimburses for certification, some nurses do not always have the money to pay up front. Lipsett initiated a program that would eliminate this initial payment for the nurse, shifting it to the organization. She created a proposal and successfully negotiated with the hospital’s education department several times to ensure leadership endorsed the program.
Lipsett is mentoring a group of professional clinical nurses to revise and update the process for hand-off communication on the unit. Making changes in the way these nurses were conducting bedside shift reports, she identified key stakeholders and the barriers to this initiative, and engaged staff in reporting their own perceived obstacles. The purpose of the practice change was to redirect the focus; making it more patient-centric to improve the patient experience. The RN communication scores have risen significantly since the new practice was implemented.
Diane Murphy, MSN, RN, PCCN
Nursing Professional Development Specialist
The Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia
Using an unassuming leadership style, Murphy provides expert consultation and forms collaborative partnerships with various stakeholders to design, implement and evaluate educational programs that improve the delivery of exceptional patient- and family-centered care. As the nurse residency program coordinator, overseeing about 180 new clinical nurses each year, she works closely with program coordinators from two other hospitals in the health system, providing collaborative education and resources as an integrated nurse residency program across Penn Medicine.
Through Murphy’s leadership, Penn Medicine’s nurse residency program received UHC/AACN accreditation, making it the first to achieve this designation as a health system, according to her nominator. She worked tirelessly with her counterparts from Pennsylvania Hospital and Penn Presbyterian Medical Center to ensure the nurse residency program was clearly and seamlessly demonstrated during the site visit.
Passionate about self-care and stress management, Murphy identified the need for alternative therapies in the clinical setting, including aromatherapy and yoga. As a result, she created a well-received course for clinical nurses and certified nursing assistants, called Alternative Relaxation Methods. The popularity of this offering led staff to seek additional programs.
As a key member of the hospital’s alarm safety committee, Murphy was instrumental in facilitating interprofessional education regarding correct telemetry lead placement and its impact on reducing nuisance alarms. Murphy demonstrated her strong commitment to education and mentorship throughout this process, and 377 staff members received education in only seven days.
Murphy also coordinates the systemwide Gateway to Critical Care course, which is designed as an introduction to critical care nursing practice.
Gwyn Parris-Atwell, MSN, APN-C, CEN, FAEN
Nurse Practitioner, Employee Health
Kennedy Health, Stratford, N.J.
Parris-Atwell is responsible for overseeing about 50 nursing service personnel of the McGuire Air Force Base squadron and is responsible for a wing of about 2,400 airmen. She ensures the delivery of effective and quality nursing care and develops and leads committees to enhance nursing care of the squadron. Parris-Atwell stands out for her ability to influence nurses to become educators and to evolve in the programs she initiated.
She led trauma nurse core curriculum and emergency nurse pediatric courses with her civilian employer and her joint military base. Through collaboration, a joint services TNCC program was implemented on her base to assure combat-ready nurses and medics before deployments. In Iraq, she recognized the need for trauma education and generated a TNCC program. She taught the first course before conducting an instructor’s course to continue the program and enhance trauma care. She directed Iraqi nurse, physician and medic training that ensured evidence-based trauma care long after U.S. and NATO troops departed the area.
In addition to receiving numerous national civilian nursing awards, Parris-Atwell is the recipient of many military awards, including campaign medals for Iraq, Afghanistan and NATO. Additional recognition from 25 years serving as an Air Force Reservist includes four Meritorious Service Awards.
Parris-Atwell is the commander of the VFW post in her community, and she is a dynamic lecturer who frequently is sought out as a keynote speaker. Her nominator wrote, “Gwyn is a nurse who represents the embodiment of a war-tested leader, master clinician and an incredible model of a true professional nurse.”
Jeanne Pettinichi, MSN, RN, CPEN, CPN
Professional Practice Specialist
Children’s National Medical Center,
As the professional practice specialist for the emergency medicine and trauma center, Pettinichi is responsible for nursing practice and education across two campuses. She leads practice change and educational initiatives in collaboration with five clinical instructors and two clinical educators for 168 staff members. She also maintains a collaborative partnership with nurse managers from each campus and the director.
Going above and beyond, Pettinichi interviewed and oriented 30 nurses, reducing the vacancy rate to 7% in 12 weeks. Additionally, she is working with central staffing to orient acute care float pool nurses to the department. This creative solution may create a natural pipeline for nurses who want to direct their professional development toward emergency nursing.
