Tuesday, June 18, 2024 Jun 18, 2024
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Excellence in Dallas-Fort Worth Nursing Awards: The Finalists

These outstanding health care professionals were also in the running for the honor.

Nola Schrum

Nola Schrum
juggles a nonprofit ministry in Africa, a part-time nursing career at
Baylor-Irving, and the care of her aging father, but don’t expect her to
slow down anytime soon. Between annual mission trips to Tanzania, the
assistant clinical professor at Texas Woman’s University managed to find
time to create a pre-semester skills day to help new nursing students
learn essential skills. Schrum has enlisted her peers to donate their
time and expertise to make sure every nursing student is confident, even
before the semester begins. The class was an instant hit with students,
and co-workers sing her praises for her innovative mind and caring
soul, which she radiates daily. “I believe all people have the right to
receive compassionate, professional, and comprehensive health care,”
Schrum says. She graduated from the University of Texas at Arlington
with a Bachelor of Science degree in nursing and went on to get her
Master of Science degree in the Family Nurse Practitioner Program at
Texas Woman’s University. —Caitlin

Winnie Neal


Five years ago, Winnie Neal didn’t have a personal email account.
Today, she has developed an entire online class available to all
Methodist Dallas Medical Center employees, and creates and manages more
than 100 online classrooms. Recently, Neal presented a webinar on the
use of online classrooms in health care, in which 76 health care
organizations across the United States and Asia participated. Her
superiors describe the mother of three as a team player, and someone who
puts the needs of others ahead of her own, especially when it comes to
education. “If your heart has a desire to serve people, then I want to
do everything possible to help you reach your potential,” she says. Neal
served as a nurse expert in lawsuit cases for 14 years, and she has
spent 15 years in the Surgical Intensive Care Unit and Coronary Care
Unit. Always one to juggle a number of tasks, Neal is currently pursing a
Master of Science degree in Nursing Education at the University of
Texas at Tyler. She spends any free moment she has as a nurse consultant
at her church, and volunteering at her son’s school.—Caitlin Adams

Brenda Blakley

Brenda Blakley is
described as the “go-to” person for professional development at Baylor
Regional Medical Center at Plano. In her role as nurse educator, Blakley
participates in numerous activities that support the nursing staff,
whether working with newly hired RNs or veteran nurses. “Nursing and
education is my passion,” she says. “It’s what I have aspired to be
since I was in kindergarten.” Blakley especially relishes her role as
mentor and liaison to newly graduated RNs, and makes herself available
when they need extra support, no matter the time of day or night. She
also serves as an instructor in Basic and Advanced Life Support courses,
and is active in multiple national, state, and local nursing
organizations. The Texas A&M graduate recently completed her
master’s degree in nursing education at Walden University. Her community
benefits from her involvement with the North Texas Food Bank, Backpacks
for Kids, and as a speaker in the Plano Independent School District.—Caitlin Adams

Alicia Whitehead

When the going gets tough, Alicia Whitehead gets going. She is a school nurse for Richardson ISD, where she heads the CPR program, ensuring children receive emergency cardiac care if ever necessary. Whitehead also serves as the second school nurse for Skyview Elementary, Audelia Creek Elementary, and Thurgood Marshall Elementary schools. From these positions, Whitehead has become an unflinching advocate for disadvantaged and at-risk children: her help is often the difference between opportunity and oblivion for young students. Whitehead supervises a food program that provides weekend meals to impoverished children; she represents their interests before government agencies; and she coordinates with charitable groups to secure eye and dental care and important social services for children whose families have little means. The past years have been especially rough given a sluggish economy and budget cuts. But Whitehead never loses hope. This nurse/educator/social worker/child advocate knows that her students rely on her to keep fighting. “What keeps me going is knowing that if I work hard, I can make a difference in a kid’s life,” she says. “And, for me, if I can make a difference in just one kid’s life, then it’s worth it.”—Farraz Khan

Joan Cary

Try keeping up with Joan Cary. Chances are she’ll leave you behind. Despite 30 years as a staff nurse in hospitals and, for the last decade, special procedure nurse for Richardson ISD, Cary still has the energy and excitement that, according to a colleague, “make a 20-year-old look slow and inefficient.” With a wealth of experience behind her, Cary knows her stuff. But it’s her ability to connect with students—to effectively communicate with children about health matters—that makes her an outstanding nurse. Much of Cary’s work—as with a recent acanthosis screening—involves explaining to children health problems they have or may be courting and persuading them to take steps to improve their lifestyles. This is harder with special-needs children, a class of patients whom Cary cares for regularly, but she has devised ways, such as forms of diversion therapy, to help these children help themselves. Needless to say, her job demands a special canniness, a unique power of empathy, and a world of patience. “It sounds so silly, but the reason I’m still as motivated today is because I enjoy helping others—I want to help these kids feel better,” Cary says. “For all of these kids, what’s most important is finding a way to connect with them, to talk to them at their level, and, ultimately, to let them know that you care about them.”—Farraz Khan

