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
Jessica Albers, BSN, MFS, RN, SANE-A, SANE-P
SANE Team Leader
Hays (Kan.) Medical Center
Albers provides outstanding care for victims of sexual and domestic violence, her nominator said. She leads a team of six nurse examiners and strives to assure that her facility’s program is using the latest research and data.
Her drive to bring the best care to her community and to the state led her to establish a forensic symposium hosted by her facility and attended by members of the profession from across the state, and to serve as a role model for new members of her profession.
Albers and her SANE team collaborate with law enforcement and local agencies to provide education to nurses and local, county and state law enforcement. Through the program, she has brought several conferences to the facility to educate and promote awareness about child abuse, domestic violence and human trafficking. Albers has been instrumental in growing the number of SANE professionals in the western half of the state.
Certified in adult and pediatric levels of the specialty, Albers recognized the difficulty of obtaining training in the SANE field in a cost-effective manner, so she initiated and organized a live model training for SANE nurses. By bringing training close to home, she has helped prepare more SANE nurses who can better serve their patients. Her nominator said Albers’ energy and enthusiasm have encouraged and inspired others, resulting in the development of a first-class program for her organization as measured against others in the region and state.
Ann Benedict, MSN, RN, CCRN
Clinical Staff Nurse, PICU
The Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston
Patient care has been strengthened as a result of Benedict’s involvement in practice improvement initiatives where she works in the 14-bed pediatric cardiology ICU, sometimes in the charge nurse or preceptor roles.
For example, she spearheaded a project that reviewed the means of obtaining blood samples from arterial catheters in the PICU. The project evaluated the evidence of comparative studies between closed blood conservation devices with stopcocks and determined and implemented best practices. Data collected showed in 2015 there were four sustained quarters of compliance with the best practice change recommendation, a result partly due to Benedict’s efforts.
Starting in January 2015, Benedict acted as chairwoman of an eight-member Beacon award team. The PICU received high marks from the Beacon appraisers, including observations of refined processes applied systematically with participation by key stakeholders and clear evidence of learning and cycles of improvement. Appraisers noted that learning is shared with others as the unit approaches or exceeds industry benchmarks in many areas. Also noted was that the unit has a consistent application of evidence-based practice led by Benedict, and the ability to take what is learned and to translate it into best practice at the bedside. Benedict’s commitment to excellence is commended by her supervisor, her nominator said.
Her innovative problem solving strategies have benefitted patients as well. When central supply ran out of specialized tubing that a patient required, Benedict and a co-worker devised an appropriate tubing substitute system until the required tubing could be restocked.
Susan Krause, MSN, RN, CWS, CWOCN
Inpatient Wound Care Coordinator
Texas Health Huguley Hospital, Fort Worth
As the inpatient wound care coordinator, Krause has been instrumental in developing a comprehensive wound care program that is in place throughout the hospital and works in conjunction with the outpatient program.
Her compassionate love of teaching and her work motivate Krause to disseminate knowledge about the specialty. She provides educational programs for the staff, including classroom programs as well as an abundance of one-on-one training to individual nurses on the units.
Outside the hospital, Krause offers four-hour community presentations on ostomy skills and care of ostomy patients to people in nursing homes, skilled and assisted living facilities, and home care agencies. She also volunteers to provide unfunded patients with wound care following hospital discharge to prevent readmission.
Her love of teaching also has led her to act as preceptor to more than 20 new wound care students, helping them pass their national board exams.
Krause serves on the national Wound Ostomy Continence Nurses Society public policy committee and is involved in writing white papers, editing position papers and acting as communication liaison between the national committee and state and local entities. As a member of the National Ostomy Forum and in conjunction with manufacture representatives, she helps to develop new products that better meet the needs of ostomy patients.
She also serves on several interdisciplinary teams for the facility, and helps coordinate care for unfunded patients with social services, dietary, physical therapy and physicians by setting up patients with visits to free regional clinics, along with medical follow-up and pharmacy support.
Sheeba Ninan, DNP, APRN, BC
Nurse Practitioner, Pain Management
Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center, Houston
Ninan works as a nurse practitioner in primary care at her facility, which serves more than 1,500 patients. She demonstrates clinical competence, sound clinical judgment and care management in her daily practice, as evidenced by her consistently meeting the performance measures of her team, her nominator said.
Among her successes is the hypertension group clinic which she initiated, involving an interdisciplinary team. In addition to regular clinic attendance, patients are educated on healthy diet and exercise and evaluated for medication compliance. Ninan also meets with each patient individually. Blood pressure control has improved from 82.6% to 91%; patient satisfaction is high; and the clinic process has been duplicated by other healthcare providers.
During her term as the council chairwoman of the facility’s APRN council, she identified that there was no standardized scope of practice for the APRNs. She formed a task force with colleagues and developed one, which is now being used by the entire facility, allowing the credentialing committee to expedite the credentialing process for APRNs.
