2020 Star Nurses Weekly Spotlight - Chapter 3

The Washington Post in conjunction with the American Nurses Association would like to shine a light on our 2020 Star Nurses finalists. Nominated by patients and peers, and then selected from among hundreds of nominees, these women and men, working on the front lines of health care in D.C., Maryland and Virginia, represent the epitome of skill, professionalism and care. As a part of the recognition of the 2020 Star Nurses finalists we will spotlight nurses each week through the end of summer.


Eleni Halstead - Fairfax-Falls Church Community Service Board

Eleni Halstead

“My clients.” For Eleni, her work as a mental health nurse has no greater inspiration than the patients with whom she interacts everyday. But after 27 years in the profession, what keeps her motivated?

“My clients,” she repeats. It’s as simple as that for the Northern Virginia Community College graduate and Falls Church, Va., native. “I wanted to work in mental health,” she says, “and nursing was the best way to do it.”

Eleni, who feels it is “quite an honor” to be a Star Nurses nominee, has seen the advances in treatments for the seriously mentally ill that give sufferers and their caregivers hope like never before. However, there is one treatment that has never changed for her.

“I smile a lot.”

Elizabeth Bierma Zapp – Shady Grove Fertility

Elizabeth Bierma Zapp

Throughout her years as in fertility nursing, Elizabeth has never ceased to be inspired by the determination, strength and vulnerability of patients.

“I have had the privilege of seeing babies born,” she says. “I've witnessed grief from couples trying tirelessly to conceive, and families mourning the loss of a life that could have been. I am inspired by their ability to overcome these challenges and lean on nurses and clinical staff as a source of comfort and compassion during exhilarating, stressful and devastating times.”

Those colleagues, a wall of support for patients, are a well of motivation for Elizabeth. “I am fortunate to work with a team that strives to be the best for each other” as well as for patients. “At Shady Grove Fertility,’ she says, “I have had the unique ability to collaborate with physicians, nurses and clinical staff on a daily basis. I value their knowledge and know that my opinion is equally valued. We treat one another as family, and we motivate one another to do our very best.”

Over the last decade, the University of Pittsburgh graduate has marveled as information technology has taken the health-care industry to another level. Technology “now allows us to send electronic prescriptions, electronic orders, message our patients securely via a patient portal, and communicate quickly with physicians,” she observes. “Not only did this technology help the clinical staff, it gave patients immediate access to their lab results and instructions, thus making them active collaborators in their health care.”

Elizabeth, a Chevy Chase, Md., product, knows “the personal touch” is an important element in nursing.  “I try to always actively listen and recognize hard work. If you listen, you will hear critical feedback or hear if a patient is unsure. You will hear your co-worker on the phone with a patient in pain over a negative pregnancy test, and as you listen you build compassion. You recognize the hard work they engage in, emotionally and physically, every single day.” She often gives small gifts or encouragement to colleagues having a difficult time, and every quarter she treats team members to lunch.

“I find that they appreciate the simple recognition and it fosters a better work environment.”

Elizabeth sees Star Nurses recognition as an incredible honor. “I worked very hard to get into nursing school, to pass the nursing boards, to get my first job on the floor and to ultimately get where I am today.”

In fact, it may have all started with a book report. “I vividly remember drawing a picture of Florence Nightingale for a book report in the third grade. I was amazed at how many people she cared for and was impressed by how she put the needs of others before her own. She dedicated her life to helping others and I wanted to follow in her path.”

While the recognition is humbling given the recent events of covid-19, the 16-year professional says, she has “witnessed the efforts of hundreds of nurses across the country that are likely more deserving of this award. They put their safety in danger to care for others, and I am grateful to be considered in the same category as them.”

Emily Timmreck – Peace Corps

Viktoria Holley-Trimmer

Emily, a Rchmond, Va., native and 22-year veteran nurse, chose nursing after losing a dear friend to leukemia as a young teenager. “Witnessing her journey was incredibly painful but also life-changing,” Emily says. “While she was surrounded by an adept multidisciplinary team, I was drawn to the role of the pediatric nurse practitioners, who provided specialized clinical care, emotional support and ongoing patient advocacy.”

