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
Nicole Albold, BSN, RN, IBCLC, RLC
Clinical Nurse and Lactation Consultant, Women & Children
Rush University Medical Center
A 20-year veteran and clinical leader of the mother baby unit, Albold serves in a dual role of professional nurse and lactation consultant. She also has taken on more administrative duties, ensuring that the schedule for lactation consultants provides coverage seven days a week, 365 days a year. Over the years, she has educated countless new moms, family members, nurses, nurse practitioners and residents about breast-feeding. She is said to have influenced the nursing care provided to all women patients at the facility, even those admitted to other units while still breast-feeding.
Albold has taken a lead role in working to obtain baby-friendly USA status for the unit, a global program of the World Health Organization and the United Nations Children’s Fund. Preparing for that designation has entailed multiple chart reviews, interviews with staff nurses and patients, and extensive meetings with the policy and procedure committee to adopt all of the baby-friendly requirements. Her commitment and diligence have allowed her to balance her bedside duties along with the responsibilities of moving this initiative forward. Through it all, she has remained positive and upbeat, and her passion for nursing, in general, and breast-feeding in particular, is evident and contagious, her nominator said.
Albold is known for the way she understands and cares for the whole patient and family and masters respectful conversation, ensuring patients receive extraordinary care. Earning the admiration of physicians and peers, she makes those around her want to provide the best possible patient and family care.
Jennifer Doyle, MSN, RN, CNP
Perinatal Outreach Coordinator/APN
Summa Health System
In her role as an APRN, Doyle demonstrates assessment skills, critical thinking and the ability to effectively communicate and collaborate with other healthcare professionals and the lay public. She serves as a case manager for high-risk perinatal transport patients and patients with gestational diabetes.
She also is a co-investigator on many research studies, including research about progesterone administration to prevent preterm birth; a standardized oxytocin administration protocol to reduce postpartum hemorrhage, for which she received grant funding; a clinical trial pilot research study about implementing Relaxbirth in an urban intrapartum setting; and a project to limit elective delivery prior to 39 weeks.
She has served as a clinical instructor in the accelerated program at a local university for the maternal-child rotation, and as nursing faculty in an associate degree program for students’ first clinical rotation, allowing her to influence students’ practice and skills.
Doyle is an Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses-certified fetal monitor instructor-trainer. She frequently writes journal articles and presents at local, regional and national conferences about evidence-based practice, standardized postpartum oxytocin administration protocol to prevent postpartum hemorrhage, obstetric emergencies, fetal heart monitoring, tachysystole and simulations. As a member of the Ohio Perinatal Quality Collaborative, she has worked on cessation of 39-week elective inductions, antenatal steroid administration and progesterone to prevent preterm birth.
She loves practicing at the bedside, bringing current evidence and practice to fellow staff, providers and patients as well as improving the patient experience, enhancing best practices and promoting optimal outcomes, her nominator said.
Tracy Haberkorn, BSN, MS, RN, CNOR
Epidemiology Coordinator, Surgical Services
Advocate Christ Medical Center
Oak Lawn, Ill.
Haberkorn possesses a passion for excellence that sets her apart, her nominator said. She performs surveillance for infections within the surgical division at the facility and incorporates the latest standards according to evidenced-based literature, identifying potential barriers in infection control practices. She rounds in all areas, including day surgery, holding, OR and PACU, to identify potential unsafe practices and improve them. She consistently reviews departmental policies and updates and educates staff about infection control practices.
Haberkorn is responsible for the education of approximately 400 associates and volunteers within the surgical division. Her colleagues admire the way she sees no walls or barriers and gets the job done. She engages staff to become hand-washing, handoff tool and Foley champions, and her persistence and enthusiasm to drive down infections brings success to the entire department, her nominator said.
A skilled and compassionate communicator who accepts change to better herself and the surgery department, she possesses a desire to improve patient outcomes, fostering professional relationships and solid collaboration throughout the division. Haberkorn displays the highest standards of integrity and ethics, and uses her voice as her greatest asset to identify solutions for process improvements. Her communication skills and sharing of relevant industry and professional trends and practices make her invaluable to the team.
In addition to her main role as epidemiology coordinator, she is known to scrub in and relieve staff as needed. Always willing to help, Haberkorn is described as someone who defines the word “teamwork.”
Natalie Seewald, MSN, RN, CRRN
Direct Care RN, Patient Recovery Unit
Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago
A consummate professional, Seewald coordinates comprehensive nursing care on a 24-bed inpatient unit for patients who have sustained a wide range of injuries or illnesses including stroke, spinal cord injury, traumatic brain injury, cancer and progressive neurological disorder. She provides exemplary patient and family education, and is always willing to go above and beyond for her patients to deliver the highest care possible.
Periodically she is assigned to the role of charge nurse and carries the additional responsibilities of creating shift assignments, coordinating patient admissions and discharges, and assessing and intervening as needed with patient and family concerns. Serving as the first-line resource for any issues or challenges that occur during the shift, Seewald works proactively and effectively when identifying and addressing any clinical or patient issues or those that could affect a subsequent shift.