Ninan’s work in pain assessment and treatment has improved control for patients in chronic pain. This effort also brought about staff education for those who lacked knowledge on thorough pain assessments as well as a hospitalwide presentation for nursing staff on pain assessment — key to effective pain management.
Serving as the mentorship committee chairwoman Ninan has been instrumental in the growth, development and orientation of new staff, and has developed a successful mentorship effort in coordination with the recruitment and education departments.
Karrie Wells, BSN, RN
Registered Nurse, ED
Arkansas Heart Hospital, Little Rock
Wells is a respected member of a special staffing team in her 300+ bed pediatric hospital, providing clinical coverage to all inpatient units within the hospital as well as the postanesthesia care unit, ED, dialysis and Arkansas’ only burn center. She also serves as a relief nursing supervisor offering constructive feedback for team members’ evaluations and leading a group that mentors, advises and educates staff. She works with another facility in the city to provide coverage for pediatric patients who require clinical services and the use of specialized equipment at her own facility.
A skilled and expert clinician, Wells is known to take initiative, support staff and care for patients at a moment’s notice. Her colleagues admire the way she supported a nurse in the PICU who was caring for two critically ill patients, and then was called to assist in staffing the ED during a critical surge alert status.
Confident and capable, Wells seamlessly switched from one critical situation to the other, providing quality care to patients and their families and much needed support to her fellow nurses.
In developing a structure of pediatric care coverage for patients outside her facility, Wells has cultivated a working and collaborative relationship with the hospital’s staff, diligently working to improve patient care and staff and facility relationships. On the coordinating council, Wells works closely with the director of nursing to develop and write the bylaws, establishing goals and guidelines for both the unit-based and organizational councils.
Excellence in Community Care
Amy Choitz, BS, RN
Cardiac Rehab Clinical Coordinator, Cardiac Pulmonary Rehab
Hays (Kan.) Medical Center
Choitz always finds a way to significantly impact the care and quality of life for hundreds of patients annually in the rural areas of Kansas, her nominator said.
Responsible for an outpatient rehab unit, Choitz developed a tele-rehab program, which was the largest of its kind in the state. After being disbanded because of lack of vendor support, she was determined to continue to help the 16 small, rural facilities, and focused on finding a way to keep their rehab programs alive. Not to be deterred, Choitz uncovered software solutions, set up numerous demonstrations, invited the facilities to participate in them and now continues to help develop the skill set of the staff at these small facilities, serving as a mentor, subject matter expert and adviser.
As a member-at-large on the Missouri/Kansas state organization for cardiopulmonary rehabilitation, she attended the Day on the Hill conference in Washington, D.C., and is working with state and national organizations on issues related to insurance coverage and physician supervision of cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation.
Active and involved, Choitz serves on a committee for educating the community regarding heart disease and participates on the medical fitness advisory committee at the center. Her integral role in the center’s medical fitness accreditation has significantly improved the transition of patients from rehab to fitness.
A strong advocate and outstanding clinician, Choitz has been a strong catalyst for the optimization of quality cardiac rehab programs in rural Kansas, her nominator said.
Dawna Jennings, BSN, RN
Administrative Director, Texas Health Huguley Surgery Center
Texas Health Huguley Hospital, Burleson
One of Jennings’ greatest contributions to her facility and the profession, her nominator said, is the development of an outstanding team at the center, resulting in a workplace with a culture of safety and a staff who has received high patient care and employee satisfaction scores.
As administrative director of the freestanding surgery center, which averages 3,800 to 4,000 procedures annually, her responsibilities include management, administration and human resources duties, as well as maintenance of all regulatory guidelines, including The Joint Commission, the CDC and the American Operating Room Nurses Association.
Innovative and collaborative, Jennings engaged staff in working on an evidence-based practice project related to increased risk of cross-contamination of stretchers in the high-turnover endoscopy unit. As a result of their research, staff made changes in procedures so endoscopy patients have a reduced chance of cross-contamination and decreased risk of spreading C. difficile. The practice has been so successful that the endoscopy lab in the hospital adopted the changes into its department and practice, her nominator said.
Among her many accomplishments, Jennings also led and guided her team through an opportunity for improvement in the patient and family experience in their department. Observing that patients and family had limited choices during their wait for procedures, she formed a team to discuss possible solutions. They decided to purchase five electronic tablets for patients and families so they would have access to games, movies, music applications and the Internet. Through this collaboration, Press Ganey satisfaction scores for delays significantly improved.
Allison Lowderman, DNP, APRN, FNP-BC
Nurse Practitioner, The Center for Concussion Management
The University of Kansas Hospital, Kansas City
Lowderman works alongside several physicians in many different specialties at the Center for Concussion Management, which is now seeking to be a Center for Excellence in the Midwest. Lowderman has more than 80 patients under her care and is deeply engaged in the development of community education programs on concussion, her nominator said.