That experience set Emily on the trajectory of becoming a nurse and then an acute and critical care nurse practitioner.

“In 2001, I first traveled to Southeast Asia to volunteer in a children’s shelter. This opened my eyes to the world of global health and the vast health disparities” she says. “In recent years, I have had the privilege of combining my many years of acute care experience with my passion for global health."

Currently, Emily works in clinical education and training with the Peace Corps. She says she is inspired every day by field staff, namely Peace Corps medical officers, who provide direct care to volunteers. “They work in an ever-changing, often challenging environment, and do so with tremendous care and dedication.

“At my core,” she says, “I am drawn to mission-based work. I stay motivated by knowing that the work I do may make a small difference in the life of someone else.”

Nursing has adapted and evolved, she points out, as the health system worldwide has faced a number of challenges. “I am inspired by nursing’s global role and reach in promoting health, preventing illness and providing direct clinical care.”

Emily says she considers Star Nurses recognition as a tremendous honor. “I am deeply humbled and grateful for the opportunity to be recognized as a Star Nurse.”

Emmanuel Garcia Paron – Sinai Hospital of Baltimore

Emmanuel Garcia Paron

What started as the desire to help care for his parents turned out to become this nurse’s passion. In that way, nursing allowed Emmanuel to impact people’s lives in their most vulnerable moments. Nursing “gave me the ability to create change in the community, as it  continues to change me inwardly.”

That love of family is Emmanuel’s inspration. “My delivery of patient care is based on the standards of how I care for my family.”

Hearing back from patients and their family members on how his times spent with them impacted their lives is a great motivation for Emmanuel. “It is a permanent mark I have made in their lives,” the 17-year veteran nurse says, “that can’t be quantified by any amount of money.”

During his career, Emannuel has been witness to the growth and importance of evidence-based practices (EBP) in his field. “With EBP,” he says, “the patient can have a proactive role in their health care by sharing their values and preferences. It allows me to assist them on how to proceed with their treatment.”

In addition, taking time to explain treatments and plan of care to patients and their family—in a language they can understand—allows them to express their concerns. By intently listening to their needs, Emmanuel says, “I am able to convey the core of nursing: caring.”

Emmanuel, a native of the Philippines, sees Star Nurses recognition as his way of giving honor to his family, his Riverside College mentors, and institutions that molded him “to who I am as a nurse. Most of all, it strengthens my faith to the God that I believe in, who Is the source of all my blessings.”

Erin Brand – Inova Loudoun Hospital

Erin Brand

In the early 1980s, Erin lived in Kathmandu, Nepal, as a part of her parents’ work with CARE and the Peace Corps. “My parents dedicated their lives and careers to improving global health,” she says, “and similarly encouraged me to dedicate my own life to improving health.

“When I was in the ninth grade,” Erin continues, “I volunteered at the Missionary of Charity Sisters’ Home for the Dying, based in Kathmandu. The sisters welcomed the poor, the destitute and those who were left to die on the streets into their home, a converted temple by the Bagmati River. The Sisters taught me how to care for those in their most vulnerable moments. At 14, this experience influenced who I am today, and ignited my passion for caring.”

While living overseas between the mid-1960s and the late 1990s, Erin’s mother worked as a nurse for Care Medico, the Peace Corps and the State Department. “Her years of experience as a nurse inspire me, and, although her stories are certainly worthy of a book deal, it is her love and compassion that she dedicated to her patients that provide inspiration for me.

“I aspire to reach my patients the way she did, with her sweet love and fierce dedication.”

In four years as a nurse, Erin finds she is continually motivated by her patients. “I love caring for them. I love it when I win the trust of a patient who is skeptical of the health-care system who is now open to trying their plan of care. I am motivated by spending time and gently guiding patients and family members to better understand a new diagnosis or situation. The greatest honors that I have had is to be present with a patient during their last moments of life. It takes me back to the reason I became a nurse.”

