HOW WE DID IT: We reached out to local hospitals, private practices, doctors, and patients, and asked them to visit our website to nominate a registered nurse in 25 categories. We received 456 nominations. We asked the nominators to answer three questions regarding how the nurses affected their lives, community, and profession. The editors selected the best nominations and sent them to a panel of registered nurses in various fields. The panel included Diane Twedell, chief nursing officer at Southeast Minnesota Region of the Mayo Clinic Health System; Elaine Harrison, director of marketing for the Visiting Nurse Association; Dr. Stephanie Woods, associate professor and associate dean at Texas Woman’s University; and Elizabeth Poster, dean and professor at the University of Texas at Arlington College of Nursing. The panel could not judge those they work with directly. We compiled the judges’ scores to select the winners and finalists. We also vetted the registered nursing licenses and reviewed disciplinary action of each finalist. 

To read more about the winners, go here.

Cardiology

Winner
Megan Elizabeth Linker
Baylor Heart and Vascular Hospital

Finalists
Consuelo Mendoza
Methodist Charlton Medical Center

Growing up, Consuelo ”Cony” Mendoza’s role model was a favorite cousin who left for Cameroon to volunteer after she finished nursing school. When Mendoza’s diabetic grandfather entered the last stages of his life, she watched and assisted her older cousins, all nurses, take care of him. That’s when she realized nursing was her future. Mendoza, a cardiologic nurse in ICU, has been night charge nurse for 15 years at Methodist Charlton Medical Center. A compassionate caregiver, she can be found sitting with a patient at night, listening to his fears and doing whatever she can to make him less frightened. “I remember taking care of a terminally ill man one night,” she says. “He really wanted comfort and needed compassion in the last hours of his life.” Mendoza is also the leader of Patient Satisfaction team and part of the Frontline Leadership team. She also provides community CPR classes and helps a school with health screenings and immunizations. —Jehadu Abshiro

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Adrian Felder
The Heart Hospital Baylor Plano

Described by her colleague as innovative, incredibly reliable, and a strategic thinker, Adrian Felder has developed and implemented two disease-specific clinics, Pulmonary Hypertension and CV Genetics, as well as tools that improve information flow at the Center for Advanced Cardiovascular Care at The Heart Hospital at Baylor. A clinical nurse coordinator at the center, she collaborates with physicians and the nurse practitioner in both clinics to ensure each patient receives the best care. Along with her work as coordinator, educating staff, patients and family members of patients has been integral in her work. She manages nurse orientation for the clinics and serves as CACC’s Champion for Medtronic’s Lumin Education Touchscreen Interaction program. “I knew nursing was a robust field with many opportunities,” Felder said. “I can do it for a lifetime.” Since joining the hospital in 2011, Felder is recognized as ”an extremely strong contributor to her department’s success.” —Jehadu Abshiro

Stacey Jantzen
Methodist Mansfield Medical Center

A patient, after having a heart attack, told Stacey Jantzen how grateful she was for the team that saved her life. The patient told Jantzen she wanted to see her two sons come home from Afghanistan. Her two sons were able be by her side during her by-pass surgery. The patient unfortunately passed away but had the chance to see her sons one last time. “My experience with this particular patient touched me because I realize how precious our time is with our loved ones and the moments we get with them,” Jantzen says. Jantzen, who has been a nurse for 18 years, is the manager of Cardiology at Methodist Mansfield Medical Center. “I enjoy the interaction between my patients and knowing that I am their advocate, “Jantzen says. She has always felt that her calling was to care for others and for her the patient always comes first. —Jehadu Abshiro

Sheela Varughese
VA North Texas Health Care System

A patient at VA North Texas Health Care Center went into flash pulmonary edema. Sheela Varughese, a staff nurse, was able to analyze and report to the physician. The patient survived and was transferred to Telemetry unit. Varughese has been a nurse for more than 20 years and has spent the last 16 years in the Intensive Care Unit at VA medical center. She serves as a charge nurse and has been awarded with many Courtesy in Action awards. According to her colleague, she is always working on renewing and making polices to better help patients and the unit. One of the many ways Varughese contributes to the team is by leading the team on ventilator associated pneumonia reduction through oral care by placing oral kits in rooms to preform oral care every four hours. As a result, the hospital hasn’t had a VAP case in the last two years. —Jehadu Abshiro