By helping to design algorithms to create continuity of care for concussion patients, Lowderman makes sure the standards are congruent with the international standards. By having a team approach, the patients are treated in the most effective and comprehensive way with evidence-based practice, her nominator said.
Responsible for the development of new education programs, Lowderman has created several initiatives for the center. For example, she developed a tele-concussion program to help those across the bi-state area who would otherwise not be able to receive access to specialized care. She also advocates for increased access to care for patients in underserved communities, automatically improving recovery time because they can receive care more quickly.
As a direct result of her efforts, patients experience increased access to care, resulting in decreased days for patients to return to life and improved patient outcomes. Lowderman is said to be next to the patient every step of the way, encouraging, advocating, educating, inspiring and helping them recover. She inspires her patients to trust her, and through that trust they are able to recover more fully from brain injury.
Lisa Mason, BSN, RN
Registered Nurse Field Clinician, Forsyth County Visits
Bayada Home Health, Winston Salem, N.C.
As a field clinician in home health, Mason case manages at least 15 patients in the home care setting. She formulates, sets up, implements and evaluates individualized care plans; coordinates comprehensive care with other disciplines and physicians; and makes certain that all her patients’ physical, emotional and social needs are met by the department’s services, her nominator said.
A committed patient care advocate whose patients always comes first, Mason has been known to call four different physicians from a patient’s home to get the medical orders she needs for their care. Her nominator praised Mason for her enthusiasm and willingness to act as a preceptor for home healthcare, often taking nurses with no experience and teaching them the ropes about home healthcare in the Medicare environment. An excellent clinician and natural teacher, she also leads and supports her colleagues to comply with all regulatory and Medicare dictums.
Mason often chooses to care for very complex and difficult clients and always meets the patients’ and families’ needs beyond their care expectations. Patients and families often rave about Mason’s excellent and exceptional care, and one did not want to be discharged from home health services, even though his wounds were healed, because Mason had become such an important part of the family.
Always looking for ways to coach and mentor others, Mason has mastered the art of home healthcare, said her nominator, who described her as a true asset to her patients, her peers and her organization.
Susan Potter, RN
RN Case Manager, Nursing
AseraCare Hospice, Hamilton, Ala.
The growth and continued success of her agency, which covers six counties, is directly related to the excellent care Potter provides, her nominator said. As a case manager, Potter provides comprehensive care to her patients by coordinating and providing nursing assessment, planning and care, maximizing the comfort and health of patients and families and collaborating with other interdisciplinary healthcare team members. Potter also helps to train new employees, orienting them to home care and coaching them in their new role and responsibilities.
Prior to joining the organization, Potter primarily worked in skilled nursing facilities as an RN supervisor and assistant director of nursing. In her current role, she uses her previous skills, knowledge and expertise to help move the agency forward in communicating and collaborating with local skilled nursing facilities.
Potter is credited with obtaining a contract with a skilled nursing facility within her visit area after many others attempted to do so. Her nominator said Potter was successful with the contract as soon as the facility witnessed the capable and caring work she and her team provided.
Along with the essential physical care, Potter is admired for the way she provides high quality psychosocial and spiritual interventions for patients and families, and she is known to handle uncertain or uncomfortable situations with confidence and skill. The most recent initiative she has been involved in is a performance improvement project focused on providing additional support and guidance to families after the death of a loved one.
Eloise Woodside-Ramirez, RN
Clinical Manager 2
Bayada Home Health Care, Salisbury, N.C.
Woodside-Ramirez manages a caseload of about 35 clients in pediatrics, is in charge of the development of individualized care plans and directly supervises all clinical field staff involved in patient care.
Known for her poise, calm and confidence, Woodside-Ramirez remains patient-focused and positive in difficult situations and is described as a leader who empowers, inspires and supports her office team and field staff.
She takes the time to mentor and support both clinicians and staff in nonclinical positions, and was commended by management for her ability to balance a case load with both skilled nursing and personal care of pediatric patients, while successfully passing internal and state clinical audits.
In addition to clinical leadership, Woodside-Ramirez also mentors and trains adult and geriatric nurses, guiding them in the transition from providing adult and geriatric care to providing care for infant and pediatric clients. She teaches an introduction to pediatric and tracheostomy/ventilator care course and also provides direct skill training for CNAs.
As the infection control delegate for the facility, she ensures that field staff maintain their infection control inservices and they are aware of specific ways to prevent the spread of infection to their clients when providing care.
Woodside-Ramirez is admired for the way she balances so many roles well and helps her staff meet the standards that is set for every clinician. She is a team player who is always willing to do what it takes to ensure the clients and their families come first, her nominator said.
Excellence in Education and Mentorship
Kathleen Atwell, MSN, RN-BC
Education Coordinator, Education Department
Texas Health Huguley Hospital-Fort Worth South, Burleson
Atwell is responsible for ensuring adherence and compliance with the Joint Commission education standards for her organization, which spans the continuum from orientation classes for new nursing service employees to continuing education.