As lead nurse of the ED sepsis project, she was involved in the rollout of the comprehensive ED staff education program. As a result, nurses showed an average 20% increase in test scores and knowledge. She was responsible for educating each nurse in the unit on the new clinical pathway. These efforts have significantly increased the ED’s compliance with sepsis performance measures. The work she has done with the ED sepsis project has been presented to the organization’s safety committee and has been accepted for presentation at the organization’s research day, as well as the Pediatric Academic Society’s annual meeting in Baltimore.
Always analyzing ways to improve initiatives, Pettinichi incorporates evidence-based care throughout her practice and is recognized as someone who is full of ideas and solutions and works tirelessly to achieve her professional and department goals.
Lindsay Quedenfeld, BSN, RNC-NIC
The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia
Quedenfeld leads the advanced practice education group within the NICU, and serves as the lead nurse of the NICU PICC team, which she helped create. The 98-bed NICU has 400 employed nurses and nine nursing teams, and this natural leader is the go-to person for staff, physicians and leadership. Quedenfelt is known as an excellent staff educator and one of the best unit preceptors, her nominator said.
After becoming PICC placement certified, Quedenfeld returned to the NICU at CHOP with the idea to create a PICC team. To prove a need for this group, data were collected on patients who waited days to weeks for a central line. She then partnered with the CNS group and nurse manager to lead this initiative. Within 18 months of its creation, the PICC team placed more than 200 PICCs, which allowed more than 200 patients to avoid long waits and trips to interventional radiology for this procedure.
Quedenfeld helped develop the checklist and education for PICC team members. She also serves as a mentor for trainees to the PICC team and works directly with the hospital vascular access team to improve placement methods. A dedicated professional, she follows up with PICC concerns and monitors PICC dressings.
A model of nursing excellence, Quedenfeld is a primary preceptor for new hires during their 12-week orientation. Orientation coordinators rely on her to support new hires who struggle and need an approachable, kind and experienced preceptor. Her colleagues admire her patience with new nurses and can count on Quedenfeld to foster their learning.
Cathleen Vandenbraak, MBA, BSN, MHA,
CERN, CCRN, CFRN
Paoli (Pa.) Hospital
Nurse Clinical Education Coordinator
JeffSTAT, Thomas Jefferson
University Hospital, Philadelphia
As the nursing supervisor of the hospital, Vandenbraak has direct accountability for the management of more than 100 nurses and support staff. She is passionate about providing the highest standards of quality patient care and the corresponding high level of patient satisfaction, her nominator said.
Vandenbraak also is responsible for creating, providing implementation of and evaluating educational programs that adhere to regulatory compliance with accrediting the critical care transport team, known as JeffSTAT, and is accountable for about 55 employees, at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital.
She revised the orientation process for new employees of JeffSTAT that would ensure compliance with regulatory requisites. The implementation of an innovative preceptor program created educational competencies of 90% versus a 70% compliance rate within the past two years. Vandenbraak also implemented a Prehospital Registered Nurse Certification Course required by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to credential RNs who want to pursue a transport position.
Vandenbraak successfully implemented introductory education for the JeffSTAT team for the extracorporeal membrane oxygenation transfer program, and each year she has developed selected education and concurrent reviews for the staff.
She re-evaluated multiple standards in compliance with requirements for education for the Commission of Accreditation on Medical Transport Systems and was instrumental in obtaining full accreditation.
Her nominator said she displays a unique ability to educate novice healthcare professionals by determining their individual level of comprehension and uses the best method for the staff to be successful. She engages staff with both praise and challenges, and contributes to a healthy work environment by promoting work/life balance with her staff.
Excellence in Executive Leadership
Alquietta Brown, PhD, MHSA, BSN, RN
Inova Mount Vernon Hospital, Alexandria, Va.
As CNO of a 237-bed community hospital, Brown’s leadership and contributions have been felt throughout the organization. She serves as an agent of change, restructuring the nursing department to help maximize the time nursing leaders spend with patients and the care teams they supervise. The reorganization of the workload has enabled the nursing leadership team to improve staffing levels, leader and staff engagement and HCAHPS scores.