She created and developed a one-page document that summarizes patient needs and implemented a process for consistent and timely document updates by unit nurse leaders. Charge nurses refer to this document as the patient pulse, which is created every time there is a new patient assignment.
Seewald also serves as a preceptor for nursing students as well as for newly hired nurses. When she first started mentoring new graduates she advocated for additional protected administration time to enable more thoughtful and purposeful relationship-building with new nurses in their transition period. Always willing to help her peers, she is described as a natural self-starter who is involved in many professional initiatives and unit programs.
Debra Skopec, BSN, RN, NIC-BC
Neonatal Outcomes RN, NICU
Skopec joined the NICU as a new graduate, and is described as a respected member of the staff, a team player and a nurse who has assisted with bringing the facility’s NICU to a new level of care.
For the last decade, she has worked as the neonatal outcomes nurse and is responsible for all of the state-required items for the neonate, which include newborn screening, hearing screening, eye examinations, immunizations and car seat challenge testing. Because of her thorough, meticulous attention to detail, the NICU has 100% compliance with all state regulatory testing, and she also ensures appropriate follow-up is clearly outlined at the time of the patient’s discharge.
Recognizing the importance of learning, Skopec provides comprehensive staff and family education about car seats and car seat safety. Because of her efforts she was appointed to the Safe Kids Illinois committee to participate in programs that promote car seat use to a wider audience.
She also has educated and instructed nurses about working with substance exposed withdrawal infants, and has developed a process to help staff nurses identify at-risk infants, so they can provide proper treatment and anticipate the needs of the infant throughout withdrawal. Her current project is focused on care of the micro-preemie from birth to discharge. She and her team worked collaboratively with other NICUs to develop best practices.
Her nominator said she is passionate about quality care, has facilitated numerous quality initiatives and has made the facility a stand-out leader in safe, quality care.
Megan Walker, BSN, RN
Registered Nurse, Post-partum
On her 20-bed postpartum unit, Walker provides comprehensive maternal-child care to mothers, babies and their families. Diligent about encouraging, coaching and educating her patients about maternal-child health, she takes the time to establish a warm connection with them and their families and is attentive and responsive to their physical, emotional and educational needs. She seeks out community sources to deter financial costs for her patients, and offers educational information about community resources they can use after discharge.
She has been involved in the hospital’s skin-to-skin initiative, which promotes positive bonding and breast-feeding for mothers and new infants after cesarean and vaginal births. She is the chairwoman of the hospital’s newly distinguished milk bank, applying for grants through many foundations to help alleviate expenses. She also serves as a Magnet champion.
Walker regularly acts as a preceptor and mentor for new nurses and aides during their first year on the unit. She freely provides the newest evidence-based best practices to her colleagues and encourages ideas about implementation of them on the unit. Walker is described as a positive role model who is always boosting staff morale and offering words of wisdom and encouragement.
She also volunteers for community projects that serve underprivileged parents, and she initiated a community baby shower, which emphasizes safe-sleeping practices and breast-feeding. Having a strong desire to continue her education, she is enrolled in the women’s health NP program at the University of Cincinnati.
Excellence in Community Care
Gina Barasa, MSN, OCCN
Nurse Clinician, Clinical Coordinator, Developmental Therapeutics
Northwestern Memorial Hospital, Chicago
An outstanding oncology nurse who works with patients and supervises operations at the Developmental Therapeutics Institute, Barasa works to coordinate care for more than 100 oncology patients per week, most of whom are enrolled in complex First-in-Human and Phase I/II research protocols.
For many patients, this is the last step before succumbing to cancer. She has influenced how the patients feel about the challenging circumstances they face, and her role in staying beside them has inspired many patients and families to make a difference for others. She is said to be the leader who quarterbacks daily huddles with all staff to assure the lengthy protocols are prepared for each patient and all of the specific requirements of each protocol are followed.
Barasa was instrumental in launching the Developmental Therapeutics Institute, which continues to provide positive reputation scores from community partners based on the program’s three-year existence. She serves as the co-chairwoman of the organization’s Make the Cut program, designed to encourage people to cut their hair to create wigs for cancer patients.
She is described as someone who is committed to helping others, not only because of her profession, but also because of who she is at her core. Her nominator said she demonstrates excellence every day, and her ability to create change to improve long-term care for patients fighting cancer is remarkable. Whether through philanthropic means, research, care redesign or improving care coordination, she continues to fight with and for the people who need it the most.
Judy Bergsmith, RN
Lactation Coordinator, Maternity Suites
As lactation coordinator, Bergsmith conducts daily lactation rounds on the maternity suites, completes postdischarge postpartum mother/baby assessments and provides lactation support to mothers at the center. She understands diverse cultural, physical, emotional and psychological responses to birthing, lactation and parenting and freely answers calls from new mothers with questions and concerns. Bergsmith helped establish a parent support group to discuss the joys and challenges of breast-feeding.
