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Meet the New York/New Jersey Nurse.com Nursing Excellence finalists

Monday May 21, 2012
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Each year, Nurse.com Nursing Spectrum calls upon our readers to nominate exceptional nurse colleagues for our Nursing Excellence program. For more than a decade, we have received thousands of entries that contain stories of phenomenal nurse leaders, mentors and clinicians. This year has proven no different. The nurses nominated for our 2012 Nursing Excellence program have proven true nursing excellence is alive and well.

Advancing and Leading the Profession

Suellyn Ellerbe, RN, MN, NEA-BC, executive vice president, COO/CNO, Saint Clareís Health System, Denville, N.J.

Considered a mentor and powerhouse of nursing knowledge and experience, Ellerbe focuses on achieving improved clinical and financial outcomes while making patient care a top priority. With a gift for inspiring and motivating nurse leaders and staff nurses, her transformational leadership has helped encourage nurses at Saint Clareís to pursue advanced degrees, obtain national certifications, publish articles and attend national conferences. Ellerbe has led the nursing department to organize and restructure, resulting in optimal patient care and increased nurse satisfaction. The changes created a more streamlined admissions process and a nurse residency program that provides additional training and support to new baccalaureate nurses. With a vision that has elevated nursing practice at Saint Clareís, Ellerbe is able to reduce expenses while improving quality and keeping patients, physicians and employees happy. Ellerbe involved shift supervisors and all nursing staff in the management of resources, resulting in savings that helped provide funds for a nursing wage increase.

Carolyn Quinn, RN, MSN, NE-BC, associate executive director, Steven and Alexandra Cohen Childrenís Medical Center, New Hyde Park, N.Y.

A passionate childrenís advocate and mom boasting a rich portfolio of accomplishments in a 20-year career, Quinn has advanced the nursing practice to excellence, elevating the level of respect within the interdisciplinary team. Armed with a vision of setting the standard for the care of children throughout the health system, Quinn implemented a systemwide pediatric products committee, allowing new devices to be trialed, evaluated and added to the formulary so all pediatric hospitals have access to the same benefits of devices and supplies that improve quality of care. She engaged the education department to create a standardized development program to ensure the same standard of care for children is taught and implemented at every site and facilitated a shared governance model integrating all disciplines. Quinn also has been published on topics related to pediatric critical interdisciplinary care and sits on the planning committee for annual conferences for nursing leadership and pediatrics.

Susan W. Salmond, RN, EdD, dean and professor, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey-School of Nursing, Newark, N.J.

An inspirational role model who truly cares for staff, students and faculty, Salmond took on the role of dean in 2009 after serving as an interim dean. Among her accomplishments are the development of the first DNP program in New Jersey and overseeing masterís degree programs in specialties such as womenís health, nursing education and advanced community health leadership. Salmond has brought millions of dollars in competitive research grants to UMDNJ, offering a visionary leadership that has taken into account the need for more advanced practice nurses to meet the demands of a rapidly evolving healthcare system. Under Salmondís guidance, UMDNJ has created initiatives such as the New Jersey Childrenís Health Project, a partnership with the Childrenís Health Fund that brings primary care to Newark-area children and their families. A respected scholar, consultant and teacher, Salmond has written for multiple publications and presented on a variety of issues related to orthopedic nursing and other topics.

Joanne Singleton, RN, PhD, FNP-BC, FNAP, FNYAM, professor, chair of the Department of Graduate Studies and DNP Program director, Pace University, Lienhard School of Nursing, Pleasantville, N.Y.

Excelling in teaching, scholarship and service, Singleton helped launch Paceís first DNP program, guiding the first class of 20 students through the experience. Singleton has a commitment to evidence-based practice, leading faculty members a decade ago to revise Paceís Family Nurse Practitioner curriculum to use an evidence-based practice framework. Distinguishing herself with numerous peer-reviewed publications, Singleton led a faculty team in a systematic review of smoking cessation initiatives and provides consultations and presentations on health-related topics to New York City public schools. Colleagues are impressed by Singletonís teaching skills at Pace, where she receives positive evaluations from students and received a Lienhard School of Nursing Award for Teaching Excellence in May 2010. She also is a respected member of the Lienhard Leadership Team and has been instrumental in developing the collegeís strategic plan. Blazing new paths in scholarship aimed at eliminating health disparities, Singleton is dedicated to cultural competence, evidence-based practice and primary healthcare.