Described as the “conductor of our bus to excellence,” Brown understands that leadership teams need team building, too. She has inspired more group interaction and professional debriefing with deep appreciation for what nurse leaders bring to the organization. Through her actions, she has transformed the leadership team, according to her nominator.
Compassionate and caring, Brown also is a vocal proponent of community activism; she frequently attends local events to improve community relations and brings feedback to both executive leadership and the nursing staff.
Brown, in partnership with nurse leaders, created an evolving strategic plan to improve, exceed and sustain the patient experience and customer satisfaction. Using, creating and validating best practices that are aligned with the hospital’s initiatives, the leadership team is identifying and removing barriers and achieving excellence in outcomes at various levels through a milestones approach.
This visionary leader created a culture of sustained accountability and, in doing so, has rejuvenated and inspired the leadership team. Her nominator wrote, “I consider Dr. Brown an influential leader. She instills and embodies nursing excellence. Dr. Brown has competence, confidence and character and establishes connections and compassion.”
Angela Coladonato, DNP, RN, NEA-BC
CNO/Senior Vice President Nursing
Penn Medicine, Chester County Hospital, West Chester, Pa.
Coladonato oversees all nurses in a 248-bed acute care hospital with about 46,000 ED visits a year. She is dedicated and committed to the nursing profession and her desire to make a difference in the lives of patients and their families, her nurses and the community.
Responsible for approximately 750 full-time employees, she has been a driving force in facilitating revolutionary changes in the visibility and voice of nursing, according to her nominator. The number of certified nurses rose from 12% in 2007 to 38% in 2012, and the number of BSN nurses climbed from 36% in 2008 to 59% in 2015. These increases reflect Coladonato’s ability to engage staff, and nurses now regularly present at regional and national venues, publish articles and have increased their involvement in professional organizations.
Coladonato has obtained the necessary resources to enable clinical nurses to attend council and committee meetings, thereby increasing engagement. Realizing the needs and concerns of nurses working night shifts, she established a night shift council to give them the ability to be heard and involved.
Upon her arrival at the hospital, Coladonato focused her attention on the goal of achieving Magnet status, which the hospital achieved. She is a gifted transformational leader whose success stems in part from her genuine interest in people and relationships and her openness to creative ideas as projects blossom and develop.
Her colleagues admire the way she instills passion in others to create positive change, ensures resources are available and tackles roadblocks without fear.
Janet Davies, MSN, RN, APN, CCNS, CENP
Vice President of Patient Care Services
Inspira Health Network, Vineland, N.J.
Committed to the value of meaningful nursing recognition, Davies is responsible for almost 900 clinical nurses and nursing leaders in a three-hospital system with more than 500 licensed beds. Her areas of supervision include specialties, including surgical, emergency, women’s health and behavioral health services.
Davies advocates for units and individuals to work toward goals that mark them as exemplary among their peers. She has successfully encouraged and supported each of the organization’s four ICUs to earn the AACN’s Beacon Award for Critical Care Excellence, with most units earning consecutive designations and one unit earning four designations. She also oversaw the organization’s successful journey in becoming the first hospital in New Jersey designated baby friendly by the World Health Organization.
Davies also is a passionate advocate for evidence-based best practice and for the performance improvement process. As the administrative liaison for the organization’s value analysis and infection prevention committees, she actively evaluates new patient care products and procedures. Under Davies’ leadership this council has been responsible for revising the products, and subsequently the standard practices, used in the care of indwelling central line catheters. As a result of these changes, one campus experienced a 50% decrease in the incidence of central line-associated bloodstream infections.
Her impact is felt beyond the hospital setting, as well. Davies is an administrative sponsor for the comprehensive interdisciplinary palliative care program. At Davies’ urging, this novel program is APN-driven and is expanding palliative care services into the community.
Nancy Hesse, MSN, RN
Interim President and CEO
Cancer Treatment Centers of America, Philadelphia
Hesse oversees a facility with 74 licensed inpatient beds, several outpatient medical clinics, a specialty clinic, an immediate care clinic, two infusion centers, a surgical center, interventional radiology and radiation oncology.
Blessed with the ability to connect with staff members on a personal level, Hesse quickly gained their trust when she assumed the CNO position more than two years ago. More recently, she has taken over her new role as interim president and CEO.