As the CNE provider unit director and primary nurse planner, Atwell has the authority, accountability and responsibility for all operation aspects of the facility CNE provider program. She has developed and presented numerous educational activities, including a two-day cardiac arrhythmia course and a course on promoting a just culture — an exploration of ethical, nonpunitive error reporting for hospital leadership.
Recently, Atwell contributed to the application for the Pathway to Excellence redesignation, writing the sections related to education and orientation. The facility successfully received its redesignation and earned an exemplar for the orientation process Atwell created.
Atwell is regional faculty for the American Heart Association for Basic Life Support, serving as a resource to training centers, training center faculty and instructors as well as conducting site visits and monitoring courses for BLS Training Centers.
One of Atwell’s major accomplishments was the writing of a proposal to administration for the hospital to provide an online continuing education program for nursing staff, which serves as a valuable retention tool and is popular with nursing staff, her nominator said.
Recognized as someone who always looks to revitalize whatever she is involved in, Atwell and her staff recently revamped the nursing orientation program, including an individualized residency program for new graduates, and developed a new orientation program for new managers and directors.
Annie Clavon, PhD, MSN, ARNP, CCRC
Nursing Instructor, Nursing Department
Keiser University, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
As a nursing instructor, Clavon’s primary role at the university is to provide classroom instruction on effective leadership and management in nursing. She also supervises undergraduate nursing students on a telemetry unit at a local hospital, often participates in mentoring new instructors in their roles and responsibilities, and is known to step in whenever an instructor is needed in the clinical setting.
She created and introduced double teaching at the school, and it is an effective instruction method still used by nursing instructors at the university today. Devoted to nursing education and student success, Clavon has tutored many students at Keiser and other institutions to assist them in passing the NCLEX test and gaining more confidence and theoretical and clinical knowledge, her nominator said.
Clavon has published a number of nursing articles in the Journal of Military Medicine, Minority Journal and Journal of Gerontological Nursing, and her article “The Black Elderly,” has been recognized and is frequently referenced in current professional journals. She also contributes to the growth and development of the profession through research, specifically focusing on research that examines the effectiveness of nursing instructors’ various teaching styles and students’ methods of learning. One hundred and five nursing instructors from the northern and southern regions of the U.S. have participated in her study.
Active and involved in service efforts, Clavon volunteers for the VITAS Hospice and Palliative Care organization, and encourages nursing students to join her on weekends to work for Habitat for Humanity.
Rhonda Fuselier, MSN, MHA, RNC-OB, C-EFM
Educator, Charge RN, Women’s Services
Texas Health Huguley Hospital, Burleson
Fuselier is admired for the way she willingly and confidently takes on performance improvement projects, involving herself in more than 15 of them over the last few years and focusing on the implementation of evidence-based and best practices. In addition to her role as charge nurse of women’s services, Fuselier is the part-time educator for the OB/GYN department, which includes labor and delivery, postpartum, nursery and gynecology.
When the hospital joined the Texas Ten Step Star Achiever Breastfeeding Learning Collaborative in 2013, Fuselier assumed a leadership role in the work that needed to be done on the unit, supporting the collaborative team and encouraging the rest of the staff to engage in the new clinical practices.
Fuselier is recognized as someone who loves to work with new nurses on the unit, and she has spent many hours revamping the individualized orientation process so they are effectively oriented to the department and hospital, her nominator said. As an obstetrics clinical instructor for BSN students at a local university, Fuselier supervises up to 10 students per semester in their hospital rotations.
Described as an inspiring role model for others, she sets an outstanding example by advancing the nursing profession through continuing education and taking an active part in the professional opportunities available at the facility. She was one of the first nurses on the unit to participate in the clinical ladder, and because of her leadership and mentorship, more than 19 peers are actively participating in the program, her nominator said.
Rose McGhie-Anderson, PhD, MSc, RN, CEN
Assistant Professor, Nursing
Chamberlain College of Nursing, Miramar, Fla.
McGhie-Anderson is the coordinator for adult health nursing, the ATI ambassador for academic assessment 1 and student success 1, and has taught in the classroom and clinical setting in maternal and child health, pathophysiology, adult health, critical care, fundamental and pharmacology. She is known as an excellent mentor for new faculty as well as for students preparing to sit for the NCLEX.
McGhie-Anderson exposes her students to the various aspects of community health and instructs them on improving their learning strategies and applying critical thinking while in the clinical setting. A supporter of professional advancement among nurses, she conducted a research study on critical factors that influence diploma and associate degree nurses to advance in the profession.
She possesses a deep concern for the well-being of the people of Haiti, and has been involved in healthcare there since the earthquake, returning to the country several times every year. From 2011-2013, McGhie-Anderson served as president of the Haitian American Nurses Association of Florida and continues to participate in strategy meetings with leaders in Haiti and U.S., brainstorming means to improve the nursing profession in the country. She is the chairwoman of education and in that capacity she leads local health fairs, participates in mentoring programs and participates in continuous education courses for the members.
