Hospice

Winner
Pamela Green
Baylor Medical Center at Carrollton

Finalists
Nancy Sweeney
Methodist Dallas Medical Center

A patient was in the last few months of his life. He hadn’t contacted any of his nine siblings in 30 years and was facing his medical ordeal alone. Nancy Sweeny, a Pallative Care nurse at Methodist Dallas Medical Center, asked if she could contact the patient’s family. The family was able to reconnect and support each other in the last hours of the patient’s life. “For me, nursing is caring,” Sweeny says. Sweeny began her nursing education in 1979, but she had to take a hiatus after she began a family. It was 20 years before she was able to return to school to finish her degree and pursue a nursing career in palliative care. “One of my goals in caring for patients and families is to ensure their experience of illness is one of support,” Sweeny says. “That each member of the family receives the information and education to understand what’s happening.” —Jehadu Abshiro

Jessica Woolard
IntegraCare Hospice

Jessica Woolard is a case manager at IntegraCare Hospice. Her experience has led to her ability to recognize what to expect in a patient’s disease process based on a diagnosis, age, family dynamics, and outside influences. She is able to avoid problems, prevent pain and suffering, and improve the quality of life for patients up until the time of their deaths. According to her colleagues, Woolard is always thinking of how to make things better, more comfortable, and more peaceful for her patients.

Home Health

Winner
Lynda S. Cunigan
Golden Years Homecare Specialists, Inc.

Finalist
Kathy Ripley
Methodist Mansfield Medical Center

Kathy Ripley spent her weekends growing up tagging along side her mother, who was a nurse, to the hospital. “I’ve always considered myself a caregiver,” says Ripley, who has been a nurse for 39 years. Ripley, a nurse in the gastroenterology department at Methodist Mansfield Medical Center, developed thank you cards, signed by the physician, anesthesia provider, nurses, and technicians that are sent to the patient after 72 hours. The cards expressed the appreciation of the caregivers and encouraged patient feedback. Ripley has also developed a process were bi-weekly biological testing is performed in the GI lab, leading to a 100 percent pass score being achieved consecutively. She streamlined a process that decreased the turnover times by a third and she worked on developing an electronic educational course to ensure the facility met regulatory requirements with moderate sedation. “I get a lot happiness from taking care of others,” Ripley says. —Jehadu Abshiro

Intensive Care

Winner
Michael Rogers
UT Southwestern Medical Center Zale Lipshy University Hospital

Finalists
Hugo Cantu
John Peter Smith Health Network

Hugo Cantu had no idea what nursing school would entail, but he graduated knowing two things: nursing school was more difficult than anything he had previously done and nursing itself was more complex than he had imagined. Cantu is an ICU nurse at JPS Health Network. “My position involves a lot of critical thinking, physical skills and abilities, and never-ending continuing education,” she says. It is a combination of Cantu’s can-do attitude and his attention to, and compassion for, patients and their families that contributes to his success. Cantu’s peers consider him an “expert nurse.” He is willing to go the extra mile, even working an additional fourth consecutive shift when necessary, in order to ensure a patient receives a “continuity of care” to work towards a positive outcome. All of these attributes help Cantu give patients “every fighting chance for a full recovery.” With such quality characteristics, Cantu is a nurse patients want in their corner. —Lindsey Beran

Hannah Emert
UT Southwestern Medical Center

The first to receive the Daisy Award, Meritorious Award, and Strauss Award in a 12-month period, Hannah Emert is clearly at the top of her game. As an assistant nurse manager in the medical surgical ICU at UTSW Medical Center, Emert not only collects accolades, but also exudes positive energy in her patient-centered nursing practice. Her caring nature extends to both the patients and their family members. One patient’s spouse gushed about Emert, saying their family had been blessed not only with the “best nurse” but with “an angel” to care for them. Another patient, who happened to be from Emert’s hometown, still regularly tells Emert’s father what a difference Emert made in the patient’s life. Such comments are why Emert went into nursing. “It is such a joy to see the smile on someone’s face when you have helped them through a troublesome time.”—Lindsey Beran

