2020 Star Nurses Weekly Spotlight - Chapter 6
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.
Marian McEvilly RN,CPN, CCA, EEM-AP – Children’s National Hospital
Marian loves studying how the body works and learning of scientific discoveries about it. Her evidence-based research has led her to include an array of healing approaches in her tactics with patients.
“It is all so interesting,” the 37-year veteran says. For example, “It is fascinating to compare with traditional Chinese medicine.” In aromatherapy, she adds, “I see how the chemical chains of the essential oils work the same way as medicine.
“I love seeing nurses and doctors reaching out to learn more about integrative/holistic methods,” Marian says, and how they want to bring meditation into their own well-being as well as to patients. With aromatherapy, “Once we talk about the organic chemistry chain, I see light bulbs go on. Now that is fun.”
The Marymount University graduate will often utilize tapping therapy, also known as emotional freedom technique (EFT), on a young patient. “The doctor will wait till we are done. They can see how fast a child can change their anxiety level to totally calm. It really is amazing to be able to work as a team to help the children.
“To see how families and the children are so open to using these modalities inspires me to learn even more” she says. Marian works with doctors, nurses and support staff in teaching them tools that help relieve stress and anxiety, “and make their time at the hospital as stress free as possible.”
The Springfield, Va., native was surprised by her nomination as a Star Nurse. “WOW! It is so amazing that my work has been recognized,” she says. “It is wonderful to work at a hospital that supports nurses doing research and bringing new and integrative ideas that are evidence-based to the forefront. Having implemented so many ideas over the years to help bring comfort to families and maintain the "Family Center Care" of the hospital. It has all been worth it.”
May Capulong – Kaiser Permanente
For May, recognition as a Star Nurse “brings honor not only to myself and family but my co-workers as well. I work with a great team of nurses, clinical assistants and doctors,” she says. “My fellow nurses deserve this recognition as much as I do. We support and learn from each other every day. My co-workers are my second family.”
It was her parents who brouught her up to have that kind of humlity. “My parents have always been an inspiration to me. They have instilled in me to always do my best, be sensitive to the needs of others, have a good work ethic and always be humble.”
The Philippines native, who has been a nurse for 23 years, also credits an influential sister for leading her to the profession. “I wanted to follow in my sister’s footsteps and make a difference in people’s lives. It is very gratifying to know you are able to help someone in their most difficult times,” May says.
The profession has indeed allowed her to make an impact in people’s lives. At the same time, she points out, nursing itself has evolved over the years. “Innovation,” May says, “has inspired me to seek opportunities in taking courses and seminars that interest me and affect my professional growth.”
May, a graduate of San Pedro College, feels that she sets the standard for organization in her department. “I am also mentor, resource person, and help train new hires. Co-workers can come to me for assistance,” she says. “I try be as helpful as I can.”
Megan Beglin – George Washington University Hospital
In obsterics, “We birth mothers, too,” says Megan, a nurse of 15 years. “When a baby is born, I always try to encourage mothers in their role so they feel confident in their capabilities.”
And they inspire her. “All the amazing mothers I get to see giving birth day after day! It’s an incredible thing to be around strong women so often.”
Medicine, the University of Maryland, Baltimore, graduate says, and specifically obstetrics, “is always changing and advancing. I love learning new things and becoming a better nurse. I strive to better our field by continuing to learn and helping to establish improved practices. It’s quite exciting and humbling.”
Megan is inspired by the movement towards holistic care “and honoring the mind/body connection in medicine. And more collaborative practice—where everyone on the team, including the patient, participates in care planning.” She has seen these practices grow at her hospital. At the same time, the Bethesda, Md., native says, “I always want to make sure my patient’s voice is heard. I want every patient to feel respected and empowered in their care.”
She reserves a final thought for her colleagues. “It’s an honor,” Megan says of her Star Nurses nomination. “I have worked with so many incredible nurses out there who have helped me to become the nurse I am.”
Michelle Altman – Virginia Hospital Center
More than 20 years ago, Michelle chose nursing because she wanted to help people.
To this day, she is inspired by the people she has helped. “I want to help them be the best versions of themselves through good health and being involved in their own care,” she says. “The new awareness of nursing,” she says, “and its contribution to health care” also inspires her.
A graduate of her hometown college, Salisbury University in Maryland, Michelle is motivated day after day by the work she and her team do. “Seeing the difference we make in the lives of patients…Seeing them advance and have good health and become active in their care” is what drives her, she says.
Compassion and caring for patients and staff is her hallmark. And she takes nothing for granted. “Being thankful for my own health,” Michelle says, “when we are surrounded so much by people who do not have good health” is something she thinks about every day.
“It is an honor to be recognized,” Michelle says of her Star Nurses nomination. “It makes me very proud of my organization and profession.”
Nancy Austin – Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services
With more than 40 years as a nurse, Nancy is well qualified to advocate for her colleagues. “As a profession,” she says, “we are reluctant to put ourselves first. Helping nurses find their voices keeps me motivated.
“Nursing is always moving forward,” she continues. “Nurses have a voice in health policy and legislation now, something rarely seen a generation ago. The research and writing done by nurses to continually improve our practice inspires me not to be complacent.”