One of the greatest impacts Hesse has had on the organization has been her assistance in implementing lean daily management in the nursing units. The program looks at quality metrics and data at the unit level and how that ties in with the organization’s overall goals. Nurses decide what metrics should be measured and what is important to the patients on their unit. Since the program began, there have been significant improvements in the quality of patient care, including a large reduction in infection and fall rates and improvements in nurse satisfaction, said the nominator.
A transformational leader, Hesse believes in empowering nurses to believe anything is possible, and she has been a passionate supporter of nursing leadership councils. She makes sure to attend the monthly council meetings to support staff efforts and hard work. Since taking over her new role, she has started several new initiatives, such as Take Five with Nancy, where she spends time with different departments and individuals so she can learn about them and they can learn about her.
Kim Hoffman, RN, MHA, CPHRM
Corporate Director, Patient Safety and Risk Management
Kennedy Health, Somerdale, N.J.
Hoffman encourages an environment of openness and interdisciplinary collaboration as she leads a team of three patient safety risk managers and two department coordinators. The department’s oversight extends across three hospitals, ambulatory services, long-term care and home care. Under Hoffman’s leadership, the department has grown to include three BSN-prepared nurses who were promoted from within the organization and who are enrolled in master’s degree programs.
Hoffman’s ability to mentor and encourage personal growth has led to the organization’s first employee to be named a certified professional in patient safety by the Certification Board of Professionals in Patient Safety. Under Hoffman’s leadership, the facility received a hospital safety score of “A” from the Leapfrog Group.
The effects of Hoffman’s leadership can be seen in the responses to a culture of safety survey developed by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. All associates working in a clinical unit/department were asked to complete the survey in February 2015. The survey initially was offered in October 2013. The results from the 2015 survey showed an increase of 30% in the reporting of near miss and actual safety events compared with the 2013 survey. Because the focus of the organization under Hoffman has been on error disclosure and transparency, the efforts of the patient safety and risk management department have proved effective.
Hoffman’s strong and empowering leadership, along with the support of the facility’s senior team, has led to increased emphasis and awareness of the importance of patient safety as the top priority of the organization, her nominator said.
AnnMarie Papa, DNP, RN, NE-BC, CEN, FAEN, FAAN
Vice President and CNO
Einstein Medical Center Montgomery, East Norriton, Pa.
Papa is a dynamic, visionary leader of a 171-bed acute care facility. During the past two years, she has been instrumental in helping the facility achieving stroke certification, Nurses Improving Care For Health System Elders designation, bariatric certification and chest pain accreditation. She also was involved in and supportive of the C-section first assist program, the environment of quiet, and the transcatheter heart valve replacement program. Papa has been a change agent as the facility develops preceptor, mentorship and shared governance programs, her nominator said.
As an adjunct faculty member, she is responsible for curriculum development and administration for the education of DNP students. Recently, she was invited to deliver a capstone seminar for leadership course for a BSN Express program.
Within the hospital, she is a visible leader who rounds all nursing departments daily. Papa facilitates national recognition for nurses, mentors staff to participate in poster and podium presentations, and encourages award nominations. She mentors staff to assume leadership roles in the hospital and professional organizations and to have their work published. Papa helped establish a nursing excellence award program to encourage specialty certification and promote contributions to the profession and the facility.
Passionate and committed, Papa has made an impact on the local, national and international levels, including as president of the Emergency Nurses Association, which serves more than 40,000 members. She led a nursing delegation to Cuba to educate about research and evidence-based practice and worked with nurses in South Africa to develop standards for emergency nursing.
Excellence in Management
Monica Boyle, BSN, RN, NE-BC
Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children,
Boyle’s popularity as a nurse leader on a 24-bed ortho/rehab/neuro unit cannot be overstated, according to her nominator. A tireless patient advocate, Boyle sees the importance of promoting the nursing profession, models exemplary practice and coaches her staff to do the same.
“Our unit is a very close team, and it is because [Boyle] has given us the gift of her leadership,” her nominator wrote. “She is an inspiration to us each day.”
Boyle had the facility’s highest score in the National Database of Nursing Quality Indicators survey, illustrating the respect she shows her team. She has the unique ability to make those around her want to be better nurses, instilling in them the desire to not only deliver excellent patient care but also to make a difference in their unit, their facility and beyond.
