Nurse.com is pleased to announce the five national winners in this year’s GEM Awards program. “It is a great privilege for us to present these amazing GEM winners,” said Nurse.com Senior Vice President and CNE Eileen P. Williamson, MSN, RN, who personally called each of them to share the good news. “They are outstanding nurses who are most deserving of the recognition they’ve received and the honor that has been bestowed on them,” she said. “The contributions they make to nursing and healthcare are an inspiration to their colleagues and co-workers, and they are true GEMs in our profession.”
Each year, Nurse.com conducts a nationwide search for the best of the best in nursing and receives hundreds of online nominations highlighting stories of nursing excellence in clinical practice, community care, education and mentorship, executive leadership and management. Nurse leaders serve as judges and score nominations at each level of the program from finalist to national winner. GEM Awards events, at which finalists are honored and regional winners are announced, are held in different cities across the country in the summer, and in the fall five nurses from among the regional winners are named national winners.
Lauren Micale, BSN, RN, CPHON
Clinical Nurse, Bone Marrow Transplant/Hematology
Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children
“It is such an honor, and I never imagined that the work that is so important to me could have led to my being recognized by my peers in such a genuine way,” Micale said, after hearing the good news from Williamson. “I advocate for all of my patients and families, but I see how it is especially important for those who may have barriers to participating in the plan of care for their children.”
Micale said special moments in her career include developing a rapport with Spanish-speaking families, and feeling their gratitude, simply because she said hello or asked how they were in Spanish.
She also reflects on the support she received at the start of her career when she worked on a small unit. “I was surrounded by high-achieving nurses who inspired me as I developed my own clinical skills,” said Micale, who added the team accomplished great things on the unit as well as throughout the hospital. “I was encouraged by my colleagues and management to participate in shared governance activities, unit-based activities and in obtaining my certification as a pediatric hematology/oncology nurse.”
Micale said one of her proudest moments was when the nursing plan of care for a child with acute graft versus host disease was passed by the Nursing Practice Council and became a nursing practice standard. “I was pleased to spearhead this large project, and it encouraged me to look for other ways to improve care,” she said.
Nursing “is truly a rewarding profession to care for those who are fragile, vulnerable or alone,” Micale said. “We share in our patients’ moments of happiness and encourage them in times of difficulty.”
Micale advises nurses to find teachers or mentors who will support them and help them explore the opportunities available in nursing. “I give this advice because I have had such wonderful mentors and teachers who have helped me to be who I am today,” she said.
Excellence in Community Care
Michele Rubin, MSN, APN, CNS-BC, CGRN
Clinical Nurse Specialist, Inflammatory Bowel Disease, Colorectal Surgery
University of Chicago Medicine
When Rubin started as a new nurse on the gastrointestinal unit at the University of Chicago Medicine, she met patients with inflammatory bowel disease who were there to see gastroenterologists, surgeons, nurses, psychologists, nutritionists and social workers. “It was a multidisciplinary team committed to helping patients with IBD manage this challenging disease and doing research to find a cure,” she said. “I wanted to be a part of the team and help patients realize they do not have to be ashamed and hide their suffering from others.”
She fell in love with her patients and recognized they needed specialized caregivers who could empathize and understand what they were experiencing. Receiving the national award in the Community Care category exemplified her pursuit of excellence, and gave Rubin a deep feeling of pride, she said. “It’s great to be recognized for what I love doing, but I have a responsibility to my profession and my patients to continue to strive to be the best GEM nurse I can be,” she said.
Rubin’s father told her to think big and that to become more confident she had to “do the uncomfortable.” Rubin followed that advice when she spoke to thousands of physicians, nurses and associates on the nursing care of patients with IBD at the National Society of Gastrointestinal Nursing meeting. “I had to take this opportunity since it was important to the care of these patients,” she said.
Rubin went on to publish “Using the Nursing Process in IBD Patient Care” in the Nursing Clinics of North America, knowing she could reach many more nurses and raise awareness from a nursing perspective. “When colleagues told me they used my work as a reference in their talks and publications, it validated to me how important it is to publish and speak on the specialty,” she said.
She advises nurses to, “Find your passion in whichever field of nursing you choose. Your passion and desire to help others will move you to excellence.”
Excellence in Education and Mentorship
J. Cedar Wang, MSN, RN, APN, GNP-BC, CHSE
Director of Simulation Education
Holy Name Medical Center
As a national winner, Wang said she was humbled to be named alongside four other incredible nurses. “When I read about the many accomplishments of the other regional winners, I was impressed by their various achievements,” she said. “Imagine the impact we all have had on nursing.” Wang added she’s grateful for family, friends, colleagues and mentors who have enabled and equipped her to achieve this honor.