Education

Winner
Phyllis McCorstin
Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas

Finalists
Anthony Paterniti
Methodist Dallas Medical Center

Serving as the director of nursing education at Methodist Dallas Medical Center is just one of Tony Paterniti’s many responsibilities. However, despite his involvement in multiple organizations, he is never too busy to help a person in need. As an RN, Paterniti now serves as a volunteer health home nurse. He sees patients that would not otherwise receive care due to the limitations of Medicare. One patient in specific was a chef suffering from a hip fracture. Paterniti made sure the man was treated by the right doctors and received proper therapy, so that he was able to walk again. Without Paterniti's help, the man would have gone untreated, possibly immobilizing him for the rest of his life. It’s no wonder his colleagues admire his advocacy and even refer to him as “The Neighborhood Nurse.” Paterniti ‘s caring nature has made an impact not only on his patient’s lives, but his students, as well. With a PhD in Higher Education Administration, he has worked to expand the Methodist Dallas Nursing Department by creating graduate and nursing student extern programs, continuing education classes, and informative sessions. —Lane Watkins

Ruth Robert
Baylor Medical Center at Garland

“First God, second others, and third me” is Ruth Robert’s personal philosophy on life. Robert, Director of Education & Research and Magnet Coordinator at Baylor Medical Center, has spent the last 24 years of her life as nurse. “I really enjoy and cherish every moment where I am able to make a difference in someone else’s life,” Robert said. Although Robert, inspired by her aunt to be a nurse, no longer serves as a bedside nurse, she still puts nursing in the forefront of her life. When a flight attendant suffered an acute abdomen on Robert’s flight to Vietnam, she didn’t hesitate to administer care that saved the flight attendant’s life. The airline company offered her an upgrade to business class but she declined because she just wanted be a regular passenger. “I just feel like it’s a blessing and an honor to serve the community and people,” Robert said.

Emergency Medicine

Winner
Lucy DeTamble
Baylor University Medical Center

Finalists
Sherry Garner Sutton
Baylor University Medical Center

A husband and two children came to the Baylor University Medical Center’s emergency room after a fatal motorcycle accident involving the mother of the family. Sherry Garner-Sutton, Supervisor of Nursing at Baylor and a Certified Pediatic Emergency Nurse, had to tell the deceased’s two children that their mother had passed. The 11-year-old daughter had become so distraught that she struck Garner-Sutton in the face. After Garner-Sutton prayed with the family, she worked with the medical examiner so that the family could say goodbye. The daughter begged to have her mother’s half of the best friends necklace they shared. The daughter received the necklace, apologized for striking Garner-Sutton, and hugged her. Garner-Sutton made a difference in the girl’s life. “Each person I see makes a difference in my life as hopefully I do theirs,” she says. “I don’t think nursing is a job. It is a calling.” —Jehadu Abshiro

Roland Zachary
Texas Health Harris HEB

When it became apparent that a patient at Texas Health Harris wouldn’t make it through the evening, Roland Zachary went the extra mile. The patient, who was still coherent, was able to communicate that he wished for his DNR status to be honored. Zachary worked with the family and doctors to get everyone to follow the patient’s wishes. Zachary, a nurse in emergency medicine, assisted the family through the difficult time. Right before the patient died, the daughter gave Zachary a small hand-whittled cross that the patient had made for him. He still has trinket and uses it as a reminder of the potential impact he can have. Zachary’s sincerity in promoting compassion has led to patients requesting him as a nurse. The unit’s patient satisfaction scores went from 77 percent to 96 percent and his co-workers are certain that Zachary’s bedside manner has a lot to do with this. —Jehadu Abshiro