Passionate about and committed to her work, Bergsmith maintains an excellent rapport with patients and gives nonthreatening, easy-to-understand instructions, enabling all patients to feel they can succeed in breast-feeding. All new mothers, fathers and babies are encouraged to return to the center for a free postpartum visit with Bergsmith within 72 hours after they leave the hospital. At this visit, she measures and weighs the newborn, performs a head-to-toe assessment of mother and baby, checks vital signs and bilirubin levels, provides breast-feeding support and feeding evaluations, answers questions, and responds to concerns.
Bergsmith works with families when they feel overwhelmed and vulnerable, and she is said to have a wonderful gift of encouraging them, building their confidence and guiding them. She does the same with her colleagues and is happy to serve as a resource for them.
She keeps updated on the latest in lactation consultation by investigating evidence-based practice and attending regional and local conferences.
Known to provide excellent patient care, Bergsmith is admired for her reassuring and calm presence and her dedication to new mothers and their families.
Kathleen Brown, RN, CDDN
Director of Development
President of the Developmental Disability Nurses Association and nurse adviser for Pharmacy Alternatives, a pharmacy specializing in providing medications for people with disabilities, Brown works tirelessly to advocate for people with disabilities and their families and for the nurses who work with them.
She educates elected state officials and policymakers about issues affecting people with disabilities, and has been involved in implementing the state rules regarding authorization to direct staff when giving medications to those with disabilities.
She continues to help fine tune the rules and regulations regarding medication administration in Illinois. The state’s program has been successful because of Brown’s committed efforts over the years, her nominator said, and because of her, the rules and standards of care in the state have been clarified, as well as has the nurse’s role in teaching direct care staff.
Brown serves as a respected and knowledgeable resource person and will answer calls and questions at any time, 24 hours a day; is supportive of nursing in a specialty which may not be black and white and often requires real critical thinking skills; and always stands up for the safety and well-being of the patient, according to her nominator.
Her nominator said Brown has always pushed the boundaries to advance nursing in the specialty and always encourages choice on the part of the patient. Respected and admired in the field, she is known to possess great integrity, passion and dedication to the field of disability nursing.
Shaun Hamberlin, BSN, RN, CRN
Staff Nurse, MRI
Northwestern Memorial Hospital, Chicago
Hamberlin is one of the facility’s most dynamic and upbeat nurses, always ready with a friendly greeting and smile, his nominator said.
Hamberlin works in the MRI department, providing pre-exam and postexam care to patients. His confidence and skill at managing acutely ill patients with complex medical issues is evident as he safely guides them through lengthy and, at times, difficult exams. He is quick to recognize and respond to changing patient conditions, effectively manages life-threatening anaphylactic allergic reactions and activates the appropriate emergency resources when necessary.
Hamberlin radiates a calm professionalism and coach’s attitude that lets patients know he is there to help guide them through a difficult imaging exam. A strong patient advocate, he has the ability to gain a patient’s trust, and balance caring, distraction and humor in the right context to help the patient complete the exam with minimal interruptions.
During cardiac MRIs, he provides telemetry monitoring and administers pharmacologic stress medications that can be difficult for the patient to tolerate due to brief bursts of asystole. By educating the patient prior to the exam and communicating throughout, patient anxiety and fear are greatly reduced, thereby permitting the patient to complete the exam, his nominator said.
His enthusiasm for nursing and patient care makes him a unanimous choice for committees and task force participation, new product trials and workflow redesigns, and new staff are always drawn to his approachable and affable demeanor, patience and engaging teaching style.
Michele Rubin, MSN, APN, CSN-BC, CGRN
Clinical Nurse Specialist, Colorectal Surgery
University of Chicago Medicine
Collaborating with gastroenterology and surgical physicians, Rubin built a multidisciplinary med/surg inflammatory bowel disease program and now serves as the associate director, participating in hiring staff, organizing educational activities and providing suggestions for strategic planning. She continues to see up to 50 patients weekly and improves their access to care by bringing them into the facility within 24 hours or responding by telephone for medical advice, patient education and support.
Rubin planned and developed the standardized colorectal bundle with preoperative bowel prep, including antibiotics, skin prep and a perioperative standardized protocol for patients with IBD to prevent surgical site infections postoperatively. This colorectal bundle has significantly reduced postoperative surgical site infections in colorectal patients from 21.8% to 2.2% within five months of initiation. This improvement has been sustained.
Rubin established the only nurse practitioner-operated J-Pouch clinic in the Chicago area to help these patients adjust to living with a J-Pouch, and follows them annually. She maintains a database of patients with pouches for follow up and research purposes and has published on pouch function and perianal incontinent dermatitis.
Recently, Rubin obtained an educational grant and developed an online nursing continuing education course, “The Evolution of Personalized Care for Patients with Inflammatory Bowel Diseases: Considerations for New and Emerging Strategies.” She has been a long-time active member of the Chicago chapter of the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America, has co-chaired the organization’s nursing symposium and established the annual nursing research poster event. She has published widely in peer-reviewed journals.