Erin, a graduate of Eleanor Wade Custer School of Nursing at Shenandoah University,  approaches each patient with “an open heart and no preconceived assumptions. Patients are more than their illness. They are individuals with expectations, fears, concerns, past experiences, challenges and successes that can have a significant impact on their health. My strength is to listen to my patients and hear what they are saying and to focus their care specifically to their needs. I want my patients to know that I will advocate for them, that I am present, and that they are important.

“I am so incredibly humbled and honored” to receive te Star Nurses nomination, says the Warrenton, Va., native. “I absolutely love being a nurse. I hope that this nomination will empower new nurses I encounter to really connect with their patients and to discover the true joy of nursing and the impact we can have—especially during the year of the nurse and the current pandemic.”

Florina (Nina) G. Reynoso-Ray – Inova Alexandria Hospital

Florina (Nina) G. Reynoso-Ray

In 50 years as a nurse, it still gives Nina a sense of fulfillment “in providing care and service within the realm of my case management responsibilities. It has allowed me to expand that desire to serve others in community outreach both local and global.”

Health care is in her blood. “Both my late parents were doctors,” she shares. “Several of my family members were doctors and in health care.” But the Manila, Philippines, native finds nursing to be more personal. “The skills one develops are based on academic preparation but the spirit to serve others is developed in the clinical arena.”

The St. Paul University of Manila graduate has a talent for listening and also for observing the non-verbal. “Once you establish the rapport with the patient, giving them your utmost attention establishes the trust and connection both of you cultivate.”

Nina sees the Star Nurses nomination as the culmination of a journey. “At my age, whether I retire soon or not, I can always look back and tell myself that someone, somewhere, validated my role in the nursing field and that, by serving others, I made a difference in someone’s quality of life during an hour of health crisis.”

Gieshla A. Moore (Nurse GiGi) – Children’s National Hospital

Gieshla A. Moore (Nurse GiGi)

“I have always had a desire to help people,” says Nurse GiGi. “I am blessed to have connected with a profession that checked all the boxes. Actually, after reading the Nightingale Oath, my choice was confirmed, and the path was clear: Nursing is my passion.”

She explains how she has gained insight, wisdom and courage from her elders in her profession of 18 years. “I am inspired by their never-ending passion, especially in these times. I am also inspired by my students,” she adds. “I am moved when I see their ‘A-ha!’ moments—the moments when they realize that their hands have healed, and made a difference in someone’s life: ‘I am a nurse.’ Love it!!!”

Nurse GiGi begins every day in the same mindset. “I am motivated by the fact that I know that each day is a new day to serve, change lives and help someone to heal and return to their family.”

She holds degrees from the University of Maryland School of Nursing (undergraduate) and Trinity Washington University (graduate) and is a Prince George’s County native. Throughout her career, she has witnessed technological advances in nursing that she describes as “amazing.” Technology, she says, “has enhanced and expanded our ability to heal-help, while in no way diminishing our connection with our patients. These innovations have inspired in me the idea of being a life-long learner.”

Those who have not experienced it can only imagine how essential the personal touch is to healing at Children’s National. “I have been told that I bring joy,” Nurse GiGi says, “a gift of light in challenging times. It is important to me that I bring ‘myself’ to each situation. I have laughed, cried and prayed with my patients. I believe that it is important to be authentic, and through being so, comes true compassion and understanding.”

If Nurse GiGi were to give a Star Nurses acceptance speech, her list of thank-yous would be long. “I am truly humbled by this recognition--a blessing from God,” she might begin. She would thank the “elders” in the profession who took the time to teach and guide her, “a daily inspiration. I think of my family and church family who have always encouraged and believed in me. I think of my co-workers whom I have had the pleasure to work with in this phenomenal profession. And last but not least, the countless patients who have inspired me by allowing me to touch and be touched by their lives. We win!”

Hallie Kreul – George Washington University Hospital

Hallie Kreul

“What cemented my passion for nursing,” Hallie relates, “was my experience with cancer. I’ve never felt compassion like I have from nurses, both on the job and off.” That personal trial made her always want “to do something to make a difference and help people.”