A graduate of St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center School of Nursing, Nancy also finds inspiration from those who have followed her into the field. “I want them to always be proud of what they do every day, even the small things. Every nurse is a role model for those joining the profession,” she says.
Being a nurse is all the Saranac Lake, N.Y., native ever wanted. “I don't remember wanting to do anything else,” she adds.
Now she has recognition as a Star Nurse. “I'm humbled by this honor,” Nancy says, “since I know so many that are deserving of it.”
Nicole Stahlmann, MN, RN, SANE-A, AFN-BC – International Association of Forensic Nurses
“Florence Nightingale said it best,” Nicole quotes: “‘Nursing is an art.’”
After having worked as an emergency department technician in Minnesota, Nicole decided to make emergency medicine her nursing career. She later changed course and decided to become a forensic nurse examiner.
“Forensic nursing is a specialty and definitely an art,” Nicole says, “one that has captured my love for nursing. I'm currently a forensic nursing specialist with the International Association of Forensic Nurses and a forensic nurse examiner with District of Columbia Forensic Nurse Examiners.”
Being able to provide one-on-one patient care and witnessing a patient’s “positive transformation of empowerment after a medical forensic examination motivates me,” she says. “Being able to provide education, training, and technical assistance to health-care professionals, as well as various stakeholders, on an international level, also motivates me.”
The St.Paul, Minn., native and graduate of the University of Minnesota says that “Every single one of my past and present forensic nurse colleagues inspires me. They are incredibly talented, dedicated and hardworking. They provide a holistic approach in caring for not only patients and families, but also communities affected by violence and trauma.
“Being recognized as a Star Nurse is simply incredible!” Nicole says. “There are so many amazing and inspiring nurses in this field, and being recognized is exhilarating.”
As Nicole says, “Nursing is a powerful profession. Thank you to those who have nominated me!”
Pamela S. Hinds – Children's National Hospital
While hospitalized as a third-grader, Pamela found herself eager and welcoming of interactions with the nursing staff and appreciative of the actions each seemed so capable of doing. “I still recall being impressed by their smiles and good humor!” she says.
Now a nurse of 47 years’ standing, the Bellows Falls, Vt., native says that “having the knowledge that brings care to children and their families” is her strongest source of motivation. That is as true, she adds, “with care of the child that will recover health and do well as it is for the care of a child that cannot survive the illness or the injury.”
But knowledge must be paired with feeling: “I believe in the importance of words and of silence;” Pamela adds, “of touch and of quiet presence; of directly asking a child about how the child is feeling and listening intently to the child's full response.” It his her personal touch to practice “what may seem to be contrasting approaches, but through the approaches, always conveying the valuing and liking of the child.”
The interprofessional nature of care and the positive outcomes due to it “is a major and positive change in health care and most certainly within nursing,” Pamela observes. “Increasingly, nurses are viewing others as partners and collaborators in their quest to support health and positive futures of all children.” She says she finds this to be a great motivator.
Pamela, who studied at the University of Vermont and the University of Arizona, finds her greatest inspirational leader outside her profession. “My all-time heroine is Ruth Bader Ginsberg, and for multiple reasons: taking on causes that are complex and as likely to not be successful as they are to be successful; being able to appreciate the wisdom in certain challenges that may come from both trusted and new and unfamiliar sources; and the courage to articulate the basis of a stance, no matter how unpopular.”
Her recognition as a Star Nurse is stunning, Pamela says, “absolutely stunning. I have always known that I have had the world's best profession and the world's best role models. That has been more than enough for a lifetime. But thank you,” she adds, “for recognizing what nursing means to the health of this nation and this world.”
Peggy Dame BSN,RN-BC – University of Virginia
“Every day in nursing is different,” says Peggy. “It is never dull. As an RN, one is constantly challenged to learn new concepts and advances in health care. I am motivated each and every day to learn about new technology. I can say I have the ability to make a difference for the better for our patients.
“I love to learn,” she contines. “It is amazing to think of all the changes I have seen in health care in my career” of 41 years.
She finds her inspiration in family, patients and colleagues. “I am fortunate to work in an academic environment that encourages nurses to be challenged intellectually,” says the Boston native and University of Massachusetts, Amherst, graduate.
“I enjoy the professional relationship between the RN and the physician staff,” Peggy says. “It is much more enjoyable and collegial when I think of how it was many years ago. It is nice to have my physician colleagues respect and consider my concerns when we discuss our patients.”
She strives to make a difference every day with those colleagues and also her patients, Peggy says. “I think that trying to take the extra few minutes to talk with patients and families is so important. It is important for them to know we hear them and respect their opinions and concerns. It is so important to let patients and families know that you care.
“I am thrilled and honored to be acknowledged,” she says of Star Nurses recognition. “I am very proud to be a registered nurse at U-Va. Thank you very much.”