Kristen Sarkan, BSN, RN-C
Assistant Clinical Manager, Pain Management
Advocate Christ Medical Center
Sarkan advocates for her patients, always looking for the best way to care for them at the pain center, said her nominator. Never deterred by the wide variety of co-morbidities and social challenges of her patients, Sarkin demonstrates a compassionate heart and is always willing to listen. Sarkan assumes a holistic approach when assessing her patients’ needs, and is admired for the way she works with them, educating and calming them with her confident and professional manner.
She also serves as the coordinator for spinal cord stimulator research trials and arranged for the procedures to be performed at the clinic, rather than the hospital, which enabled patients to receive the devices more quickly.
Last year, she was promoted to assistant clinical manager, and with this new role, her responsibilities included covering the triage desk, scheduling staff, and ensuring proper documentation is in place. She is said to have embraced the managerial role and treats colleagues with grace and kindness. Sarkin is admired for the way she is always available and present for staff, whether it be to offer advice, listen or help in the clinic to care for patients.
It is because of Sarkan that the Lockport site runs well every single day, said her nominator, because when challenges present themselves, she eagerly jumps in to improve every situation.
Sarkan’s greatest achievement is the extraordinary enthusiasm and compassion she brings to the department, for patients, families, staff and physicians.
Excellence in Education and Mentorship
Karan Fachet, MS, RN, NE-BC
Manager, Clinical Research Unit
Northwestern Memorial Hospital, Chicago
As manager of the clinical research unit, Fachet oversees a five-bed inpatient unit, two outpatient units, a specimen processing lab and a research bionutrition core. She supervises 19 nursing personnel, five medical technologists and a research dietitian.
Fachet serves as the liaison between the academic medical center and the university’s research institute and works closely with university partners to ensure that all research studies are in compliance with hospital, university and federal regulations. All staff members, both clinical and nonclinical, look to her for guidance and direction, her nominator said.
In addition to the expertise she shares with her unit staff, Fachet also seeks out opportunities to provide education outside of her unit. She has formed a pathway to research across all inpatient units by creating a mobile clinical research unit. Research nurses travel to the unit where the clinical research subject is hospitalized and handle all the research aspects of the participant’s care. This allows more clinical nurses to be exposed to research at the bedside, while ensuring that safe patient care is being provided and research data are collected properly and with integrity.
Fachet is a well-respected instructor within the university’s research basic training course, geared toward providing practical information to enable coordinators and other research staff to begin work at the clinic. Her nominator said she contributes to an improved research environment for clinicians, students, research coordinators, and most importantly, the patients, who benefit from the research being done to improve clinical practice, symptom management and treatment.
Rebekah Jaensch, MSN, RN, CNOR
Manager of Clinical Operations
Advocate Christ Medical Center
Oak Lawn, Ill.
Jaensch manages clinical operations at Advocate Christ Medical Center, a level one trauma center. She also works with partnering schools of nursing to create clinical opportunities and leadership rotations at the facility, thereby increasing students’ interest and knowledge in the area of surgery, which may be overlooked in the nursing program curriculum.
To support new nurses in the specialty, Jaensch assisted in the creation of a training program with a local college, in which OR technicians give additional time to new OR nurses by helping them learn how to scrub with experts in the field.
Passionate about sharing her knowledge and clinical expertise, she works with a local university, teaching a elective course for nurses interested in surgery and bringing them to the OR in the evening for clinical time and touring. During clinical, she asks associates to speak with students about their experiences, and she also partners with the school to create clinical opportunities for senior students who are completing their leadership rotation in the OR.
Jaensch’s dedication to education and her strong desire to create a positive experience in surgery has led to a pipeline of nurses waiting to be hired into the OR after they graduate, which has resulted in a decrease in turnover of nurses within one year at the facility and the hiring of qualified professional nurses, her nominator said, adding Jaensch truly loves education and has a passion for giving new nurses a safe environment in which to learn. Jaensch recently retired from Advocate Christ Medical Center.
Molly Moran, MSN, RN, CCRN
Clinical Nurse Educator, Pediatric Intensive Care
Rush University Medical Center, Chicago
The nurse educator for the general pediatric and pediatric ICUs at the facility, Moran exudes a calm demeanor and sincere concern for staff members. She is a positive influence on the units’ cultures and serves as a role model for other clinical nursing staff by exemplifying the Rush mission, vision and values, according to her nominator.
Since joining the hospital about two years ago, she redesigned the pediatric orientation program to better align with evidence-based practice and Benner’s Novice to Expert Model. The revised PICU orientation program is further divided into stages with specific objectives for each stage, focusing on trends and overall management of patient care and development of critical thinking. She developed a plan to analyze the effectiveness of preceptor training by gathering information for education and quality purposes from preceptors and future orientee staff. Staff nurses have expressed appreciation for the expertise and support she has brought to both units, her nominator said.
Moran consistently looks for ways to encourage group participation in fun and creative educational opportunities, and she is passionate about elevating nurses’ skill sets, quality improvements in patient care and staff and interdisciplinary teamwork. She also serves as an adjunct faculty member at Loyola University of Chicago where she is a teaching assistant for both pediatric theory and clinical care.