Lily Thomas, RN, PhD, vice president, system nursing research, North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System, New Hyde Park, N.Y.

A guiding force for the conduct of nursing research and the transition of evidence into practice, Thomas chairs the systemwide nursing research committee. Consistently displaying the inquiring mind of a researcher throughout her career, Thomas has been ahead of trends when helping to plant the seeds of a nursing research agenda in a practice setting. She is the developer of the Collaborative Care Model, which drives the provision of care throughout the health system. Thomas also developed a problem-solving model to assist nurse leaders in identifying and resolving clinical and managerial issues at the unit level, resulting in more than 100 improvement efforts. As a leader in shaping the present and future course of nursing science and practice, Thomas actively acknowledges and promotes the assistance of all her collaborators in her work. Despite numerous responsibilities, Thomas always finds time to advise doctoral students on dissertations and encourage staff nurses to explore clinical questions while nurturing several regional and national collegial relationships.

Clinical Nursing, Inpatient

Feddy S. Emmanuel, RN, MS, FNP-BC, CWOCN, wound, ostomy, continence nurse practitioner, Lutheran Medical Center, New York City

Emmanuel has been instrumental in improving outcomes for patients with wound and skin care-related issues, ostomies and pressure ulcers. She has spearheaded several successful initiatives, including the Skin Savers program, which educates staff on the appropriate use of supplies, equipment and interventions to reduce or eliminate skin breakdown. Emmanuelís knowledge and clinical expertise has made her influential in helping to reduce the incidence rate of hospital-acquired pressure ulcers. She also developed a reference guide to give each unit easy access to standardized information for staging of pressure ulcers and revised the Skin Assessment and Treatment form, making it more comprehensive and increasing the frequency of completion from once a week to three times a week. Admired by staff and complimented by patients and families for her caring attitude, Emmanuel performs consults in the community during her free time and recognizes the need for a comprehensive wound care management program in the outpatient setting.

Christine Frugard, RN, CCRN, MSN, PNP-AC, clinical coordinator, Goryeb Childrenís Hospital at Morristown (N.J.) Medical Center

As clinical coordinator for the pediatric ICU, inpatient acute pediatric unit and day hospital for outpatients, Frugard is held in high regard for her leadership skills. She devotes significant time to ensuring staff members are motivated and rewarded for their contributions. Frugard implemented bedside shift report rounds to reconcile information and check for special requests from family members. She also helped secure a special grant to assist the parents of a chronically ill patient after the family lost everything in a hurricane. Frugard brought patientsí families and staff together to implement Condition Help — a national program allowing parents to call an emergency hotline if they believe concerns about their childís care are not being addressed. Viewed by others as a hardworking and compassionate role model, Frugard offered comfort to a colleague whose chronically ill pediatric patient died, making it easier for her fellow nurse to console the patientís family.

Donna M. Hangan, CHRNC, CWA, MSN, ANP, hyperbaric unit coordinator, Nassau University Medical Center, East Meadow, N.Y.

Hangan is the unit coordinator on Nassau University Medical Centerís Hyperbaric Medicine Unit, working at the hospital since 1985. Embracing the world of hyperbaric medicine, she has made it her passion, with a 2012 goal of achieving certification for her unit from the Undersea and Hyperbaric Medical Society. Part of Hanganís job involves being a lifeline back to health for patients, who undergo 30 to 40 treatments for two hours at a time. Hangan accompanies patients into the chamber when necessary, instructing them on ways to be more comfortable during treatment. To address the issue of ventilator settings changing because of the chamberís pressure, Hangan suggested developing a new type of ventilator that can sense pressurization changes and adjust accordingly, creating a safer experience for patients. She also suggested changes to the ventilator to make it easier to use, such as moving a large metal manifest from the outside of the machine to the inside.