Hallie finds her inspiration in some of the people at the highest levels of health care. People like Eugene Litvak with the Institute of Hospital Optimization (IHO) and Pat Rutherford with the Institute of Hospital Improvement (IHI), “who dedicate their lives to improving care delivery.” Medical scientist Florence Sabin, “a Colorado hero,” (Hallie is from Arvada) “is also a hero of mine.” Sabin (1871-1953) was one of the first women to attend medical school at Johns Hopkins and was the first woman to be a professor there. She headed the Rockefeller Research Institute, where she made many important medical discoveries. Sabin dedicated her retirement to Denver Public Health, “achieving a lot of great things for my home state,” Hallie says.

But the simplest inspiration in nursing for her is Florence Nightingale “and her journey in evidence-based care,” Hallie says. “Florence conducted the first study to improve nursing care by determining that simply washing your hands stops the spread of disease.  Remembering that something so simple can have an impact gives me inspiration.”

Hallie’s motivation is also simple: “Need. There is such a need for improvement in how we deliver care and in how we help Americans through health care.” She continues, “I am passionate about patient flow and I think everyone knows they can come to me to help in improvement projects. My employees also know I push diplomacy. I call my staff the diplomats of GW.  Diplomacy is so important when working in patient flow, because it really takes a village.”

The Liberty University grad says of her Star Nurses nomination, “It’s a huge shock and honor anyone would even think to nominate me, and I am so grateful to be recognized at this level by the ANA and The Washington Post.

Hazel Darisse, DNP, RN, CNOR – George Washington University Hospital

Hazel Darisse

Like many other nurses, childhood experiences led Hazel to nursing. “My father was sick all through my childhood and I was always in the hospital watching and speaking with nurses. I was resolute on being a nurse since I was 14 years old. The nurses I worked with delivered care with their passionate hearts.”

Hazel, a nurse of 30 years, finds inspriation in her family. “My children are my greatest inspiration. I want to show them that efforts in school and in life can be rewarding and fulfilling.” Patients and staff inspire her every day, too. “I am passionate that our organization is in support of decreasing health-care disparities in the District of Columbia’s vulnerable population.” She adds, “The mission and vision of my organization keeps me motivated.” 

The future of health care in the District also keeps her motivated, as does speaking with staff and patients every day. “It gives me strength in my conviction to influence positive change.” Hazel, who completed her studies at George Washington University School of Nursing, reaches out to young staff who need advice navigating a career path. “I was fortunate to have great mentors and leaders early in my career. I would like to pay it forward to our young workforce.”

The Alexandria, Va., native also sees inspiration in today’s inclusion of nursing leaders in health-care research. “Nurses have played an important role in the development and implementation of cutting edge technology. Our voice is being heard in innovative process improvement initiatives and physicians partner with nurses to drive high quality patient outcome.”

Presence and listening are very important to her in engaging patients, staff, and physician colleagues. “Getting to know something about each of my employees is important to me.  Asking about their kids and family by their name lets them know that you care about important people and events in their lives.”

Hazel expresses gratitude for the Star Nurses recognition in the profession that has been her lifelong passion. “It’s the culmination of all the personal and professional sacrifice the past 30 years. Being recognized for something I love is a blessing.”

Heidi Rayner – Shore Emergency Center – Queenstown & Anne Arundel Community College

Heidi Rayner

“Nursing has been in my bones since I was a child,” Heidi says, “the desire to help people, comfort them, support them and heal them. I believe nursing is a profession that allows you to reach people in some of the darkest and scariest times and be a voice of calm.  The nursing profession is hard but each day I am able to make an impact on the lives of strangers.”

Heidi has a wealth of people who inspire her, including her husband, parents and “my children who constantly amaze me with who they are and what they accomplish.”

It is her faith that keeps the Centreville, Md., native motivated. “I know that God has blessed me with a gift to care for people, to bring peace and comfort and joy to those in need of health care.” That focus and perspective “motivates me to inspire and encourage my patients, students, staff, and anyone else I come in contact with.”

In 15 years in the profession, the Delaware State University graduate has seen significant changes made in care based on evidence and research that is being conducted by nurses.  “We are improving our profession. I love seeing the autonomy and respect for nurses grow,” Heidi says.

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