Moran is described as a nurse who is adaptive, innovative and an inspiring person for all of the nurses in the PICU. “She is one of a kind and second to none,” her nominator said.
Mary Carol Racelis, MSN, APN, ACNS-BC
Clinical Nurse Specialist, Orthopedics
Rush University Medical Center, Chicago
An innovative nurse who always keeps patient safety and excellence in patient care as top priorities, Racelis leads from behind and lets others take the stage, her nominator said.
She has been part of several clinical initiatives, which include reducing catheter-associated urinary tract infections, acting as chairwoman for the new CNS monthly meeting, reducing oversedation with opioids, and increasing the understanding and use of evidence-based practice. As a member of the evidence-based practice and research committee, she assisted with the creation of an algorithm for clinical nurses starting an evidence-based research project and an algorithm for CNS/educators serving as mentors.
Racelis led a project to reduce catheter-associated urinary tract infections, educating staff about specimen collection and introducing new urinary collection kits.
As a result of her efforts, no catheter-associated urinary tract infections have occurred in the past two years, her nominator said. She also worked on prepackaged bathing and fall prevention projects and worked to ensure suction equipment was placed on the code cart.
It is said that Racelis puts her heart and soul into her work, helping others to reach beyond their comfort zone and put the patient at the forefront. She enjoys celebrating other people’s accomplishments and mentoring them to achieve bigger aspirations, including specialty certification. Her colleagues admire her dedication and passion for patient care and the time she spends to support and guide clinical nurses and her own CNS peers.
Michele Ross, BSN, RN, CCRN
Nurse Clinician IV, Adult Surgical Heart Unit
Advocate Christ Medical Center, Oak Lawn, Ill.
A 20-year veteran of the cardiovascular ICU, Ross has a passion for teaching. Serving as co-chairwoman of the unit education and the orientation committee, she created unit-specific orientation classes and teaches clinical topics such as placement of nasal gastric tubes, enteral feeding, hemodynamics, arterial blood gas interpretation, ventilator weaning and pharmacology.
As co-chairwoman of the education committee, she is responsible for organizing and preparing the content of yearly unit-based competencies. She reaches out to other units and invites staff to join her unit’s competency days.
She is well-suited in her role as a clinical coach for new hires and nursing students, her nominator said, who described her as having impeccable clinical skills and a wealth of knowledge. Ross makes everyone feel accessible to her knowledge, nursing expertise and years of experience.
About seven years ago, Ross created a chest-tube removal protocol for front-line nurses, teaching every nurse the proper protocol and resulting in consistency of clinical care and improved patient outcomes. It also eliminated the need for the surgeon or the PA to remove the tube. She has presented the removal protocol at nursing conferences,
Ross employs a holistic approach when educating her patients and their families, assessing their learning needs, quickly adjusting her teaching style and content, and using demonstrations, visual aids and literature as alternative teaching tools. Patient and kind with her clients as they are learning and retaining information, Ross doesn’t stop teaching until they are able to verbalize understanding of the topic.
Teresa White, DNP, RN-BC
Clinical Nurse Educator, Professional Practice
SwedishAmerican, a Division of UW Health, Rockford, Ill.
While SwedishAmerican pursued Magnet designation, White and a small team of nurses helped to develop the professional practice model. She also led the development of the facility’s first clinical ladder for staff nurses, which recognizes nurses who go above and beyond to grow professionally and personally.
White has developed and coordinated the nurse residency program, which helps show the facility has invested in the successful transition of new graduates into practice and will continue that investment over time, decreasing turnover and regular transfers.
Her nominator said she has highlighted the role of an educator, demonstrating to others that it is a role they can consider and pursue. She encourages and mentors nurses to go back to school, to complete their specialty certification and to take on an evidence-based project or research. The unit has achieved a 26% certification rate, and 15% of the nurses are in school to pursue additional degrees. White has a passion for continuous professional development and has set an example for fellow nurses, having earned a doctoral degree.
Her nominator said White’s greatest contribution to the profession is her ability to help others see their own capabilities and how they can impact someone’s life through nursing. Not even realizing that she has this effect on others, she serves as an exemplary role model and a true professional nurse. White is well respected by her colleagues and the community, where she volunteers, speaks at conferences and teaches.
Excellence in Executive Leadership
Nancy Burke, MSN, ACNP
Director of Emergency and Behavioral Health Services
Advocate Christ Medical Center, Oak Lawn, Ill.
Considered an extraordinary leader, Burke directs emergency services at a level one trauma center and the behavioral health services program at the hospital. She has led initiatives for change that have vastly improved patient outcomes, and she has restructured staffing and cross-trained technicians to improve efficiency in the ED.
Burke has brought about a sense of ownership and autonomy to the bedside associates’ work life, according to her nominator, who said her boots-on-the-ground approach has helped enhance the patient experience by enabling them to make decisions.
Creating a groundbreaking approach, she used telemedicine to help ICU patients boarding in the ED by connecting them with an electronic ICU, so critical care physicians and nurses monitor and direct care and interventions from afar. Since the start of this program, the ED has had no serious safety events and more than 30% of ICU patients have been moved down to telemetry.