Gloria V. Hermoso, RN, BSN, CCRN, MSN(c), ED staff nurse and unit educator, Somerset Medical Center, Somerville, N.J.

Working as a triage nurse, charge nurse and the ED nurse educator, Hermoso emigrated from the Philippines in 1988, temporarily leaving her husband and five children while she secured employment to support her family. Hermoso provides training to her department on new equipment, policies and procedures, and was instrumental in developing and teaching the Therapeutic Hypothermia protocol, making ED staff proud of the success theyíve had with patients. With a passion for teaching, Hermoso loves precepting new staff, demonstrating what it means to be a true ED nurse and continuing to offer support and encouragement. She has taught several colleagues how to access current literature and interpret study results, encouraging the development of new ideas and initiatives. She implemented the use of capnography in the ED and annually assesses staff competency in the use of Swan-Ganz catheters. Although Hermoso uses research to improve care, she holds on to the old-fashioned concepts that have defined nursing from the beginning.

Leonel R. Medina, RN, MA, APRN-BC, nurse practitioner, Beth Israel Medical Center, New York City

Known in Beth Israel Medical Centerís Department of Pain Medicine and Palliative Care as the ultimate communicator and team player, Medina is skilled in his specialty of postoperative pain management. One of two nurse practitioners leading a team managing the most complicated surgical cases, Medina is viewed as consistently reliable, trustworthy, highly independent and organized with well-honed interpersonal skills. In addition to educating the new surgical house staff, Medina sees the holistic nature of most issues, often using his sense of humor to diffuse tense situations effectively. Medina and his team developed a biweekly preoperative pain class for orthopedic patients and educational brochures for staff and patients, as well as an online pre- and postoperative pain class. A role model for professional development, Medina recently helped a chronic pain patient receive state-of-the-art therapy and often is called on to troubleshoot difficult cases, using his knowledge of pharmacology, pain physiology and patient care.

Education and Mentorship

Barbara Atkins, RN, MSN, ANP-BC, nurse practitioner, Visiting Nurse Service of New York, New York City

Growing up in Jamaica, Atkins saw her grandmother, who had dreamed of being a nurse, care for people in her community. Atkins decided to pursue her grandmotherís dream and is a nurse practitioner in the VNSNY Long Term Home Health Care Program where she also serves as a team leader of the facilityís Geriatric Education Program in Home Care. She helped develop a curriculum to prepare nurses for the gerontological certification exam and created a course to examine issues in caring for a geriatric population. Through Atkinsí dedication, more than 50 of VNSNYís RNs have become certified as gerontological nurses. An award-winning caregiver, Atkins developed a Personal Health Record to help patients keep track of what occurs during medical appointments. As an intake nurse, she assesses older patients and those living with HIV and AIDS. Atkins belongs to multiple professional organizations, including American Nurses in AIDS Careís New York chapter.

Alicia Capetandes, RN, MS, CCRN, critical care educator, Winthrop University Hospital, Mineola, N.Y.

A born educator, Capetandes serves as a role model for nurses, demonstrating exemplary dedication and competence. She frequently takes time to teach her colleagues and goes out of her way to make calls or research an issue, new medication or procedure. Staff members know they can call Capetandes at home if they have a question, and she often comes to work on off shifts or weekends to offer assistance. An approachable person with endless energy, Capetandes leaves no stone unturned to resolve issues related to patient care. She recently started doing research to help create a trial project for walking ventilator patients and participates in quality improvement projects that have decreased rates of hospital-acquired infections and hospital-acquired pressure ulcers. Empathetic to the stress ICU nurses and other staff endure, Capetandes shows concern for them on a personal level and is eager to celebrate their milestones and accomplishments.

Joan P. Goodman, RN, MA, health educator, NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, Westchester Division, White Plains, N.Y.

