I’ve learned from watching our nurses over the years that nursing is a profession where a significant amount of personal effort is given in terms of skill, dedication, time, emotions, education, and care.
But seldom are nurses recognized for their important work.
There is one great form of recognition, though. Each year the nursing profession in Colorado honors its own by presenting the Nightingale Award for Excellence in Human Caring to the six top registered nurses in the state.
The award was founded in 1985 by the University of Colorado to recognize registered nurses whose performances echo the quality and dedication of Florence Nightingale. The award, now presented by the Colorado Nurses Association, is designed to honor nurses who demonstrate the uppermost levels of leadership, advocacy and innovation.
Florence Nightingale was the daughter of a wealthy British family who entered the nursing field in 1845. She did this despite her family’s strong objections.
Today, we can gaze back and say we’re fortunate to have had such a hardy, giving person, with such a pioneering spirit, in the medical field. She helped put the nursing profession on track to become what it is today. Thanks to her efforts and insights, hospital sanitation methods were reformed and greatly improved.
Poudre Valley Health System registered nurses have been well-represented at the winners’ podium for the statewide Nightingale Award. We also have had many finalists represented on the statewide level.
Our nurses who received the statewide honor in previous years were Jo zumBrunnen, Maureen Fields, Laura Lambird, Nancy Mershon, and Susan Markley Miller.
Their work assignments range from being a nursing director (Jo) and operating room nurse (Laura) to an oncology nurse (Maureen), gastronenterology nurse (Nancy) and cardiac specialist nurse (Susan).
Nightingale honorees are selected by a thorough grassroots process.
Nominations are developed by the colleagues, patients and family or friends of nurses. Nominations are sent to one of the appropriate six regional nurse organizations throughout the state. The nominations consist of essays about the nurse and letters of recommendation, and are reviewed on the regional level.
Each region hosts an awards ceremony where regional winners are nominated to compete for the six statewide awards. Our regional ceremony is held by the Centennial Area Health Education Center, which covers 10 counties in northeastern Colorado. The CAHEC also recognizes licensed practical nurses who are nominated through a similar process. However, LPNs don’t compete in the statewide Nightingale competition.
The CAHEC ceremony will be March 9 in Loveland, while the statewide ceremony will be May 19 in Denver.
This year we have 10 registered nurses nominated in the regional competition for becoming a finalist for the Nightingale honor. Here’s information on each:
- Tamara Bockman, charge nurse in the Medical Center of the Rockies cardiac unit, was nominated for her team work, caring and ability to motivate others.
- Mona Brower, an emergency room nurse at Poudre Valley Hospital, was recognized by colleagues for the way she provides comfort, compassion and stability for her patients.
- Jennifer Ellis, who works in the PVH resource pool, was nominated for her outstanding care of patients and their families. (A note of explanation: When a nurse works in the resource pool, that means she or he may work in a variety of nursing departments during various shifts rather than being assigned to only one department.)
- Another resource pool nurse, Tonya Gilmore, is known for the kindness and compassion that she demonstrates to MCR patients.
- A PVH operating room nurse, Barbara Hardes, is a nurse educator who diligently pursues excellence not only in patient care but also in helping colleagues improve their skills.
- Sue Larsen has held many patient-care positions during her 36 years in the profession. Recently, she has been a clinical quality specialist for our women and family services and is a strong advocate of quality care.
- Another long-time nurse, Cheryl Milner, works in PVH’s surgical services and is highly respected for her grace and commitment to patients and improving health care.
- Alene Nitzky, a PVH outpatient oncology nurse, is known for her passion for writing and giving presentations on health topics, particularly cancer, for the public. Alene also runs ultramarathons (100+ miles) to raise funds for our campaign to build a regional cancer center.
- Susan Webster, a nurse in our health system for 24 years, has been a leader in improving emergency services for the survivors of sexual assault. Susan championed an effort to start the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner program within PVHS.
- Karen Wikholm, an extremely talented nurse who works in general surgery for Poudre Valley Medical Group.
Each nurse is known for specific personal qualities and professional commitments. But that is only part of the story. Each is highly educated. Each has had extreme success in caring for patients.
And each is the type of nurse who provides the high-quality care, compassion, dedication, advocacy, and innovation that any person with a healthcare need would want.
I wish each of the nine nurses the best of luck in the Nightingale competition. Each one is a Florence Nightingale in her own right!