School

Winner
Regina Miller
Jerry R. Junkins Elementary

Finalists
Cynthia Smalling
Lenore Kirk Elementary

Cynthia Smalling is the school nurse at Lenore K. Hall Elementary School in Dallas. Parents love her, students love her, and the staff loves her. You don’t have to look far to see why. She recently took the time to train the school staff on how to test, monitor, provide insulin injections, and properly record the procedure to ensure that a diabetic student would receive the best care. Smalling even learned Spanish so that she could better communicate with the student’s parent. Says her school’s principal, “We feel this is her calling. We are truly fortunate to have her as our nurse.” The school was recognized by the USDA as a Healthier US School and received the Gold Level award in large part due to Smalling’s attention to student nutrition and physical health. The ultimate benefit of Smalling’s focus on health—the school is reaching academic milestones, surpassing all of the Texas Education Agency’s 3 Tier requirements. —Lindsey Beran

Nicole Wolf
W.T. White High School

Nicole Wolf moved all the way from Wisconsin, where she worked as a pediatric ICU nurse at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, to Texas in 2006, where she now works as a school nurse at W.T. White High School in Dallas. Not only does Wolf complete her medical responsibilities, she is also a mentor for students. She loves talking with them and being able to give them guidance. She helps them through tough times at home, when they get in trouble at school, and when they just need someone to talk to. Wolf has two children of her own, but has 2,400 adopted students at school and feels it is her responsibility to keep them on the right track. She has created a safe environment at school to help prepare students for life after high school. —Katie Spurgin

Surgery

Winner
Shana Merrick
Baylor Medical Center at Garland

Finalists
Christie Briggs
Centennial Medical Center

Nursing is a calling for Christine Briggs. Starting her career when she was very young, Briggs worked in a nursing home in Wisconsin. Her weekdays were filled with bathing residents and her weekends were spent working with mentally handicapped residents. She knew she was in the right place because they showed her so much love. After nearly 10 years of working at Centennial Medical Center in Frisco, Briggs says she’s fulfilled helping and getting to know patients. With a total of 30 years of nursing experience, she has worked in almost every unit of the hospital and is currently working in day surgery. She enjoys educating patients and their families as well as working with fellow staff. “Look, listen, and love the patients and God will do the rest,” she says. —Katie Spurgin

Nikki Hurley
Key-Whitman Eye Center

As the director of nurses at Key-Whitman Eye Center, Nikki Hurley has a lot of responsibilities. She works in surgery; is responsible for all of the administrative duties, including paperwork and chart supervision; and oversees all regulatory compliance issues. She worked for an eye doctor in high school and was encouraged to study nursing in college. Hurley graduated from Abilene Christian University with her nursing degree, was married, and started working at Key-Whitman within a few weeks in 1995. She truly enjoys seeing the progress patients have made when they come back to the center and visiting with them. Before and during surgeries, Hurley tries her best to provide excellent care and to put patients’ minds at ease when they are nervous. Hurley loves that she works in a happy environment, where great news is usually being delivered to patients. —Katie Spurgin

Denise Tuinei-Taggart
Baylor Medical Center at Irving

Working at Baylor Medical Center at Irving, Denise Tuinei-Taggart goes out of her way to make sure patients and family members are as happy and comfortable as possible. “She is a compassionate and caring individual with her patients and her peers,” according to a co-worker. Tuinei-Taggart is also a great leader. She is resourceful and innovative, which influences others to be the same way, improving the people and things around her, said a co-worker. She created an entire new process to update and change medical information and consent forms for patients. The entire Baylor organization adopted the system. Tuinei-Taggart always seems to have a positive attitude and tries to lift everyone else up, both at work and in her community. Not only does she volunteer in her community and her church, she is also a clinical coach for new nurses and transforms mundane training and updates into enjoyable, creative tasks. —Katie Spurgin

Women’s Health

Winner
Kim Green
Methodist Dallas Medical Center

Finalists
Evelina Echols-Sutton
Methodist Charlton Medical Center

If being a nurse for more than 37 years makes you exceptional at what you do, then Evelina Echols-Sutton is just that. Echols-Sutton has held management positions for 32 of the 37 years as a nurse. Her gift as a leader has transformed Methodist Charlton Medical Center. “Since joining us as a manager for postpartum, this nominee has expanded the nursery to a Level II. She has enhanced our maternal and child unit nursing skills to include caring for general medical, surgical, and pediatric patients. This has been instrumental in driving organizational improvement efforts for patient satisfaction,” says one of her co-workers. Echols-Sutton created the Life Shine Bright Pregnancy Program, which offers prenatal classes for young mothers as well as educational support and networking opportunities. She is also a member of the Chamber of Commerce board of directors, actively participating in educational health activities for her local school district and city. Alongside her remarkable gift as a leader, Echols-Sutton is a nurse who cares deeply about her patients. “This nominee has great compassion for every customer that she meets,” one of Echols-Sutton’s co-workers says. —Hayley Votolato

Erin Prendergast
Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas

Erin Prendergast’s love for nature is one of the many blessings she has to give her patients. She removes a chrysalis from her butterfly garden then packages it to hang in a basket filled with words of encouragement. Within a short amount of time, the butterfly emerges. She compares the lifecycle of the butterfly to the journey her breast cancer patients face after receiving their diagnosis. Prendergast has worked at the Peggy A. Bell Women’s Diagnostic Imaging Center for 15 years, giving strength to women who are fighting breast cancer. She has also founded the organization, On Butterflies’ Wings, teaching children the art of utilizing nature to give back to others. Although Prendergast didn’t begin her career in nursing, she knew her calling was to care for others. “I feel very blessed to be in the position to touch people’s lives,” she says. —Hayley Votolato

Amanda Truelove
Methodist Mansfield Medical Center

Amanda Truelove doesn’t need her four patient satisfaction awards at Methodist Mansfield Medical Center to show she is a nurse that leads by example. Her leadership is highly recognized by her co-workers through significant clinical-process improvements. These improvements have resulted in no central line infections or ventilator associated infections in the NICU for the past five years. Alongside her diligent efforts to improve the NICU, she has also led the Texas Ten Step accreditation process for the hospital. Truelove is described by one of her co-workers as “instrumental in improving ‘patient satisfaction’ and in leading the clinical staff to reach and surpass goals.” Truelove is known to go above and beyond all expectations to care and tend to her patients. “One of the best examples of her compassion as a caregiver of staff is when she sits down with patients and makes them feel like they are the only patient in the world, and diverts her attention to them so they know she is listening,” says one of Truelove’s co-workers. —Hayley Votolato