Wang said she is thrilled that the Nurse.com recognition also promotes the value of simulation education in nursing practice. “Since nurses have been at the forefront of adopting simulation to foster safe and quality care for their patients, there will be many opportunities for us to collaborate and make education more meaningful for the entire healthcare team,” she said.
Wang chose to move from the academic setting to the hospital setting four years ago, and started an interdisciplinary, hospital-based simulation program. She said many things fell into place at the right time. “My simulation mentors challenged me to devise a work plan for the next five years of my career,” Wang said. “They also helped me to connect with a network of individuals who shared my passion for simulation education.”
During her career, Wang has witnessed how learning is a lifelong process. “It is a process that pushes us to strive for personal excellence and work collaboratively with others for an even greater impact,” she said. ”Nurses so often do this naturally.”
Wang offered some words of wisdom: “True cure comes from care. When I was in high school, my family, teachers and friends urged me to pursue a career in medicine. Deep inside I knew I was destined to be a nurse. The personal connection a nurse has with a patient and family felt like a higher calling. The draw to care for others was stronger than the draw to cure. Only after caring for some people who were never medically cured, I learned that real cure comes from care, even in life’s final moments. Nurses care to the end.”
Excellence in Executive Leadership
Kimberly Pearson, MHA, MBA, RN, CCHP
Deputy Agency Director, Correctional Health Services
County of Orange, Health Care Agency
Santa Ana, Calif.
Pearson was honored to be nominated by her staff for the GEM award, but she didn’t expect to win the regional award, let alone the national award. Her staff and nominator, on the other hand, were not surprised. Pearson brought more than 300 people together to work toward a common goal and is admired for helping to create a professional and compassionate team whose members demonstrate innovation, excellence and a passion for patient care and professional advancement.
Pearson attributes her quest for excellence to her dedicated nursing school professors, committed mentors and preceptors, and professional managers as well as her own internal drive to make a difference. “Some pursue nursing to make a difference in the lives of patients; however, I have learned that nursing management and administration offer the same opportunities,” she said. “It is amazing for me to watch people seeking to be part of a successful and strong team, and striving for excellence reaps invaluable benefits for everyone.”
Pearson reminds her staff members that they each have an important role and function within the team, and they are all individually necessary to complete the mission. “No one is more important than anyone else,” she said. “I will always feel this way. So the national win is for our whole team. I am so proud of the work they do within a challenging jail environment and for their continuous commitment to integrity and excellence. I am simply thrilled to be part of their team.”
Pearson has a plaque on her desk that reads, “Are You Committed to Excellence?” She believes if nurses are committed to excellence, it spills into every facet of their career responsibilities, whether that is in direct patient care, education, management, administration or volunteerism. “If your decisions and actions are filtered through this commitment, you will make a lasting and significant contribution throughout your career — in every position you hold,” she said.
Excellence in Management
Tamre Del Valle, MSN, RN
Director of ED and Cardiac Cath Lab
Valley Presbyterian Hospital
Van Nuys, Calif.
When Williamson called Del Valle to tell her she was a national winner, there was silence on the phone. “Are you there?” asked Williamson. Through tears, Del Valle responded, “This is unbelievable, amazing … you have no idea what this award means to me.”
Del Valle was nominated by her staff in the GEM Awards program, which was an honor in and of itself, she said. When she was selected as a finalist and a regional winner, she viewed it as the utopia of her career and placed the awards on her desk to remind her of the honor and privilege they bring. “Now I am a national winner,” she said. “Every patient, staff member and nursing leader who has influenced my nursing practice is more deserving of this award. I give them a heartfelt thank you for influencing me because they have been such blessings and gifts in my life.”
Throughout her career Del Valle was surrounded by incredible mentors, and when she joined Valley Presbyterian as nursing director, she realized she had been molded to be a strong leader. “Although I celebrate my successes, it has been during my failures and obstacles that I became a stronger leader to advocate for staff, patients and community,” she said.
Early in her career, Del Valle was challenged by her mentors to learn something new every day and to maintain a healthy respect for the gift from patients, she said. “They trust you in a time of illness, and that trust should never be violated,” she said. “I learned that with the right leadership and mentoring, change can be embraced and goals can be reached.”
To fellow nursing leaders, Del Valle added, “You have the opportunity to teach and be taught, and are obligated to develop future leaders, not followers. The responsibility is heavy and the rewards are endless. Healthcare is continuously changing, but basic human needs have not. As long as our priority in nursing is on meeting basic human needs, we will continue to be a strong influence on our patient’s journey.”