Goodman is part of a three-nurse team providing orientation, inservice and continuing education to more than 600 psychiatric staff members, often going above and beyond in her work. She organizes monthly orientation classes for new employees and creates individually tailored orientations when nurses are promoted. An active member of multiple committees and councils, Goodman hosts several educational groups and classes for inpatients and outpatients. She also regularly leads mock medical and psychiatric drills on inpatient units and works to meet the learning needs of staff. The go-to person in her department for questions about electronic health records, Goodman conducted research to create a successful one-day workshop on improving the hospital experience for patients and staff. She also played an integral role in the hospitalís efforts to reduce seclusion and restraint and often is asked to participate in new committees and initiatives because of her knowledge and work ethic.

Janet H. Johnson, RN, MA, ACNP, ANP-BC, cardiology nurse practitioner, Mount Sinai Medical Center, New York City

Dedicated to the nursing profession for more than 30 years, Johnson plays a vital role in cardiac nurse practitioner orientation and training. She orients new nurses and students and initiates educational meetings while having passion and enthusiasm for advanced nursing practice. Johnson is the driving force behind the Mount Sinai Heart Nurse Practitioner Symposium, serving as lecturer and moderator as well as chair of the grant committee that obtained funds to support the project. She also has developed an educational series for nurses on heart failure, and collaborated with fellow cardiac nurse practitioners to create an evidence-based practice initiative to raise RN knowledge of evidence-based practice skills in informational literacy, critical appraisal of research and clinical decision-making for patients with cardiovascular disease. A role model to many nurses, Johnson teaches about the importance of educating patients on the management of their diseases to reduce readmissions and improve outcomes.

Elaine L. Smith, RN, EdD, MBA, NEA-BC, ANEF, vice president, system nursing education, North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System, New Hyde Park, N.Y.

Challenging assumptions and staying ahead of trends are among Smithís specialties as a teacher and mentor. Serving as an educational guide to even the most experienced nurses, Smithís lighthearted, fun-loving personality calms nervous students, making it easier for them to learn. Leading a core group of nurse educators and providing strategic leadership to nursing education initiatives throughout the health system, Smith chairs the nursing education council and started a perioperative fellowship program for new hires. She also established a nurse leadership academy to meet the needs of nurse managers and executives transitioning into new roles and took centralized continuing education programs to another level, showing an understanding of regional and national healthcare needs. A sought-after presenter, Smith has spoken on a variety of topics at local, regional and national professional forums and has written two book chapters in respected nursing texts and several articles in scholarly and peer-reviewed publications.

Home, Community and Ambulatory Care

Karen Julia Doblin, RN, NP, PhD(c), CCRN, CNS, nurse practitioner, Beth Israel Medical Center, New York City

A consummate professional who enjoys contributing to better patient care and nursing science, Doblinís responsibilities include managing more than 700 chronic pain patients with a physician collaborator. With a superb knowledge of medications, Doblin tirelessly works with a specialty pharmacy to compound medications accurately and safely to meet patient needs. One patient she managed who used a wheelchair and was confined to home now is able to walk in Central Park with his family through a treatment Doblin helped suggest. She also improved another patientís quality of life through an implantable pump, stimulator, opioid combination and psychological counseling. A provider, educator and researcher, Doblin is working with her collaborator on a study of patient responses to living with a spinal cord stimulator and recently published a paper for ED RNs and physicians on managing patients with implantable pumps. A talented teacher, Doblin also takes time to precept graduate-level nurse practitioner students.

Sophia Gouldbourne, RN, PALS, ACLS, BSL, PICC, registered nurse, MJHS, Brooklyn, N.Y.

Gouldbourne goes beyond her job description, which includes conducting home care visits and assessing the physical, social, psychological and safety needs of patients through her knowledge and skills. Impressing others with her resourcefulness, dedication and patience, she recently cared for two organ transplant patients, one of whom received a new kidney and liver and another who received a stomach, liver, pancreas and small and large bowels. Undaunted by the complex assignments, Gouldbourne saw the patients multiple times a week and sometimes twice a day, staying with one patient for three hours during a visit so his wife could respond to a family emergency. She also works to prevent sepsis in her five-organ transplant patient while ensuring he remains psychologically healthy and teaching his wife to care for him. Leaving her home at 6:30 a.m. Saturdays, Gouldbourne helps with the patientís morning routine, setting up processes for the remainder of the weekend.