Because of her leadership, the unit is actively involved in a shared governance concept, and the unit’s nurses have been responsible for changes to policy because of evidence-based practice. Under Boyle’s guidance, two of the unit’s nurses involved in an evidence-based fellowship initiated a practice of pet therapy in the PACU waiting room. Boyle supported them during the fellowship, and they were the only two people from the facility asked to do a podium presentation at the 2015 Magnet Conference in Atlanta.
When the unit took on a new patient population, there was a lot of apprehension among the nurses, said her nominator, but Boyle helped alleviate these fears by organizing educational fairs, web-based training, journal clubs and opportunities for open communication.
Monica DiMauro, BSN, RN-BC
Nurse Manager, Adult Mental Health Unit
Inspira Health Network, Bridgeton, N.J.
A clinical expert in the care of patients with behavioral and emotional needs, DiMauro excels at providing effective and inspiring leadership to the clinical and nursing staff she oversees in a 33-bed adult behavioral health unit within a multihospital network. She provides direct oversight of about 30 RNs and 30 clinical personnel and ancillary/support staff.
One of the clearest examples of DiMauro’s exceptional leadership ability is her role in developing a novel relationship group in the adult behavioral health unit. She guided the group in researching best practices and implemented a nurse-led relationship support group that resulted in improved scores in this area. Furthermore, several patients have expressed how helpful this group was at empowering them to form relationships that have been beneficial in their wellness and recovery.
She worked with the clinical nurses and staff of the ABHU’s unit-based practice council to identify best practices for rounding in behavioral health units, and this process included collaborating with other behavioral health units across the nation. In only six months, patient experience scores relating to multiple aspects addressed during rounds have improved dramatically.
One of DiMauro’s largest undertakings was the design, construction and move into a new patient care unit, said her nominator. She made sure clinical nurses and clinical care personnel were involved in all phases of the design process. As a result of changes made under her leadership, the unit experienced decreases in the rate of patients who left against medical advice and increases in patients’ perceptions of safety in the unit.
Cheryl Hecht, MSN, RN, NEA-BC
The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia
Known for her relationship-building skills, Hecht provides leadership to more than 240 RNs and 25 unlicensed assistive personnel in a 56-bed PICU.
Hecht piloted innovative intentional rounding strategies, and measurable results demonstrating improved patient experiences have been achieved. She and a few other nursing leaders and patient/family services specialists partnered to successfully improve the patient and family experience by creating a process to obtain more immediate and actionable feedback. This process is changing the nursing culture to be less reactive and more proactive with problem solving, identifying best practices and sharing successes.
Hecht cares deeply about her staff and supports their professional growth and development, her nominator said. She encourages them to pursue stretch positions and mentors them through the process. She also contributes to the advancement of the nursing profession through her volunteer work as a surveyor for the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing since 2010. Over the past 10 years, she has presented nationally on the topics of nurse recruitment, retention and professional advancement.
Her consistent efforts to promote a positive nurse practice environment were validated in 2014 when her unit’s nurse satisfaction survey results demonstrated above-average performance on all five subscales of the Practice Environment Scale. Her unit has exhibited lower than nationally benchmarked rates of central line-associated bloodstream infections, catheter-associated urinary tract infections and hospital-acquired pressure ulcers for most of the past two fiscal years.
Her unit has above-average patient satisfaction scores for nursing care questions such as careful listening, courtesy and respect, patient education, and responsiveness.
Debbie Hetrick, BSN, RN, CNML
Clinical Manager, Surgical Units
Penn Medicine, Chester County Hospital,
West Chester, Pa.
This levelheaded and dedicated leader manages a team of 75 employees on a med/surg unit that specializes in surgical and orthopedic patients. Hetrick teaches joint classes to patients and their families before total knee and hip replacement surgery. Open and honest, she is the go-to person for fellow nursing managers and often is asked to orient new managers, her nominator said.
In the past year, Hetrick was instrumental in developing a plan in collaboration with the nursing director to open another surgical unit, which Hetrick also will be managing. She has used her transactional and transformational leadership skills to balance the skill sets needed on both units and bring together the necessary staff, and she motivated her team to work together and inspires them to believe the change is important and attainable.
