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Nursing Stars Light up the Heartland

Monday November 5, 2007
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NurseWeek is proud to announce the regional finalists for this year's NurseWeek Excellence Awards. These finalists in the categories of Advancing and Leading the Profession, Clinical Care, Community Service, Management, Mentoring, and Teaching were chosen by nursing peers from among numerous outstanding RNs.

Advancing and Leading the Profession

Aleen Golis, MS, SC, FNP, VA Black Hills Healthcare System, Hot Springs, S.D.

Challenges don't sway Golis from her commitment to patients and the profession. The family nurse practitioner provides primary healthcare and psychoeducational classes to patients. She also works on the Post Deployment Health Reassessment Team, where her background in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) enables her to detect mental, emotional, and spiritual distress common among returning soldiers. Golis shares her knowledge with the public, as well as professional colleagues, while pursuing higher education. Among her many accomplishments, she helped develop the facility's evidence-based PTSD program and has been among those to spearhead a successful smoking cessation program.

Viki Longfield, APN, ACON, BJC Medical Group, St. Peters, Mo.

Longfield, a staff nurse in the adult outpatient cancer center, has dedicated her career to advancing the care of cancer patients safely and compassionately. She is credited with teaching many nurses in the St. Louis area about what it means to be an oncology nurse. Oncologists recognize her skill and actively engage her in addressing patient needs. An oncology nurse for 27 years, Longfield continues to give as much energy and passion to her work as in the early days of her career.

Cathy Carrico, RN, MSN, CEN, Children's Hospital, Omaha, Neb.

Although Carrico's cup is filled with professional activities and commitments, she always has time to help colleagues find answers to their questions. Carrico, a clinical nurse specialist, has a never-ending desire to further her knowledge and share that knowledge for the good of patients. A Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner, Carrico imparts her extensive knowledge and experience through numerous teaching obligations and outreach to other hospitals and organizations. Carrico presents lectures on pediatric patient care topics to advanced practice nursing students, as well as talks at state and national organizations about pediatric nursing care. Among many other professional activities, Carrico is a pediatric advanced life support instructor and a course director and instructor for the Emergency Nurse Pediatric and Trauma Nurse Core courses.

Angie Milhous, RN, MSN, self-employed, Saint Charles, Mo.

Milhous is on a mission to bring excellence to health care. She coaches and trains healthcare companies around the U.S. on the Malcolm Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence in Health Care. A state examiner, Milhous also hosts an Internet radio show called "7 Minutes 2 Focus on Excellence," during which she gives free tips on bringing better service to healthcare industries. Known for infusing new ideas into health care, Milhous has taught companies how to reach even their poorest members by leveraging the Web for innovative outreach activities.

By age 36, this visionary nurse became vice president of operational services for a publically traded, multibillion-dollar, managed-care Medicaid company. Now, at age 40, her curriculum vitae includes having mentored hundreds of nurses to help them become more than they thought possible.

Clinical Care

Abby Groteleuschen, RN, BSN, Children's Hospital, Omaha, Neb.

As a pediatric nurse in the med-surg, cardiac, and intermediate care units, Groteleuschen is willing to go beyond the call of duty for patients. For example, she volunteered to be a primary caregiver for a 15-year-old, vent-dependent muscular dystrophy patient who, because of behavioral issues, was having difficulty being placed in a long-term care facility. Groteleuschen jumped at the chance to give the patient a more stable and consistent environment.

Along with Child Life and Family Support Services, she helped develop and implement a behavior modification program specific for the patient. Groteleuschen and other care providers helped physicians develop a transition-to-socialization program, which involved getting the bedridden patient out of his room for the first time in months.

Eventually, Groteleuschen got him to the playroom to play video games with his mother for 40 minutes, a big accomplishment. And when it was time for the patient to transition to a long-term care facility, Groteleuschen came in on her day off to ensure that the patient had a smooth and anxiety-free transition to his new home.

Erin Eberhart, RN, BSN, CDE, Children's Hospital, Omaha, Neb.