A role model to both students and colleagues, McGhie-Anderson encourages those in her spheres of influence toward cultural sensitivity and providing excellent patient and family care in the community, her nominator said.
Anne Naulty, MSN, RN, PCCN
RN III Adjunct Faculty, CCU, Nursing
National American University, Overland Park, Kan.
Naulty created and designed a number of patient and family teaching tools, including a pain brochure which has been responsible for raising HCAHPS scores by an average of 20 points. Working part-time on a 16-bed CCU, Naulty is a clinical nursing instructor for two universities and is working on a PhD in nursing education and community health.
The pain brochure she developed became a unit project, which then segued into being used throughout the entire facility. Diligent and dedicated to the project, Naulty expanded the brochure’s message by creating signs to be posted in each patient’s room, and nurses also wore buttons promoting the important message of pain control. Currently, this patient teaching tool has been included in the hospital’s admission packet, and nurses use it as a way to help patients and their families about pain control.
Colleagues admire the way Naulty understands people and works hard to educate and advocate for patients and their families. She also has educated hundreds of nursing students, all of whom have passed their NCLEX.
She is involved in many hospital committees, including the unit education council, the research committee and the ethics committee. It is said by colleagues that she is committed to being the best nurse she can be, taking excellent care of all of her patients and their families. She tells her patients that she will treat them as if they were part of her own family, and she always does.
Lynda Newsome, BSN, RN
Clinical Diabetes Educator, CNDH
Wayne UNC Health Care, Goldsboro, N.C.
Described as innovative and an expert in her specialty, Newsome is constantly striving to develop her teaching style to improve the learning experience and knowledge retention of patients with diabetes at her 250+ bed rural nonprofit hospital, in both the inpatient and outpatient diabetes services.
Newsome individualizes learning by integrating auditory, visual and kinesthetic elements in her presentations, and she is piloting an interactive 3D wall board, allowing her to demonstrate the long-term effects of uncontrolled diabetes on various bodily systems. She uses handheld tablets for patients with vision problems and for those who learn best in a more interactive learning environment, and incorporates other innovative elements into her teaching presentations including games, mini-workouts and hands-on demonstrations of diabetes self-management skills, such as dental care and foot inspections.
Always looking for ways to care for the whole person, Newsome incorporated the patient health questionnaire-9 into her diabetes core curriculum to help identify patients experiencing depression. She privately follows those individuals with identified needs, facilitating access to mental health resources for them. By establishing a collaborative partnership with the hospital’s psychiatric and counseling department, she can directly refer identified high risk and suicidal patients for immediate help.
To standardize diabetes management principles hospitalwide, Newsome implemented the diabetes ninja initiative, which encourages improved staff knowledge and evidence-based inpatient diabetic management. Documentation of responses to hypoglycemia and bedside teaching of diabetes management skills has increased significantly while hypoglycemia rates, medication errors and length of stay have decreased, her nominator said.
Excellence in Executive Leadership
Tammy Collier, MSB, RN, NEA-BC, FACHE
Vice President, Patient Care Services/CNO
Texas Health Huguley Hospital, Burleson
Collier consistently builds, supports and enhances organizational talent by acting as a role model and mentor in a 223-bed suburban hospital. Seven service line directors report directly to her, and she has responsibility for more than 500 nursing and non-nursing employees.
Her nominator credits her outstanding work in leading the facility to achieve the highest quartiles in all core measures, making the hospital a leader in both systems and bringing the best care to patients. Collier pilots a number of programs to improve patient care as well as patient and nursing safety. For example, the facility was the first in the system to implement the EMR and bar code scanning. However, when the blood bar code scanning was not progressing as planned, she was the one to let everyone know that it needed more work before being used for patient care.
Through her strong leadership, an interdisciplinary ED strategy team was developed that focused on key patient care and staff initiatives, recognizing, for example, that throughput is not just an ED issue, but a hospital one. As a result of the team’s efforts, ED satisfaction scores significantly improved. Another interdisciplinary team under her leadership has worked on postoperative pain management, bringing one unit’s overall pain management scores to the 99th percentile for HCAHPS.
Collier actively listens and hears what staff members have to say, following up on what they tell her. She recently started a reverse mentoring program, another innovative strategy toward staff satisfaction and nursing retention.
Pamela Dotson, MBA, RN, NEA-BC
Senior Vice President, Patient Care Services/CNO
St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Memphis, Tenn.
Leading nurses and overseeing multiple additional departments in a 64-bed pediatric oncology hospital, Dotson has an outstanding reputation for the depth of support she provides to her nursing staff. The facility has 200-300 outpatient visits daily, and approximately 450 nurses plus CNAs and utility technicians report to Dotson.
Under her strong and steady leadership, the facility received Magnet accreditation and was recognized as exemplifying nursing excellence; several of the facility’s Magnet stories were identified as exemplars of best practices to be disseminated to other hospitals and nurses. This prestigious achievement was especially noteworthy because the hospital is smaller than most that have achieved Magnet status.