General Practice

Winner
Nergis Blood
John Peter Smith Health Network

Finalists
Prabh Batra
Baylor Medical Center at Garland

Prabha Batra’s first oncology patient was a 20-year-old with leukemia who had about one year left to live. He couldn’t speak any English. Batra, supervisor at Baylor Medical Center at Garland, was inspired by this patient to develop Touch Time. The program eases the process for patients by arranging time for patients to meet with a physician, patient care tech, social worker, a “Touch Time” nurse, and chaplain. “Seeing the patient suffering is so hard,” Brata says. “We get so attached to them.” Of her 28 years in nursing, Batra has spent the last 23 at Baylor Garland. Batra’s dedication to helping people is exemplified in her work outside of the hospital as volunteer nurse. “I truly love being a nurse from the bottom of my heart,” she says. “It makes me physically feel good because I helped someone.” —Jehadu Abshiro

Cheryl R. Canady
Texas Health Center for Diagnostics and Surgery

Texas Health Center for Diagnostics and Surgery wanted to improve hygiene scores for physicians and physician satisfaction. The hospital ordered hand hygiene stations with photos of Mona Lisa that stated “Please Wash Your Hands.” The stations encouraged staff and patients to wash their hands, but not the physicians. Cheryl Canady, the charge nurse, suggested replacing Mona Lisa pictures with those of physicians that practice excellent hand hygiene. Now physicians regularly ask how to get their picture on the hand hygiene stations. Canady’s idea improved safety, the physician hand hygiene scores, and provided physician satisfaction. Canady is passionate about the future of nursing as a leader and thus has recently returned back to school to obtain her bachelor’s degree she wants to do her part in aiding the Institute of Medicine report by being one of the nurses to obtain a bachelor’s degree by 2020. —Jehadu Abshiro

Diane Wright
Baylor All Saints Medical Center Fort Worth

A young man with congestive heart failure frequently came in to Baylor All Saints Medical Center of Fort Worth because of his hear fluid. One day, he turned to Diane Wright and bet she had never had real soul food. Soon after, his mother cooked a full meal for the entire nursing staff and him. “He just became close with us,” she says. “Some of the patients, you remember their names and you never forget them.” While most of Wright’s friends couldn’t stand the sight of blood or needles, she was unfazed by neither. So she became a nurse 38 years ago and now serves as the Progressive and Step Down Unit Nurse manager at All Saints. Wright, along with a group of nurses, went to Baylor Dallas to train in cardiovascular nursing. She was instrumental in establishing the nursing end of the cardiovascular surgery program at All Saints. —Jehadu Abshiro

Gerontology

Winner
Barbara Harty
University of North Texas Health Science Center

Finalists
Debbie Beerley
Doctors Hospital at White Rock Lake

It’s been 40 years since Debbie Beerley became a nurse, and it’s been 32 years since she joined the nursing staff at Doctors Hospital at White Rock Lake. In the three decades Beerley has worked at Doctors, she’s enjoyed working with repeat patients and now she even takes care of previous patients’ children. A medical surgical nurse, Beerley is frequently the go-to nurse on the floor who serves as the relay person between the director and staff to implement new practices. In addition to her regular duties, Beerley helps run the weekly acute care for elderly meetings with physicians. She is also responsible for helping doctors and other nurses with the hospital’s in-house computer system. A patient advocate first and foremost, Beerley’s colleague describes her as a “nurse’s nurse,” someone who is there to make sure things are safe and the patient gets what he or she needs. —Jehadu Abshiro

Jane Nunnelee
Baylor University Louise Herrington School of Nursing

Jane Nunnelee’s experience as a candy striper in high school solidified her desire to become a nurse. She even graduated early to pursue her nursing degree, and this May will be her 40th year in nursing. Nunnelee is the senior lecturer at Baylor University’s Louise Herrington School of Nursing. In 2010, she was awarded a $1 million grant, the Gerontological Nursing Initiative, to educate health professionals, caregivers, and older adults on the best practices in geriatrics and gerontology. “I’ve always felt the need to be an advocate voice for the older adult because their voice is lost in health care,” she says. As a geriatric nurse practitioner, she has volunteered at a free clinic to provide preventative care to the geriatric population. Nunnelee also regularly visits, cooks for, and provides transportation for the elderly in her neighborhood. “It’s given me a reason every day to get up and make a difference,” she says.