Lesly Anne Hamilton
Baylor Medical Center at Carrollton

It was in high school that Lesly Hamilton first realized her love of people and tolerance for “blood and guts” pointed towards a future in nursing. Hamilton is an intensive care nurse at Baylor Medical Center at Carrollton, and in a relatively short time frame, she has demonstrated her willingness to go the extra mile. When the Cardiac Catherization Lab opened, Hamilton took on the role of training her peers in Sheath Management, making herself available 24/7 until her peers were properly trained. She also volunteered to learn electronic health record charting and teach it to her peers and physicians. A modern-day Clara Barton, Hamilton’s philanthropic nature joined with her nursing career lead her on mission trips to Guatemala, Mexico, Honduras, and Brazil in order to provide medical care to people who have not received such care in several years. It is on these trips, Hamilton explains, that “she knows she is meant to be a nurse.” Overall, as one peer puts it, Hamilton “is what you hope all new nurses will become as their practice evolves.” —Lindsey Beran

Internal Medicine

Winner
Sharon D. Smith
UT Southwestern St. Paul Hospital

Finalists
Michelle Hendricks
Methodist Dallas Medical Center

The word “noncompliance” makes Michelle Hendricks a little hot under the collar. “Patients aren’t noncompliant. It’s generally just that doctors and nurses haven’t taken the time to understand their needs,” she says. Because of her opinion, Hendricks, a Community-Based Case Manager at Methodist Dallas Medical Center, created a Heart Failure Manual on her own time. Recognizing that many of her congestive heart failure patients had lower education levels, she worked countless hours to develop the almost-complete manual, so as to arm the patients with the knowledge necessary to help them after they leave the hospital. In the process, she broke down barriers between multiple departments at Methodist, bringing them together to provide a disciplined message to the patients. “As caregivers, we only have a short opportunity while patients are in the hospital to empower them to live healthy lives,” she says. It is her goal to make sure that in that short time, the patients receive the information that makes healthy living a reality. —Lindsey Beran

Melissa Mitchell
Methodist Mansfield Medical Center

Melissa Mitchell began her career as a licensed vocational nurse, but she eventually became a registered nurse, moving up to her current position of nursing clinical coordinator at Methodist Mansfield Medical Center. It was her experience as an LVN that instilled her love for education and for nurses. “Someone took me under her wings and taught me, and I have had the passion to do that for others ever since,” she says. Mitchell also initiates new programs that are effective in getting both results and employee participation. One such program ensures safety interventions are in place to prevent skin breakdown, falls, and hospital-acquired infections, and as a result, her department has reduced the number of patient falls for the last 3 years. “I am just doing what God told me to do,” Mitchell says. “God chooses people and tells them what to do. He told me to be a nurse to help other nurses and my family, so that’s why I do what I do.” —Lindsey Beran

Leadership

Winner
Rosemary Luquire
Baylor Health Care System

Finalists

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Elizabeth Asturi
Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas

Elizabeth Asturi took on the role as interim Chief Nursing Officer during a very tumultuous time, when both the acting CNO and hospital president had left their positions. But she received nothing but praise for her role as interim CNO, and as a result of her leadership and compassion, Asturi was appointed the first Associate Chief Nursing Officer for Texas Health Presbyterian. When asked about her knack for leadership, Asturi explains that it must be a natural trait. “I find it rewarding to go into something in transition and turn it around,” she says. Also rewarding is her development of the second Sexual Assault Nurse Examination (SANE) program in Dallas, which offers patients a choice for care in the wake of a terrible event. “I am so incredibly fortunate and blessed by the people I work with,” she says. “It is because of those relationship that I have had my successes and accomplishments.” —Lindsey Beran


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Shelley Conroy 
Baylor University

With more than three decades of experience in higher education, health care administration, and nursing and health care research, it is no surprise that Dr. Shelley Conroy would be nominated for excellence in her field. Conroy spent her high school years in Germany, where she learned “the value of other cultures” and how exposure to other cultures can “broaden your outlook.” This lesson stayed with her. She believes that being open-minded is an integral facet of nursing education, making nurses “more accepting and understanding of different cultures.” As a result, she implemented and now leads a study program to China. “This trip gives students an opportunity to learn from the Chinese,. I encourage them to decide what they can bring back to make them a stronger health professional.” As a wearer of many hats—educator, nurse, researcher, and leader—Conroy exemplifies the dedication and selflessness that is often associated with the field of nursing. —Lindsey Beran


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Brenda Kay Blain
Baylor Medical Center at Irving