Described as committed and dedicated, Dotson leads the hospital in shared decision making as well as a team of directors and managers who identify and ensure all nurses have what they need to provide stellar patient care. Dotson allows every nurse the opportunity to be involved in care improvements and ensures they have the time to participate, her nominator said.
Dotson is heading the resiliency project, a large-scale effort that examines the specific parameters of emotional fatigue nurses experience, especially in this care setting. Once the parameters are identified, Dotson and her team plan on identifying and implementing programs that will increase the resiliency of the bedside caregiver at the facility. The hospital’s success in patient and family care is recognized as a direct result of Dotson’s advocacy for nursing and patient care excellence, her nominator said.
Lora Duncan, MSN, MBA, RN
Director, Nursing Practice and Professional Development
Charleston Area Medical Center, Charleston, W.Va.
In her leadership role, Duncan is determined and committed to making sure others succeed and thrive in their professional life. Overseeing the education needs of all nurses, nursing assistants and healthcare coordinators, she is responsible for more than 5,000 employees and oversees four education specialists and four education coordinators. She also is responsible for the oversight and implementation of all policies and procedures.
Considered an exemplary role model for nurses, managers and other directors, Duncan works closely with those who are involved in both the clinical and operational sides of the organization, dedicating her time, expertise and talent to all four of the organization’s facilities, her nominator said. Among her many accomplishments is a successful mentoring program she has developed for new managers through a virtual online education module.
Duncan is said to have brought about positive change through her involvement with the West Virginia Future of Nursing organization, in which she is an active member, and she is a founding member of the West Virginia Organization of Nurse Executives. Supporting the Nurses on Boards Coalition and its goal of getting 10,000 RNs on boards by 2020, she actively encourages more RNs to become professionally active through board service.
Duncan advocates for those who have experienced child abuse, and according to her nominator, she is “living out her passion” by helping others reach their professional and personal goals. Exuding compassion and determination, Duncan inspires others by her actions and her positive way of being.
Kathleen Harlow, MSN, RNC-OB
Director of Women’s Services, Labor and Delivery, Nursery
Texas Health Huguley Fort Worth South Hospital
Having served in nursing with the military, Harlow brought impressive clinical skills and creative problem solving to women’s services at her institution, her nominator said. She oversees all operations of the women’s health services, which include labor and delivery, recovery rooms, two ORs, nursery, and postpartum/GYN.
Harlow initiated the department on the journey toward baby-friendly status by the World Health Organization, and she and the cardiopulmonary director are working collaboratively to support respiratory therapists in completing the neonatal resuscitation program and attend all C-section deliveries. She also ensures that all nurses working in labor and delivery complete advanced cardiac life support.
As a result of her leadership and efforts to decrease the number of elective inductions prior to 39 weeks, the hospital has received recognition through the March of Dimes award. Harlow also oversees the nurse clinician program, which ensures that a specially trained nurse is present at every delivery to address possible newborn stabilization issues.
As the organization constructs a new hospital, Harlow is providing vision and ideas from her previous for-profit and nonprofit nursing roles, and one of her assignments is to assist with the design of the new women’s services for the facility.
She has brought the knowledge of community standards to her role, and with her work in the military, she is also very knowledgeable of many regulatory changes that have been made, said her nominator.
Harlow is described as a professional who calls upon her clinical experiences, knowledge and talent to effect changes that bring quality care to the department and the facility.
Jamie Mathis, MSN, RN
Administrative Director, Ambulatory Care Services
Harris Health System, Houston
Mathis serves as administrative director of ambulatory care services which provide more than 1 million primary care visits annually, including six same-day clinics, ambulatory clinical case management, patient education, nutrition services, community outreach and more than 200 employees among three hospitals and 23 community health centers.
Charged with opening and operating the six same-day clinics within the healthcare system, Mathis has successfully met the goal of expanding access in primary care and relieving congested emergency care centers. To date, the same-day clinics have seen more than 112,000 patients.
Mathis’ efforts also have positively impacted the community by improving rates of patients receiving diabetic foot examinations by 39% within a year, and boosted the rate of pneumococcal vaccines by 44%. Because of her leadership in educating staff, the hospital has experienced these improved patient outcomes, her nominator said.
Mathis is leading a population health initiative to decrease diabetics’ hemoglobin A1c, implementing a pilot that uses a multidisciplinary approach to patient care. This initiative gives patients the opportunity to receive same day interventions for their needs rather than scheduling return clinic appointments. Because it has demonstrated an average of a 7% reduction in HbA1c, it is being reviewed for use by all community health centers in the system.
Mathis also has been co-facilitator in a successful readmission reduction plan which involves electronic transition of care referrals with the goal of developing a consistent process for transitioning high-risk patients from an acute care setting to the ambulatory care setting.