Eberhart takes to heart her role in training and educating patients in the endo/diabetes clinic. As a certified diabetes educator, she spends many hours with newly diagnosed patients and their families. Her relationships with patients and families are close and continuous and require intensive training and mentoring. Having Type 1 diabetes herself, Eberhart understands what patients go through and sets an example for them. Her dedication doesn't end at the clinic. Eberhart volunteers for Camp Hot Shots, a three-day summer camp for patients with diabetes.

Jamie Protaskey, RN, MSN, Children's Hospital, Omaha, Neb.

As an ED nurse practitioner, Protaskey does more than the day-to-day requirements. She helps create systems of care. For example, Protaskey has been integral in supporting, thoroughly researching, developing, presenting, and educating staff on the ED's five-level triage system. Taking the traditional five-level triage system and altering it for a solely pediatric population, Protaskey helped develop Triage 101, a staff education in-service used to prepare ED nurses for the conversion of triage systems. Conversion from a three-level to a five-level triage system would not have transitioned as smoothly or continued to work well if it weren't for Protaskey's dedication to the project.

Jamie Velasquez, RN, Children's Hospital, Omaha, Neb.

From helping a mother and father to nipple-feed their baby for the first time to performing critical procedures at the bedside, NICU staff nurse Velasquez handles with ease the many situations that come her way. She takes extra steps to comfort families, including capturing special moments with patients on film and creating a unit scrapbook of photos, handprints, and footprints of NICU babies. She displays each patient's scrapbook page in the baby's room for family to enjoy. She keeps the babies' rooms and bedding neat and clean, always personalizing bedding with special blankets, clothing, and supportive blanket rolls.

Community Service

Kim Lake, RN, BSN, Children's Hospital, Omaha, Neb.

Whether it's at the bedside or in the community, Lake makes every child matter and is consistently making differences in people's lives. This camp counselor who volunteers her time at a diabetic children's camp and a camp for children with cancer also is a Big Brothers/Big Sisters big sister. Although she is just beginning her nursing career, Lake has taken the initiative to join professional organizations and demonstrates her love for caring and nursing outside of work. She even has volunteered her time to a former NICU family and babysat for triplets to allow parents some adult time without worry or regret.

Courteney McKinley, RN, BSN, CCRN, Children's Hospital, Omaha, Neb.

McKinley, a staff nurse in the PICU unit, focuses on benefiting children in the community through community service. She is a founding member of a volunteer-only group called "Project Nightlights," which is charged with helping to design and build bedrooms for chronically ill children and children recovering from serious illnesses with special needs. The aim is to create "dream rooms" based on children's desires, as well as functional rooms to accommodate medical equipment and physical limitations. McKinley does this volunteer work while juggling her career and is a single parent to three children.

Kylie Tamke, RN, BSN, Children's Hospital, Omaha, Neb.

Tamke's passion to help others started long before she became a med-surg nurse. She was only a nursing student when she volunteered at the Ronald McDonald House, Habitat for Humanity, and Camp Carol Joy Holling. Two years into her nursing career, she helped organize fundraisers and donations for a local shelter for women and children and other organizations. Recently, she signed up to be a counselor at a camp for children with cancer or blood disorders. Not only does Tamke volunteer to become involved in these and other efforts, but she also motivates others to do the same.

Jean Kardell, RN, BSN, Children's Hospital, Omaha, Neb.

Kardell gives in all areas of her life. A staff nurse in the pediatric ED, Kardell is a devoted mother of four. She serves as a troop leader and a volunteer for Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, volunteers at school, and participates in the Parent Teacher Association. Kardell volunteers at her church and helps plan activities, such as making care packages with middle schoolers at the church to send to military troops in Iraq. At the local zoo, she helps provide medical care and advice to zoo-goers and employees. Kardell also is a certified CPR instructor, preceptor, and educator to new employees and student nurses.


Amy Hickman, RN, BSN, CCRN, Children's Hospital, Omaha, Neb.

Hickman, a house supervisory clinical nurse coordinator, expertly leads a fast-paced, high-acuity, ever-changing ICU environment by calmly coordinating patient flow and making quick decisions to address unexpected issues. With the attitude that the team can deal with anything together, Hickman has managed to advocate consistently for the nurses on her unit, as well as patients. She has become a trusted staff adviser and handles personal staff issues with professionalism and grace. When working on systems to improve the unit workflow or quality of patient care, Hickman always asks, "How can we make this better?"