Brenda Blain is described as a transformational leader, who challenges and inspires the staff at Baylor Medical Center at Irving, where she serves as both Chief Nursing Officer and Chief Operating Officer. Her challenge to emergency room nurses to decrease the time it takes for patients to see a provider once they walk through the door resulted in a decrease of “door-to-provider” time from 55 minutes for each patient to less than 20 minutes. And, her ability to interact with patients and their families during trying times inspires the nurses around her. When asked about her success, Blain modestly explains, “I am smart enough to surround myself with people who are smarter. I tell them the outcome I want, and they figure out how to get there.” While she admits she has no idea how she got into nursing, she discovered that she “loves every aspect of it.” No doubt that love is the cause of at least some of her success. —Lindsey Beran


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Mary Beth Mitchell
Texas Health Resources

Mary Beth Mitchell, the Chief Nursing Information Officer at Texas Health Resources, got involved in the field of nursing informatics in the late 1990s, and was immediately drawn to it. While Mitchell does not consider herself “tech savvy,” she does consider herself “creative and innovative.” “Because of my creative side, I saw the possibility of using technology to improve the experience for nurses and for the patients,” she says. With this in mind, Mitchell has been involved in many activities regarding hospital policies and standards of care, such as refining, clarifying, and communicating how order sets, delegated orders, and standing physician orders are to be carried out by nurses in an electronic health record in a manner consistent with applicable state regulations. Her initiatives are emulated by many other large health-care providers, solidifying her reputation, as one peer phrases it, “as a pioneer and role model in clinical informatics.” —Lindsey Beran

Long-Term Care

Winner
Michael Bobbitt
Presbyterian Communities and Services

Finalist
Nancy Awa-Ao
Baylor Specialty Hospital

Nancy Awa-ao is a long-term care nurse at Baylor Specialty Hospital. Awa-ao is a preceptor for new nurses and nursing students. At first hesitant to act as a preceptor, she found it to be very rewarding. “It is my goal to make a difference with these new nurses, and when some of them stay to work with us, it is very rewarding,” she says. While Awa-ao got into nursing only at the prompting of her brother, she soon realized that it left her feeling fulfilled. “I am so satisfied each night when I go home,” she says. “It’s nice to know that I made a difference. Even with difficult patients, I try my best, and it feels good.” A nurse since 1993, Awo-ao attributes her success to being able to accept any challenge and ask questions when she needs to. —Lindsey Beran

Neurosciences

Winner
Audrey Ayers
UT Southwestern Medical Center

Finalists
Crystal Ramirez
Methodist Dallas Medical Center

In her role as the Stroke Program Coordinator at Methodist Dallas Medical Center, Crystal Ramirez is respected by those around her. Motivated to learn more, Ramirez constantly strives to educate herself on the latest in stroke care. “I want nursing to be seen as any other profession held in high regard and education is one way to achieve that goal,” Ramirez explains. Changes occur rapidly in neurological injuries, but Ramirez contends that bad outcomes can be avoided through proper education. On one occasion, Ramirez recognized signs necessitating a different course of action and asked the physician to re-examine the patient. The physician did, and agreed with Ramirez, likely making a difference in the patient’s outcome. Ramirez is proactive, knowing that education and fast thinking can help save a life. That’s why, when seconds count, a patient “wants stroke coordinator Crystal Ramirez on their side.” —Lindsey Beran

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Nicole Stewart
Baylor Regional Medical Center at Plano

Nicole Stewart was in a motor-vehicle accident that saddled her with multiple orthopedic injuries and a four-to-five month stint in a wheelchair. The experience, however, pushed her to become an orthopedic nurse. “I felt like I needed to share my experience,” she says. “I could understand what these patients were going through and use that to motivate them.” As a staff RN in the Orthopedic Unit at Baylor Regional Medical Center of Plano, Stewart works tirelessly to ensure that her patients are cared for and progress in the appropriate manner. Being able to see them progress is what keeps her going. “I had one patient who could not walk due to a hip injury,” she says. “Three weeks later, he was walking the length of the hall.” Seeing that progress makes her job rewarding and inspires her to take on leadership roles to better every patient’s experience. While Stewart’s accident was unfortunate, it has been a fortunate event for the patients in her care. —Lindsey Beran