Burke also opened a geriatric track in the ED, increasing patient satisfaction and decreasing the “left without being seen” rate to 1%. Burke transformed the behavioral health department and created a behavioral rapid response team to reduce the risk of workplace violence and to have the proper people in place to care for patients having a mental health crisis. She recently was a representative at the annual National Association of Psychiatric Health System conference in Washington, D.C.
Her nominator praised her for touching so many lives, and for her ability to improve patient care through the many initiatives she has led.
Barbara Holmes Gobel, MS, RN, AOCN
Director of Professional Practice and Development and Magnet Program Director
Northwestern Memorial Hospital, Chicago
Gobel is dedicated to advancing nursing practice by providing opportunities for nurses to participate in and lead nursing research and evidence-based practice projects and supporting the ongoing educational development of nurses and nurse leaders.
She has participated in and led several research projects and serves as co-investigator for the Readiness Evaluation and Discharge Interventions Study, a multisite international study focusing on the development of skills and tools for patient discharge readiness as a standard nursing practice. She also oversees nursing governance and the activities of more than 500 clinical nurses involved in shared leadership committees, sub-committees, unit-based interprofessional committees and service-line nursing practice committees.
As Magnet program director, Gobel led the organization to attain its second Magnet redesignation. She has served on the Illinois Organization of Nurse Leaders board of directors and serves as the chairwoman of the program committee, boosting conference attendance by 30%. As a 2016 American Organization of Nurse Executives Nurse Director Fellow, she has set her sights on designing a dynamic leadership development program to meet the learning needs of nurse leaders.
Gobel recently was appointed secretary for the Oncology Nursing Society’s board of directors, and she also has shared her clinical knowledge and expertise in nurse education through work with international nurse leaders in Japan, Korea, Canada and Oman.
Her colleagues said she makes every research project, national board assignment or ordinary task a collaborative opportunity, and exemplifies what it means to be an excellent nurse and a transformational leader.
Patricia Nedved, MSN, RN, CENP, FABC
Acting Chief Nursing Officer
Rush University Medical Center, Chicago
Accountable for nursing leadership and practice across the medical center with responsibility for the direction of nursing operations and clinical services, including approximately 2,500 nurses, Nedved is a transformational leader and strong advocate for nursing, her nominator said.
She assumed full responsibility for the Magnet process, and the fourth Magnet designation was so successful the organization received three exemplars for outstanding achievements.
Nedved acts as chairwoman of the nursing quality improvement committee, and she empowers nurses to address nurse-sensitive indicators and quality measures. She helped develop protocols for nursing staff, such as nurses removing urinary catheters without a physician order, which led to a staggering decrease in catheter utilization days and an overall decrease in the number of catheter-associated urinary tract infections, her nominator said.
When an employee survey showed concerns about staffing, she and other senior leaders reviewed core nursing skills required to work in similar units and what skills were needed to go above and beyond. Based on the findings, they were able to build time into the budget and recalibrate resources to improve staffing. As a result of the improvements, the hospital significantly increased the percent of engaged nurses.
Her colleagues admire the way she sees the potential in people and helps them develop themselves professionally. A natural mentor and nursing champion, Nedved supports the importance of diversity to nursing leadership and her department by leading the team to implement the INROADS nurse extern program, which has been recognized for its success.
Jill Price, PhD, MSN, RN
Dean, Online RN-BSN Option, Post-Licensure
Chamberlain College of Nursing, Downers Grove, Ill.
Dean of the online RN-BSN option, postlicensure, at Chamberlain College of Nursing, Price oversees full-time and part-time faculty who work with thousands of online nursing students. She began working at Chamberlain as a faculty manager in 2009, then served as an assistant professor and assistant dean, and now as dean.
A dedicated nurse educator and strong pioneer in online education, she has effectively guided the faculty team, always encouraging and advocating for them. Described as someone who is extremely knowledgeable, sincere, involved and easy to approach, she supports her faculty members’ goals and aspirations, and does everything in her power to help faculty reach them, her nominator said.
Having served in a faculty position in the past, Price knows how the role and its workload demands can affect performance and job satisfaction. As dean, she successfully advocated to reduce faculty workload, and as a result of her efforts, faculty members have time to work on important and professionally relevant extracurricular projects, such as committee work, which has boosted motivation, enthusiasm and engagement. Nurses on the competency-based education committee have time to work on a new research-based program for the school, and the Sigma Theta Tau International counselor has time to plan a large induction ceremony. Price is admired for the consistent and uplifting way she recognizes and appreciates faculty members’ efforts to ensure students succeed, and in turn, she is committed to mentoring faculty and supporting their professional growth and development.
Susan Swart, MS, RN, CAE
ANA-Illinois, Illinois Society for Advanced Practice Nursing
and Illinois Nurses Foundation, Manteno, Ill.
