DAISY Award reaches 1 million thank yous — and it’s just the beginning

By | 2018-06-18T21:54:54-04:00 June 18th, 2018|4 Comments

As a family, we were impressed with the care Pat — my young husband who was also a loving son, a new father and a tremendous friend — received from nurses in Texas and Seattle. But after eight weeks of hope, we lost him.

Patrick Barnes died in 1999 at the age of 33 from the autoimmune disease idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura. In the midst of our grief, we felt a strong need to say thank you to his nurses. Our one thank you has grown into more than 1 million more for nurses around the globe.

Patrick’s death left a gaping hole in our hearts and lives. We knew early on that we wanted to do something in his memory — something that would keep his very special, kind, funny, giving spirit alive.

We decided to form a nonprofit foundation, naming it DAISY, an acronym for Diseases Attacking the Immune System, tying back to the condition that took Pat from us. What would the DAISY Foundation do? How would we turn our grief into something positive?

Days after his death, our family met for dinner to regroup. The conversation kept coming back to his nurses. They were kind, thoughtful, patient and tender. They were also our advocates, interpreters, educators, our lifelines, our friends and, ultimately, felt like part of our family.

We expected the excellent clinical skills they provided. What we didn’t expect was the level of compassion they brought to Pat and to us, even when he was completely sedated. Their care gave us our “aha moment” for DAISY’s mission. DAISY would recognize nurses in a very public way for their compassionate delivery of skillful care. DAISY would give other patients and families a way to share their stories and celebrate their nurses.

We realized that nurses don’t recognize the tremendous impact they make every day. We would change that!

DAISY Award is more than just a recognition program

Our labor of love was put into action in the form of The DAISY Award for Extraordinary Nurses. The DAISY Award is based on recognition by patients, families and staff on an ongoing basis, not just annually. Throughout the year, an internal committee at each facility selects an honoree, based on nominations received and presents the award, with peers, leadership and often the patient and family who nominated in attendance.

The first DAISY Awards for Extraordinary Nurses were presented at the two hospitals that cared for Pat. Initially ours was a grassroots effort, with us envisioning 10, maybe 50 hospitals implementing our program for their nurses.

Today there are more than 3,200 healthcare facilities and schools of nursing across the U.S. and in 17 other countries committed to honoring their nurses with The DAISY Award.

More than 100,000 nurses have received the award and more than 1 million nominations have been written, expressing gratitude to a nurse.  That number truly astounds us — more than 1 million times a patient, family member or colleague took their time to describe the very extraordinary, unexpected difference a nurse has made in their lives.

We attribute the opportunity for more than 1 million people to thank their nurses to our tremendous community of DAISY nurses and leaders who share their experiences with each other. This viral, organic growth was unexpected. But it affirms the need to say thank you and the power of meaningful recognition of extraordinary compassionate care.

In 2009 we had a little more than 400 hospital partners. Each year since, we have welcomed an average of 275 new hospitals into the family. Our biggest increase yet was in 2017, with the addition of 422 new DAISY programs. We are on track for the same amazing growth in 2018!

DAISY Award spreads across the country and globe

DAISY has representation across all 50 states with some states such as North Carolina having nearly all of their hospitals adopting the award program. There is still growth potential, especially in long-term care, ambulatory facilities and surgery centers. Moreover, the opportunities for expansion internationally are unlimited. Our desire is to make DAISY recognition available to all nurses, no matter where they practice or what their practice setting may be.

As the foundation has grown, so has our gratitude to nurses. In addition to The DAISY Award, we have award programs for nursing faculty, nursing students, nurse led team and nurse leaders. The DAISY Foundation also funds research and EBP projects via the J. Patrick Barnes Grant for Nursing Research and Evidence-Based Practice Projects.

Hospital administrators often tell us that the DAISY Award is “inspirational,” “a great morale booster,” an “excellent tool for nurse retention” and “a way to develop role models.” We never imagined the strategic impact of the DAISY Award or the growing evidence of what DAISY, as a program of meaningful recognition, can do to improve healthcare work environments.

We were a grieving family trying to move through unbearable loss. In doing so we created a positive legacy of remembrance for Pat. The path we embarked on has been cathartic and inspiring for us, and we are realizing, for a million others as well. Through the work of DAISY, nurses still touch our lives every day.

DAISY Brings Meaningful Recognition to Nurses

Find out more about the DAISY Award and why meaningful recognition is so important to nurses’ morale and careers.


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About the Author:

Tena Barnes Carraher
Tena Barnes Carraher is vice president of marketing and communications and a co-founder of The DAISY Foundation. She provides leadership, strategic direction, oversight, coordination and priority setting in resource development, marketing materials and strategic communications internally and externally. Carraher graduated from Arizona State University with a bachelor of arts in communications and has more than 15 years of experience in advertising and marketing. She remarried and lives with her husband and three children in Peachtree City, Ga.


  1. Avatar
    Mrs White July 8, 2018 at 2:23 pm - Reply

    I received the award in 2015, and was STUNNED by the emotion it caused in me. I’ve been anurse for 41 years, I’ve never been recognized or awarded for being a nurse. I was overwhelmed with emotion that a family felt so strongly about “what I do” that they nominated me for the award! It felt fantastic, to know that “what I do” everyday DOES matter! Thank you for developing a way for patients to let nurses know that what we are doing matters!!!

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    DeAnna Berryhill August 26, 2019 at 6:45 pm - Reply

    I received the award this year ,it was a big surprise , and greatly appreciated , I have been a Pediatric nurse for 40 years ,I love my babies and children and families ,I am glad to be recognized for being a nurse and making a difference in so many lives , and the patients and families who have made a difference in my life. Thank You .

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    Sandra Smith 2012 July 22, 2020 at 5:58 pm - Reply

    As a recipient of The Daisy Award in 2012, I am writing to let you know how much this prestigious honor means to me yet today. As a pediatric and neonatal nurse for many years I have received recognition and acknowledgment for the work I do.The Daisy Award came as a total surprise.I am honored to be recognized for what I truly love doing.I am particularly proud that my patients nominated me.Reading about Patrick and the motivations behind this award is simply what all nurses would like to be recognized for.What an honor I have received.The sculpture is absolutely beautiful and will be cherished by myself and my family for years to come. Thank you so much.

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    Anthony Boehms May 3, 2021 at 4:45 pm - Reply

    Elizabeth Gray has been a great support to my Cancer treatment. She allows me to discuss my issues and has an answer to my questions. She is also diligent to evaluate my progress and recommend the best solutions for my issues.

    Thanks to Nurse Gray

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