Barbara Maffei, RN, BSN, OCN, nursing clinical coordinator, UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, New Brunswick, N.J.

Working in the Hematology Treatment Center at the Robert Wood Johnson Medical Group, Maffei delivers high-quality nursing care to patients. Holding a longstanding commitment to clinical excellence, Maffei sees that the unique needs of the centerís patient population are recognized. She collaborates with hospital staff, families and caregivers to ensure a smooth transition from admission to hospital stay to discharge. When a patientís daughter called Maffei in the middle of the night after her father had been rushed to the hospital, Maffei offered support, contacting the appropriate hospital resource to help resolve an issue the daughter was having related to her fatherís illness. Maffei also encourages staff professional development activities and is a firm proponent of the role of continuing education. Maffei has created the nursing component of nearly every program at the hematology center, and is involved in efforts to educate the public about blood disorders such as hemophilia and sickle cell disease.

Lory Tortelli, RN, BSN, director of patient care services, North Shore-Long Island Jewish Center for Advanced Medicine, New Hyde Park, N.Y.

Considered a stellar example of hard work, patient advocacy and nursing empowerment, Tortelli is responsible for the operations and staffing of three ambulatory/radiology imaging facilities. She believes in listening to patients while providing individualized, empathetic and evidence-based nursing care. Tortelli also welcomes staff input and works to ensure excellence and opportunities for success. Giving endlessly of her time, talent and energy, Tortelli was instrumental in initiating the i-Stat System, a process that has allowed nurses to obtain blood test results in minutes, reduce patient wait times for scans and increase patient volume and satisfaction. Valuing achievements in nursing, Tortelli encourages staff to join professional organizations and become certified in Pediatric Advanced Life Support and Advanced Cardiac Life Support. She is committed to helping nurses be the best they can be, taking advantage of teachable moments and providing staff with the tools they need to do their jobs.

Andrew J. Wuthrich, RN, BSN, surgical nurse liaison, NYU-Langone Medical Center/Hospital for Joint Diseases, New York City

Wuthrichís dynamic personality was evident to colleagues from his first day as a preop and PACU nurse. Providing excellent care to patients before and after surgery, Wuthrich has received positive comments from patients, their families, surgeons and other colleagues. As a co-leader of an evidence-based project on a new voiding protocol to reduce lengths of stay and increase patient and nurse satisfaction, Wuthrich also participated in a research study on anxiety among family members of surgical patients. Known for using critical reasoning while providing care, Wuthrich recently applied for the Liaison Program and was selected by the panel because of his expertise with pre- and postop patients. He also helped promote customer satisfaction by participating in the hospitalís Just Say Yes program. An expert in the rollout of the hospitalís new electronic health records, Wuthrich is considered a resource to staff and other members of the surgical team.

Patient and Staff Management

Benjamin Evans, RN, DNP, APN, PMH, CNS-BC, associate vice president, Behavioral Health, Bergen Regional Medical Center, Paramus, N.J.

From treating patients with chronic illnesses and addictions to working in general medicine and mental health, Evans has more than 30 years of nursing experience. Using that experience to treat patients in need, Evans engages nurses to become more involved in the future of their profession, working with staff to help them achieve their goals. He helped implement funding for projects that reduce fear in anxious patients and provide early intervention in the ED, and developed a psychiatric nurse externship in behavioral health. Use of psychiatric agency nurses has been reduced to nearly zero during Evansí tenure, and he helped recruit skilled behavioral health nursing staff. Viewed as a compassionate role model, Evans also mentors APN students and serves as an adjunct faculty member for several schools. Evans worked with a masterís nursing student to determine barriers to nurse engagement in electronic health records and create methods to increase compliance.

Laura Holihan, RN, BSN, CPEN, administrative nurse manager, Montefiore Medical Center, Bronx, N.Y.