Swart serves as executive director of ANA-Illinois, the Illinois Society of Advanced Practice Nursing and the Illinois Nurses Foundation, handling day-to-day operations, carrying out the vision set by the board of directors, and advocating for the profession in a variety of settings. Swart presents to schools of nursing, healthcare organizations and professional organizations on a variety of topics including political advocacy, leadership, professional nursing roles and communication. She has played an essential role in reinvigorating the association, which has grown under her leadership, nearly tripling its membership to 3,000 nurses.
She had a vision of saving nursing money by not duplicating valuable resources, and that has proven to be an outstanding idea, financially and globally for nursing, according to her nominator. She is in an ideal role and is an outstanding advocate to identify what forces are affecting not just one branch of nursing, but every one, and then takes the necessary action.
Being at the table is critical for advancement of access to quality patient care for Illinois residents, and by doing what she does so well, Swart is fostering high-quality healthcare for patients and helping to remove obstacles for advanced practice nurses working to their full potential, her nominator said.
Swart also has served as a co-lead for the Illinois Healthcare Action Coalition, which received funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to build and sustain a 21st-century workforce. Her colleagues admire the way she leads by example and ensures that nurses at all settings are represented when decisions are being made.
Gina Reid Tinio, PhD, MS, MPH, RN-BC
Senior Director, Department of Professional Development
Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage
and Delnor Hospitals, Winfield, Ill.
As senior director of professional development for a region within a health system, Tinio is responsible for the onboarding, training, continuing education and staff development for all clinical areas in two facilities.
To enhance collaboration and learning between organizations, she developed a cross-campus shared governance committee focusing on nursing process improvement efforts, and she revamped the organizational orientation and clinical advancement approach to include a simulation model that supports staff with learning at the novice to expert level.
Tinio played an integral role in the development of the organizationwide professional practice model, relationship-based care that was implemented in a stepwise and methodical manner starting with several inpatient units and spreading to all units and departments, including ancillary areas, said her nominator. While creating the model, she acted upon her department’s employee engagement results to guide her team’s plans and actions.
During the past several years, her nursing research committee has helped nurses complete numerous projects resulting in more than 10 national presentations and journal articles, and she has developed a process to cultivate nurses to translate research into clinical practice with numerous projects coming to fruition.
She coordinates all contracts with colleges and universities and supports all clinical site experiences for students in the healthcare field including nursing, paraprofessionals, imaging and paramedic training.
Her nominator said one of her greatest strengths is her ability to create a vision and organize a tactical plan to achieve the intended goals.
Excellence in Management
Maureen Canavan, MSN, RN-BC
Manager Clinical Operations, 4 West
Advocate Christ Medical Center, Oak Lawn, Ill.
A highly respected leader, Canavan manages clinical operations for a 32-bed med/surg unit, working collaboratively with her director and 88 nurses and patient care associates on the top-performing unit, said her nominator.
She is a management representative of the site falls committee and management co-sponsor for the shared practice council. In these roles, Canavan is a guiding element for staff members who comprise the committees. She contributes innovative and resourceful information to enrich the substance of these committees.
Her unit consistently meets its target for patient engagement. Staff members are highly engaged in their roles, and this is due, in part, to the nominee leading by example, her nominator said. She ensures consistent, quality care is provided to patients, including addressing all of the patients’ needs on a holistic level. She is a highly respected leader in the organization, who is called upon for advice by her colleagues. Canavan leads by example and is a hands-on leader, always visible and available to staff, physicians and others. She mentors staff and new managers in the organization and lends her expertise and experience when called upon to assist on a day-to-day basis. Staff looks to her as a manager, but also as an expert in her profession. She is a respected leader, whom many will call on for support and guidance. She is considered a go-to by other managers within the organization and interacts with compassionately and caring to patients and families.
Charlotte Ramazinski, RN, CNML
Assistant Unit Director, Cardiac ICU
Rush University Medical Center, Chicago
Responsible and accountable for the quality of patient and family care provided on the cardiac ICU, Ramazinski knows what is the right thing to do and moves forward get it done, according to her nominator, who said she approaches each new challenge with a special enthusiasm, humor, sage wisdom, research and innovative practice. Described as someone who has a clear and strong vision and is an effective problem solver, Ramazinski has mentored and encouraged countless staff nurses, many of whom have gone on to advanced practice roles or held other leadership positions within the organization.
An empathetic listener, Ramazinski is admired for her natural and exceptional ability to relate well with her team, and frequently serves as a sounding board for staff members when they have professional issues and personal concerns.
She is a tireless patient and staff advocate, and one of her favorite sayings is, “Why reinvent the wheel?” Ramazinski thoroughly researches clinical issues, always looking for best practices to share and implement with her team. Among her many initiatives, she succeeded in having palliative care included on all order sets, promoting patient and family participation in their own healthcare and well-being and having RNs complete skin checks on patient admissions to improve identification of pre-existing wounds.
A person who does it all, she inspires staff to do more, be more and give more so they can serve as the best possible nurses to their patients and families, her nominator said.