During her two-year tenure as co-chair of the hospital’s professional development council, she has led many enhancements and helped the council raise the bar for nursing excellence and practice. Hetrick has helped create and implement three major practice projects. They include the development of the Going the Extra Mile Award, analogous to the Daisy Award for nurses but awarded to ancillary support staff; the inclusion of evidence-based or research projects for nurses who wish to attain Level 4 in the clinical ladder program; and the creation of a walk in my shoes program, designed to be an educational shadowing experience for employees interested in learning and understanding more about the daily responsibilities of another department in the hospital.
Stephan McDonald, MSN, RN
Nurse Manager, ED
Thomas Jefferson University Hospitals, Philadelphia
Combining compassionate care and a visionary aptitude, McDonald is responsible for the daily operations of an inner-city ED in an academic medical center. The department consists of 54 treatment beds and trauma bays and sees about 65,000 patients a year. He oversees a staff of 109 RNs and 40 technicians.
In 2015 he led a large-scale redesign of the ED that has improved access to emergency care by drastically reducing door-to-provider times and left-without-being-seen rates. Before starting this project, the LWBS rate was 5.7% and the door-to-provider times averaged 36 minutes. By June 2015, the LWBS rate was 0.33% and the door-to-provider time was 13 minutes. These improvements have been sustained by the department, according to his nominator, and the process change has resulted in drastic improvements in quality, safety and efficiency of patient care in the ED and has shifted the focus to be a more patient- and family-centered unit.
One of the key changes implemented during the redesign was the use of headsets for staff communication, which has helped speed communication and problem solving among the team and improve patient flow.
Hired in March 2013 during a time of several physician and nursing leadership changes in the department, McDonald has been intimately involved in building a highly competent and efficient operational team with improvements in quality and service metrics as well as improvements in RN satisfaction rates. He understands the critical role his team of nurses, physicians and technicians plays in helping the organization grow and thrive and, most importantly, the impact it has on the community.
Priya Nair, MS, RN
University of Maryland Medical Center, Baltimore
Nair is a passionate and knowledgeable leader responsible for the clinical and business operations of three outpatient centers. She is credited with helping achieve a culture of strong teamwork and enhanced patient safety, bringing the joy of providing clinical care back to the employees. Her nominator said she has worked hard to build a cohesive and dedicated team who look out for and trust one another.
One of her medical director colleagues said Nair expanded services networking with different physician specialists, adding sessions that increased clinic visit volumes by 27% and improved access to first appointments by 14-18 days. Over the past two years, she expanded the irritable bowl syndrome infusion schedule to meet patient demand, resulting in a 35% increase in infusion visits and timely access for patients. She also worked with surgical NPs, staff nurses and physicians to create a transitional surgery service that reduced hospital readmissions and ED utilization among select postoperative surgical populations.
Because Nair encourages employees to be part of creating many of the new programs she has implemented, she has invigorated their learning, ownership and involvement in the process. Trained internationally, she appreciates different perspectives to approaching problems and welcomes collaboration.
Nair’s devotion to her staff is displayed through her participation on the organization’s commit to excellence team, which strives to improve the patient experience and staff engagement. She nominates those who stand out in excellence in practice for the organization’s annual awards, and she serves on the planning committees for celebration activities.
GEM Nomination Process
The Nurse.com GEM Awards program is a nurse-led nomination, selection and award program. Nominees come from all specialties and practice settings and can be nominated in any of five categories: Excellence in Clinical Nursing; Excellence in Community Care; Excellence in Education and Mentorship; Excellence in Executive Leadership; and Excellence in Management.
Each year, Nurse.com calls upon you, our nurse readers, to tell us about the exceptional nurses you work with — nurses you believe deserve to be part of our GEM Awards program. Nurses submit online nominations at Nurse.com/GEM detailing the extraordinary contributions their colleagues make to patients and the profession, and nurse leaders act as judges to evaluate and score all nominations received.
GEM Program Phases, Awards
After initial judging, finalists in each region are named and awards are presented to them at GEM Award events held in four cities across the country in August and September. Regional winners, one in each category, are selected from among the finalists and are also announced at these events and featured in the November/December issues of Nurse.com magazines. Regional winners go on to compete in the national phase of the GEM program. After a third round of judging from among all the regional winners, five nurses, one in each category, are named national GEM winners. They will be announced and featured in the first issues of 2017.
Freelance writer Tom Clegg contributed to the writing and research of this article.
Find out more about the annual Nurse.com GEM (Giving Excellence Meaning) program.
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