Taking charge of one of New Yorkís busiest pediatric EDs in 2009, Holihan has proven herself to be a successful leader. Although she is an administrator, the former staff nurse might be found during a typical busy shift putting in an IV or helping the triage nurse with patients. Making a difference to patients, staff and the nursing profession, Holihan has helped reduce wait times in the ED through initiatives such as expanding the fast track area, increasing staff and adding more stretchers. Another one of Holihanís initiatives has helped nurses, physicians and staff better update patients and families about the status of care and delays, leading to better safety and customer service. Treating her staff as a team to work together for the sake of patient care, Holihan also improved the workplace by updating ED supplies and advocating on behalf of staff nurses in the ED, boosting morale.

Eileen P. Magri, RN, MSN, NE-BC, director of nursing, maternal child health, Winthrop University Hospital, Mineola, N.Y.

Viewed as a visionary leader who inspires her staff, Magri is responsible for developing strategies for planning and operation of a 16-bed labor and delivery suite, two maternity and antepartum floors and a newly designated childrenís center. She also easily manages a more than $15 million salary and supply budget, while directing the work of five nurse managers, six educators and more than 300 full-time employees. Offering an open-door policy and always readily accessible, Magri has advised and mentored staff for several innovative projects, resulting in increased patient safety and satisfaction. She also is a strong supporter of nurses pursuing advanced degrees and values nursing research to enhance nursing practice. Under Magriís guidance, the maternal child department created several evidence-based initiatives, including identification and follow-up for patients at risk for postpartum mood disorders and development of a NICU central-line bundle to decrease the rate of hospital-acquired infections.

Denise M. Robinson, RN, MPH, CHWOCN, patient care director of orthopedics/wound ostomy and continence nursing, NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University, New York City

Continuously striving for high Press Ganey scores and other quality assurance indicators, Robinson demonstrates leadership by supporting staff in their professional goals. She accommodates school schedules and introduces staff to relevant seminars. Recently recognizing a fellow nurse was interested in wound care, Robinson encouraged her to obtain certification. She also works to maintain high standards on the floor, which can be seen in her oversight of consistent hourly rounds. A believer in teamwork, during morning huddles she prompts staff to discuss patients who are at high risk for falls or any other concerns they might have. Staff members are encouraged to participate in discharge calls, resulting in a positive impact on patients and increased patient satisfaction scores. Robinson promotes educational, clinical and research opportunities to guide the delivery of expert healthcare to patients with wounds, ostomies and incontinence and has developed collaborative relationships between physicians and nursing staff in pressure ulcer prevention.

Nancy Vardaro, RN, MAS, CNOR, surgical services manager, Morristown (N.J.) Medical Center

Providing opportunities for staff to work on projects that enhance the perioperative experience for patients and families, Vardaro offers a management style that has benefitted her department. In an effort to formally study staff concerns about safety, Vardaro collaborates with multidisciplinary teams. She worked with the cardiac access staff to facilitate the admissions process and with a multidisciplinary team to prepare for and implement endovascular heart-valve surgery in OR endovascular suites. Vardaro recognized the need for high-definition laparoscopic video equipment. She also initiated a hospitalwide Go Green committee and is a major supporter of the instrument reprocessing program. She works within the shared governance council of perioperative services and a corporate safety team to direct and evaluate corrective action. Vardaroís forward thinking led to the implementation of a HemoNine blood refrigerator, making blood immediately available to intraoperative patients, resulting in financial and patient safety gains.

Volunteerism and Service

Sandra P. Bastidas, RN, BSN, CEN, ACLS, PALS, nurse, St. Francis Hospital, Roslyn, N.Y.

Acquiring a passion for volunteering from her parents, Bastidas, an ED nurse, works with Blancaís House, a nonprofit organization providing free medical care to underprivileged countries. Bastidas began traveling to South America and Central America in May 2010, assisting healthcare volunteers with various procedures such as cleft-lip and palate repairs, hernia repairs, colonoscopies, hysterectomies and total-knee replacements. In the ED, Bastidas coordinates care for a variety of acute and critically ill adult and pediatric patients. She is an integral part of her facilityís door-to-balloon initiative, which combines expertise from the ED and cardiac cath lab to expedite care. Bastidas assumes the role of charge nurse in the absence of an assistant nurse manager, managing patient flow from the triage area to inpatient beds. A preceptor for new ED nurses, Bastidas is responsible for the coordination of clinical orientation, including assessment of clinical competency and continuous feedback.