Maureen Romeo, MSN, RN, NE-BC
Clinical Director, Medical Care Center
Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital
As clinical director, Romeo leads a busy, 72-bed patient care unit with more than 100 direct-care staff. Always keeping the patient experience at the front and center, she makes sure she takes the time to round on patients and their families in order to learn about and help them with their concerns and goals. She supports her associate manager who co-leads a team that performs purposeful hourly rounding. Her nursing unit has consistently performed above the 90th percentile for patient satisfaction, and she reviews the patient experience results with staff, facilitating a unit-focused physician team to review them as well.
Always thinking of innovative and effective ways to take care of her team, Romeo has developed an excellent orientation program and conducts formal meetings with all new employees, her nominator said. She is a strong supporter of shared decision making on the unit, and mentors staff to conduct and lead evidence-based projects. This year, her unit received the best possible ranking, Tier 1, in the employee engagement survey. Romeo mentors graduate nursing students in completing their school practice projects on her unit, and she takes an interest in and encourages undergraduate nursing students who complete their rotations there.
She is described as someone who says, “I will volunteer to do it,” and among her many accomplishments, she is admired for the way she stays personally connected to everyone on her team. Because of these positive staff relationships, she easily engages them to participate in a variety of unit initiatives, positively affecting the patient experience, safety and quality.
Cheryl Siegall, MS, RN, PMHCNS-BC
Program Director, Rush Day Hospital, Psychiatry
Rush University Medical Center, Chicago
As program director since 1992, Siegall manages a staff of seven qualified and skilled clinicians who provide exceptional care for patients with mental health disease, said her nominator. She also assists in the marketing of the program to organizations and other groups. Because of her dedication and vision, the day hospital has continued to develop and flourish.
At the program’s inception, Siegall was given a small budget, a few staff positions, some second-hand furniture and a few rooms in a little building near the campus of Rush University Medical Center.
Siegall envisioned how patients could heal in an outpatient intensive therapeutic group setting. As a result of her transformational leadership over the past 24 years, there have been numerous and positive changes, resulting in the day hospital thriving, bridging the gap between inpatient and outpatient care, and helping individuals whose lives feel broken to learn to live again, her nominator said.
Not only has she consistently met her year-to-date targeted budgets and kept staff engagement at 100%, but she Siegall also has led the team in focusing on providing high-quality care to an increasing number of patients.
“A beacon of light in a world full of darkness” was how one reviewer from The Joint Commission recently described the day hospital. Not only is the facility what Siegall envisioned prior to its creation, but it also now is said to be her heart and soul and her legacy.
Diane Stonner, MSN, RN, APN, RNC-NIC
Patient Care Manager, NICU
Northwestern Memorial Hospital/Prentice Women’s Hospital, Chicago
Described as a quietly visible and leader, Stonner possesses the special ability to be at the right place at the right time, to the point that “some staff, patients and families have pondered if she has wings and might even be an angel,” her nominator said. Stonner began working in the NICU as an agency nurse and eventually accepted the manager role. A foundation is the unit, she is admired for the way she never loses sight of her patients, their families and her team. She recognizes the strength of stakeholders in team success by creating respectful and trusting relationships with support services. Her strength as a unifying force comes from her ability to balance, fulfill and excel in many roles, according to her nominator.
One example of her ability to successfully change practice is the increase in exclusive breast-feeding rates on the unit, from 15% in 2011 to 65% in 2016. Respected and valued by her nurses, she works diligently to bring residents and student interns across disciplines into the NICU environment, and her ongoing work on staff engagement supports the patient experience with NICU scores in the national top decile for “likelihood to recommend” and “works together as a team.”
Her personal and professional commitment to nursing and healthcare are clearly demonstrated in all she does. She is able to motivate her team around a common purpose and mission, and her staff knows she genuinely cares about them.
Gail Tagney, MSN, RN, CNS-BC, NEA-BC
Director of Patient Care Services, 6 WSD and MICU
University of Illinois Hospital and Health Sciences System, Chicago
Managing about 150 employees in the 19-bed MICU, 27-bed step down unit and 96-bed telemetry department, Tagney takes the time to mentor new staff and motivates experienced staff to further their education. More than half of the RNs in the ICU have achieved certification in their specialty, and two of her employees recently became nurse practitioners. Tagney is recognized for the way she supports staff members, and is willing to work with them to balance work, school and their personal lives.
A committed and dedicated manager, Tagney is highly visible and well-liked by patients, staff and other members of the healthcare team. Tagney has been involved in multiple initiatives to benefit the unit and the entire facility. She likes to hire nursing students as nurse technicians and help them develop into successful registered nurses. She initiated the Condition H Team — not a medical emergency team, but a team that responds to patients and families when they feel their needs are not being heard by the medical team. Since its inception, multiple areas of improvement have been identified and implemented for better patient care and outcomes. She initiated bedside report two years ago and that is now being adopted in the rest of the organization. Tagney also facilitates a group of nurses who meet with other disciplines, such as pharmacy and physicians, to collaborate on facility protocols. Under her direction, the team is working on a hospitalwide initiative to implement an alcohol withdrawal protocol.
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.
Find out more about the annual Nurse.com GEM (Giving Excellence Meaning) program.
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