Ora Strickland, PhD, RN, FAAN
Dean and Professor, Nicole Wertheim College of Nursing and Health Sciences
Florida International University, Miami
Strickland works tirelessly to promote superior and innovative teaching and research at her university where she oversees 78 full-time faculty, 87 part-time and adjunct faculty, and a student body of nearly 2,400.
Through her leadership, the institution achieved a No. 54 ranking in the country by U.S. News & World Report 2016 Best Graduate Schools Guide Book for its graduate nursing program.
One of her tenets is assuring a diverse workforce of healthcare professionals. Her endeavors have resulted in the university receiving an $8.2 million federal grant to launch the Veterans Affairs Nursing Academic Partnership in conjunction with the local VA hospital. This program promotes innovation in nursing education and practice to enable substantive change in how VA facilities and nursing schools everywhere can work together. More than 500 nursing students will rotate through the five-year program.
Strickland helped secure $1.45 million from the U.S. DHHS to collaborate with a local federally qualified community healthcare center and open a nurse-managed clinic at an inner-city high school, providing primary care services to a marginalized community.
Other accomplishments she has been involved in include an historic naming gift of $10 million, which has helped increase student enrollment, and more than $20 million in philanthropic gifts to support student scholarships, faculty development and faculty endowments. Strickland also launched a medic-to-BSN program to help recent veterans, reservists and National Guard members with medical training, qualifying them for advanced standing credit for a BSN degree and an accelerated-option BSN for those holding degrees in nonhealth sciences disciplines.
Excellence in Management
Rachel Cameron, MSN, CEN
Director, Emergency Services
Memorial Hermann The Woodlands, Texas
“The ED is the best place to work because of her unique leadership and management style,” is how one of Cameron’s staff summarizes her expertise, skill and success as the director. The primary ED has a 28-bed capacity, and Cameron also is in charge of a 24-hour, 12-bed offsite ED.
Under her strong and steady leadership, the ED has gained accreditation for chest pain and stroke and is working on level II trauma designation. Cameron involves all staff in contributions to unit design, throughput and turnaround, producing a satisfied, engaged and loyal staff, her nominator said.
Cameron also promoted staff input and involvement while creating and implementing a process to see patients in a more timely manner. The 24-hour ED received a certificate of achievement for its high standard of care and excellence, resulting in positive outcomes for the facility and community. The new process has raised the rate that patients can be seen, increasing the census by 40%, while simultaneously reducing to 0.5%-1% the rate of patients who leave without being seen. ED statistics also consistently show that 99% of ED patients are being treated to a higher standard of care with positive patient outcomes.
Advocating for staff development, Cameron’s enthusiasm for professional growth is a magnet for all staff. She implemented bedside report in the department and continually encourages nurses to expand their professional lives. ED nurses are actively participating in councils and working toward masters’ degrees and to achieve CEN certification.
Joann Evans, MSN, RN
Patient Care Coordinator, Ambulatory Surgery
Methodist South Healthcare, Memphis, Tenn.
Evans’ positive outlook on change has brought staff stability and a high level of patient satisfaction, her nominator said. She is the patient care coordinator for the 11-bed same-day surgery, six-bed postanesthesia care unit and the preadmission workup areas with seven RNS working under her.
The nursing team knows her expectation is for the delivery of superior care, and they consistently meet her expectations. Patient satisfaction scores are above the 98 percentile, and the staff’s feedback has resulted in perfect scores for the past three years under her leadership. Additionally, the nursing retention rate is 100%.
One of Evans’ most noteworthy accomplishments has been her innovative plan for intervention of postoperative pain control. Through research and implementation of evidence-based practice, Evans initiated music therapy for the postop patients. After documenting that music therapy did relieve pain and anxiety in postoperative patients, other departments in the health system have adopted the program.
To provide mP3 players and disposable ear buds for patient use, Evans successfully secured a grant from the Methodist Healthcare Foundation. She spreads the word about the program’s reach through writing and speaking; twice a year she speaks at the Methodist nurse residency program regarding pain management with music and has presented the concept at other hospitals.
To provide staffing as needed, Evans has asked for and received her staff’s willingness to cross train to support other departments. Under her leadership, her team is motivated to continue their education, participate in shared governance, and join professional organizations.
Anna Liza Fernandez, MSN, RN, CSSM
Nurse Manager, Perioperative
West Palm Beach (Fla.) Veterans Affairs Medical Center
As a passionate advocate for proactive, patient-driven care attained through collaboration among patient and family, community and interprofessional services, Fernandez is a skillful leader for the OR and PACU.
Among the innovations she has led is the design of the surgical orientation packet for OR nurses, an electronic data source that covers all quality assurance and performance improvement areas of the surgical service. The project aims to increase efficiency as well as bring the unit service to par excellence level, her nominator said.
She also initiated the project, Improving Family and Surgical Service Care: Bridging the Gap in Communication. The project is targeted toward improved communication among surgical patients’ family and the nursing and surgical team during surgery; to date, it has improved patient satisfaction to 80%.