Vicki Wiseman
Women’s Health

“Quality” is Vicki Wiseman’s byword. In nearly two decades of leadership positions in Women’s Services departments—including her current role as director of women services at Methodist Mansfield— Wiseman has flawlessly balanced the tasks of nursing patients, managing staff, coaching colleagues, improving process, overseeing expansion projects, and, most important, being a friend. Her accomplishments speak for themselves: Wiseman has posted the highest patient-satisfaction scores in her hospital’s history; she has spearheaded process improvements that have eliminated central line and ventilator-related infections, earning her department quality awards; and she has been instrumental in a $9.1 million department expansion, in the establishment of Methodist Mansfield’s Level 3 Neonatal ICU, in the hospital’s Texas Ten Step accreditation, and in securing an $80,000 grant to the hospital. To whatever she attempts, Wiseman applies her obsession with excellence because she understands that the true vocation of the nurse is to proffer service to all people, both in and out of the hospital bed. “The one question I always ask is whether a patient can be harmed by what we’re doing,” Wiseman says. “I want to be sure that we do whatever we can to constantly improve, to maintain the highest standards because I want to always achieve the best outcomes for our patients.”—Farraz Khan

Irva Rubin
Women’s Health

For Irva Rubin, nursing was a calling. She cared for her first patient as a junior in high school, when she began volunteering at Texas Health Presbyterian in Dallas. Today, more than 30 years later, Rubin still has the same fire in the belly. Over her career as an RN, it is her sympathy and thoughtfulness—often concealed by her understated manner—that has made her beloved by all of her patients. She notices the details that might escape the radar of a regular nurse—details that can go a long way in making an ailing person feel less like a patient and more like a friend or family member.—Farraz Khan

Karen Elmore
Women’s Health

In November 1988, Karen Elmore was scared. After a seven-year hiatus from nursing—a profession to which she had dedicated more than a decade of her life before her two sons were born—she made the decision to return to the job. “I feel that I get so much from nursing personally—it’s so rewarding as far as personal growth and interacting with my patients—that I wanted to go back,” Elmore says. It didn’t take long for Elmore to find her groove again. She started (again) as a staff nurse at St. Paul University Hospital, caring for pregnant and new mothers and their babies. “Before my children were born, I had been an emergency nurse,” she says. “But after raising my children, I really wanted to be in Women’s Services.” And she never looked back—she worked as a staff nurse at several Dallas-area hospitals before returning to St. Paul, where she is nurse manager in Women’s Services today. In her current position, she has used her rich experience as a nurse and mother to improve labor and delivery practices, nursery operations, and staff training. She is an advocate for her patients and for her staff and makes decisions with all stakeholders—patients, her unit, her hospital—in mind.—Farraz Khan

Janice Walker

Janice Walker is
the devoted and passionate chief operating officer/chief nursing officer
at Baylor Medical Center at Garland, but her co-workers and peers can
attest that she is a dedicated nurse first and foremost. Walker has
demonstrated her top-tier leadership qualities throughout her career,
most recently by implementing 10 am leadership rounds that require the
facility’s leaders to make daily morning rounds to engage with staff and
assigned patients—a program that has increased inpatient Press Ganey
Patient Satisfaction scores for the facility since its adoption. Despite
her administrative role, Walker doesn’t hesitate to roll up her sleeves
and help patients in need, such as a child who was admitted to the
emergency room after being hit by a truck on the way to school. In this
instance, Walker went above and beyond to send nurses with the EMS team
to provide support during the child’s transfer to a nearby children’s
hospital. Walker stayed behind to work as a bedside nurse and pick up
the slack.—Hilary Lau

Juanita Hernandez

Hernandez is the director of Medical Telemetry at Methodist Mansfield
Medical Center, but on occasion her job description has been closer to
that of a wedding planner. For one patient who received a critical
diagnosis and was placed in hospice, Hernandez worked with the patient’s
girlfriend, the priest from his church, and a large group of his family
and friends to convert the hospital’s chapel and foyer for a surprise
wedding and last rites ceremony, complete with punch, cake, and flowers.
After the ceremony, Hernandez even tied a “Just Married” sign to her
patient’s wheelchair. Hernandez eagerly passes her positive attitude and
innovative methods along to her peers, whether it be through a Jeopardy
game to teach staff about core measures, a fall-reduction program to
decrease the number of injuries at her facility, or the implementation
of a Unit Based Council that facilitated improved insulin delivery
time.—Hilary Lau

Remy Tolentino

Remy Tolentino
serves as vice president of Nursing Workforce and Leadership Development
for the Baylor Health Care System. Remy has been instrumental in
developing a nursing executive program at SMU that is equivalent to an
executive master’s degree program and educates nurses how to lead and
manage all aspects of the business of nursing. Remy has spent her entire
career working to improve nursing practices and promote high standards
and professionalism within the profession. She works alongside Human
Resources at Baylor to develop and implement strategies to increase
nursing workforce retention and recruitment, and in November 2011, she
was named project director of a $12.4-million grant from Deerbrook
Charitable Trust that will be used to improve the quality of geriatric
care on local, regional, and national levels.—Hilary Lau