Ellen Fernando, RN, BSN, CCRN, clinical nurse 1, Morgan Stanley Childrenís Hospital of NewYork-Presbyterian, New York City

Fernando cares for patients with complex diseases, post-transplant and multi-organ trauma, and critically ill children on continuous venovenus hemofiltration and high-frequency-oscillatory ventilation. With a reputation as a smart, caring and talented nurse who brings positive influence to her work environment, Fernando volunteers for Kids of Courage, a summer camp that took children with brain and spinal cord disorders to Disney World in 2009. She also has helped with four Operation Smile missions and worked as a medical nurse volunteer in Mexico, Egypt and Bolivia. Between missions, Fernando went on a five-week Project Hope humanitarian trip in 2010 to Indonesia on the Navy hospital ship USNS Mercy and joined Project Medishare for a mission to Hospital Bernard Mevs in Haiti in 2011. Inspiring fellow colleagues to volunteer their time as well, Fernando has received numerous letters from patients and their families who note her empathy, patience and kindness.

Maureen Laffey, RN, OCN, clinical nurse 4, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York City

Bringing smiles to the faces of patients filled with a sense of loss and hopelessness, Laffey works to provide skillful, humanistic care with precision and grace. When one of Laffeyís patients told her he longed to hear the sounds of the bustling city and feel the fresh air on his face, she accompanied him outside and sat with him while he enjoyed a break from his hospital room. She also arranged for a guitarist to play Beatles music for a dying patient whoíd once mentioned to her that the group was his favorite band. Laffey collaborated with the centerís social worker to implement a weekly support group for patients and caregivers and established a quiet hour every day at 3 p.m. after recognizing the negative impact of noise on patients. Laffey also has traveled to Africa several times for medical missions and volunteered in 2010 and 2011 at a leprosy colony on the outskirts of Kolkata, India.

Hannah Megacz, RN, BSN, CEN, CPEN, registered nurse, NYU Langone Medical Center and Doctors Without Borders, New York City

An ED nurse clinician, Megacz began volunteering for Doctors Without Borders/Medecins Sans Frontieres in 2007. Giving her own time to travel and provide assistance to vulnerable populations, Megacz has made five trips to various countries, including Cameroon and Niger and areas on the Somali Border and Ivory Coast. As a field nurse, Megacz has supervised both small teams in a mobile clinic and larger teams in a 400-bed hospital. Her accomplishments include improving the health outcomes of refugees in Kenya and taking part in the opening of a new maternity ward in a renovated hospital that was assisting refugees. At the hospital she counseled a patient with life-threatening eclampsia who needed a C-section and was reluctant. Megacz also enlisted community health workers and birth attendants to speak throughout the refugee camp about the importance of giving birth in a maternity hospital, basic hygiene and the services offered by MSF.

Rookmin Rampersaud, RN, BSN, senior staff nurse, Maimonides Medical Center, Brooklyn, N.Y.

With a positive attitude and zest for always doing right by patients, Rampersaud is an inspiration to colleagues. When a Maimonides cardiothoracic surgeon established a cardiothoracic surgical program in Guyana in 2006, Rampersaud was one of the first nurses to travel with physicians and other healthcare workers to deliver medical care to an underserved population. While there, Rampersaud created an online critical care education program and developed a postop guide on caring for and managing patients after cardiac surgery, ECGs and other procedures. She also contacted various companies to have much-needed items donated to the program, including wheels to replace broken ones on hospital beds and heart pillows to assist patients with coughing, which Rampersaud now makes herself. Noticing postop patients had nothing to sit on, Rampersaud organized a fundraiser to purchase four recliners and four bedside tables. At Maimonides, she was the DAISY award winner for December 2011.

For a photo gallery of the finalists, visit www.Nurse.com/gallery/NYNJfinalists2012.

For information on the awards program, visit www.Nurse.com/NursingExcellence.

Geneva Slupski is a freelance writer. Send letters to editorNY@nurse.com or post a comment below.