Fernandez heads the OR Team in the Upgrade of OR Boom project, maintaining full efficiency, safety and schedule adherence of all ORs, even during construction time.
A cheerleader for professional development, Fernandez became the faculty facilitator so all staff can participate in the Take2 program for CNORs. She gained nursing administration’s support so staff could participate in a CNOR review course and she meets with them on weekends. In one year, the percentage of CNOR participation increased from 14% to 60%; 90% of RNs have completed the CNOR review course.
Capitalizing on her team’s talents and strengths, Fernandez promotes staff participation in leadership initiatives. Her nominator said the OR team is actively involved in the medical center’s shared governance, as well as in local and national work groups.
Robert Hinkle, BSN, RN
Team Manager, Med/Surg, ICU
Integris Health, Oklahoma City
As ICU team manager, Hinkle supervises 75 staff members on a 20-bed unit for patients with a broad range of diseases and disorders, including recovery of patients after heart surgery, balloon pumping, rotoprone therapy, continuous dialysis and hypothermia protocol.
Hinkle builds staff rapport and strives to identify and work on any staff and unit concerns and issues. With in-house and outside the hospital team-building initiatives, Hinkle has improved the staff’s ability to work together and problem solve on the job, with the additional benefit of interpersonal collaboration and communication.
Hinkle is credited with revising the unit-based orientation process for new graduate nurses, which has become well-known through the hospital, his nominator said. Students who spend clinical time in his department said his unit is the place they want to work because they have heard from others about its orientation program.
Hinkle is co-authoring an ICU-specific orientation reference manual for new employees, and its effectiveness is evident in the facility’s recruitment and retention practice. In addition, staff is volunteering more readily to serve as preceptors, embracing the program and the increased support of leadership.
Addressing the need for mentoring, Hinkle serves as the subcommittee chairman and is strategizing assignment of mentors to new hire employees as another mechanism to facilitate recruitment and retention. He is president-elect of the clinical practice council, and this year was asked to chair the institution’s You and I campaign, an internal philanthropy project raising funds for the hospital.
Lyzanne Michele Mason, MSN, RN, CCRN-CSC
Associate Director, Central Monitoring
University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston
Her staff calls her a leader, mentor, career adviser, problem solver, inspiration and, when-need-be, the department champion. Mason heads a 32-bed thoracic surgery/telemetry unit and the hospital’s central monitoring room, with a staff of more than 100.
Since taking on the role, the unit has won the facility’s notable Always award every quarter for the past two years and achieved top box scores for CAHPS in the area of pain management. Overall Press Ganey scores are always greater than 90%, and 60% of her nurses have become nationally certified. Additionally, her department has earned the prestigious AACN Beacon Award.
Mason promotes multiple unit-based education activities for patient and staff safety metrics and staff certification. She is an active member on the division of nursing’s quality PACT to reduce CAUTI rates and foley catheter days, and also participates in clinical safety and effectiveness projects to reduce loss of nondisposable ECG leads and improve the cleaning practices that may reduce a cancer patient’s risk for infection.
Dynamic and determined, Mason successfully engaged IT, facilities and biomedical engineering to increase the number of monitor beds by more than 50% throughout the institution and collaborated with IT and CMR technicians to create an intranet site for CMR data repository.
Looking out for her staff, Mason seeks to foster a healthy work environment amid a stressful work environment of high acuity patients. She is recognized throughout the organization and her proposition to overhaul a cluttered storage room into a staff tranquility room has benefited her staff.
Kristin Merritt, MSN, MBA, RN, NE-BC, CCRN
Neuroscience Service Line Director, ICU and NSU Nurse Manager
Duke Raleigh (N.C.) Hospital
Merritt, the nurse manager of a 15-bed ICU and a nine-bed neuroscience step-down unit, made a tremendous difference in her staff’s ability to come together as a larger team to achieve unit- and hospital-based patient care goals, her nominator said.
Recently promoted to the director of neuroscience, Merritt is said to be one of the major reason for the hospital’s success as a primary stroke center. As a direct result of her committed leadership, ICU decreased CLABSIs by 100% (31 months CLABSI-free), decreased VAE by 75% (eight months VAE-free), and decreased CAUTI by 74%.
As the nurse leader, her support for the ICU’s AACN clinical scene investigator early progressive mobility program helped improve patient outcomes, such as decreasing hospital-acquired infections and reducing complications to zero in ventilator-associated events, falls and pressure ulcers, saving the organization $1.2 million in one year, her nominator said.
She ensures that bedside nurses are involved in important practice and unit decisions. For example, by promoting charge nurses to perform code blue and rapid response team audits, unit leaders and integral members of those teams now have a firm understanding of areas for improvement and areas of success.
Her nominator said she is admired for the way she champions her staff’s career progression by encouraging them to gain degrees, pursue certifications and advance on the clinical ladder. Providing dedicated support of and coaching with her staff members through one-on-one mentorships, she encourages them to take on new positions and return to school for further education.
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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