Mary Briggs-Sedlachek, RN, Aurora UW Medical Group, Pewaukee, Wis.

Briggs-Sedlachek, who supervises a clinic for underserved patients in downtown Pewaukee, goes above and beyond her managerial responsibilities and reaches out and touches each and everyone's heart.

When an employee's mother was diagnosed with liver cancer, Briggs-Sedlachek let the employee know that she could take as much time off as needed. When an employee couldn't make it to work because the employee's kitten had died, the nurse supervisor went to the employee's house and comforted the employee until she knew she was OK. Briggs-Sedlachek treats all her employees this way, raising their morale and earning their respect and trust.

Diana Barton, RN, BSN, CPN, Children's Hospital, Omaha, Neb.

Barton, interim patient care manager, steps in when there's a need. Barton is a clinical nurse coordinator who graciously agreed to fill the role of unit manager when the unit was without a manager —this was while maintaining her role as clinical nurse coordinator.

In her 31 years at Children's Hospital, Barton has served in many nursing roles, and fellow employees look to her for guidance. She is a peacemaker on the unit, and during her time as a manager, Barton has helped the staff get through many changes, including switching to self-scheduling and trialing a new communication device.

Deb McConnell, RN, BSN, North Memorial Health Care, Robbinsdale, Minn.

As nurse manager in atrium critical care, McConnell manages a 20-bed combined medical-surgical-cardiovascular ICU. McConnell is an advocate for bedside nurses and the delivery of high-quality patient care.

She successfully merged two distinct ICUs, overcoming challenging staff animosities by providing a nonthreatening communication forum to allow staff to discover their similarities and to increase understanding of their differences. She provided unwavering moral support through the most difficult transition stages of the two ICU staffs and celebrated each success.


Joan Mack, RN, MSN, Nebraska Medical Center, Omaha

As a cardiology clinical nurse specialist, Mack educates patients and staff and case manages thoracic surgery patients. But her first love is caring for patients. She never hesitates to jump in and help staff nurses and physicians perform bedside procedures, educate patients, or identify resources for discharge. Mack is consistently visible and approachable. Staff recognize her as knowing what is going on in the unit, and they look to her as a resource. She mentors and guides new graduate and novice nurses, as well as experienced staff, about how to use their own problem-solving abilities.

Julie Moody, RN, BSN, CPN, Children's Hospital, Omaha, Neb.

Moody, a house supervisory clinical nurse coordinator, does not hesitate to page a resident or attending physician if she encounters a situation that she feels is not being attended to or handled properly. During her daily patient rounds, she takes time to introduce herself and have conversations with patients and families. Whenever a patient needs a procedure, Moody talks with the patient and family members about what will happen.

Before becoming a charge nurse, Moody was a preceptor for several years and became a leader and valuable resource on policy.

Cynthia Japp, RN, MS, Children's Hospital, Omaha, Neb.

A neonatal clinical nurse specialist, Japp inspires nurses to advance their careers. A colleague wrote that while Japp is clearly a patient care advocate, she felt Japp was an even better advocate for staff because she was largely responsible for advancing her colleagues' careers.

Japp has proved her leadership skills through involvement on the hospital's Clinical Practice Council and by turning ideas into reality. For example, Japp led an idea for the hospital to develop its own transport team and system and made them a reality.

Kathy Conrad, RN, BSN, Children's Hospital, Omaha, Neb.

In her nearly 30 years as a staff nurse, Conrad has held many roles. She has worked as a bedside nurse in a Nebraska ICU, a cardiac care unit, and a NICU; as a pediatric home health nurse; and as a nurse manager.

After 11 years in management, she chose to return to direct patient care as a PICU bedside nurse. The PICU nurses and managers feel blessed that she made this choice. During the past three years in PICU, Conrad, who people describe as a "breath of fresh air," has made a tremendous difference in the lives of patients, families, and coworkers.

Lisette Hilton is a freelance writer. To comment, e-mail editorHTL@nurseweek.com.