Raymond Riley – MedStar Georgetown University Hospital
“When you have a very premature baby that is in the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) for months on end,” Raymond confides, “there is a lot of uncertainty and fear. But when those tiny preemies grow up and go home—big, loud, and healthy—that feeling is unparalleled. I love the happy tears on discharge-day, and especially love the smiles and hugs at the NICU reunion when our ‘graduates’ get to visit!”
Raymond’s mom, Jan, knows the feeling. “She has been a NICU nurse for 30+ years.” Raymond has been a NICU nurse for three. “It has been an amazing experience to follow in her footsteps!” he exclaims. “She sets a perfect example of who and what a great nurse looks like! She inspires me!”
Even though he takes care of infants, Raymond thinks it is important to provide them with individualized care. “I usually only call them by first name. I also like to give them nicknames,” he adds. “When nights are slow, I love to hold a baby, especially those whose parents cannot visit often, and listen to Disney music or read a book. I think the caring touch makes a world of difference for the babies.
“I also tell every single one that I love them, because I do!”
The Purdue University graduate and Indianapolis native loves seeing nurses stand up, he says, and use their voices to advocate for change. “The nursing workforce is enormous and we need to speak up and help shape the legislation of our country to improve our health-care system,” Raymond states. “Nurses know best what patients want and need, so we need to carry that advocacy to Capitol Hill!
“They say if you're not at the table,” he points out, “you’re what’s on the menu. I'm going to make sure nursing has a seat at the table.”
Raymond calls it an incredible honor to be recognized as a Star Nurse, “and a huge surprise! I work with a lot of amazing nurses that I think are stars! The real stars, though, are the babies in the NICU. They are so resilient, and they and their families go through so much. This recognition is much more for them than it is for me!”
Reneé Roberts-Turner – Children’s National Hospital
“Nursing is a giving profession,” Reneé says, “and there is no better way to give than to bring your whole self into your work. I truly believe that you have to bring your ‘authentic’ self to everything you do. I’ve learned over time that when I live in my ‘truth,’ I am more open and able to fully connect with others.”
Reneé, a nurse with 20 years of experience, has recently spent time with her mother in the hospital. “Being on the other side of the bed,” Reneé says, “has reinforced within me the importance of kindness. For most, a hospital admission is a crisis, as well as an inconvenience. Simply displaying authentic kindness, true caring, unconditional patience and appropriate humor can help patients and families move more smoothly through these difficult times.”
She gets excited thinking about how much the nursing profession has advanced, the Woodbridge, Va., native says, and even more excited thinking about the future of the profession.
“In my role as the Magnet Program director for Children’s National, I have had the opportunity to learn even more about all of the work that our nurses are participating in through leadership, collaborating, identifying and implementing innovative solutions.” This is how to ensure that the care they are providing produces the best outcomes for patients, families and staff, Reneé says. “This work that is advancing the nursing profession truly inspires me.”
She found her calling with the help of a professor/mentor at Marymount University. Upon completing her bachelor’s degree in biology, she asked for his thoughts on whether to become a researcher or a registered nurse. “‘Reneé,’ he said, ‘would you rather look under a microscope every day or talk to people?’
“That question really helped me think about what I enjoyed doing. I truly love interacting with people and caring for them.”
Throughout my career, I have had the privilege of working with nurses and other health-care professionals who have implemented various interventions to improve clinical care. These nurses and their work inspire me.
She says it is an honor to be recognized as a Star Nurse. “As part of my role as the director of professional practice, I am charged with creating and executing strategies that convey to the patients, families, staff and community-at-large, just how extraordinary the nurses and the care teams at Children’s National are. Being recognized for doing the work I truly love is such an amazing feeling.”
Aja Errera – Anne Arundel Medical Center
Providing great patient care is personal for Aja, who became a mother at 15. After a “less-than-pleasant” emergency C-section and non-supportive staff during her postpartum hospital stay, she says, she was determined to achieve her goal of becoming a nurse.
“I ultimately chose the Mother-Baby Unit because I knew that nurses spend more time at the bedside and provide direct care,” Aja says. “I wanted a chance to instill strength and perseverance in teen mothers to prove the stereotypes wrong. After all, if I can raise a healthy baby, continue school and work full time, other teen mothers can, too.” She is now clinical supervisor for the unit.
Aja, of Greenbelt, Md., will soon graduate with her master’s in nursing and plans to register to take the board exam for her nurse practitioner’s license. “It’s been a long road,” she says, “but I haven’t given up. Honestly, my greatest accomplishment in life is motherhood, and my two children keep me motivated. Each day I strive to make them proud.”
She also finds inspiration in the constant evolution of medicine. “Change is the only constant thing in this world,” Aja says. Whether it’s new indications for medications, new interventions/protocols/guidelines, or new state-of-the-art equipment, “It amazes me how far we've come in health care!”
Aja says she likes to have fun at work. “We have a close-knit team,” she says. “In fact, we are more than co-workers, we are FAMILY! Everyone knows I am down to earth and my door is always open. I want to help in any way possible, and I am there to support my team to the best of my abilities.”
The Bowie State graduate finds inspiration in her favorite quote, by Eleanor Roosevelt: “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” Aja believes “that if you have determination and a passion to do something, you can do it. It doesn’t matter how many times you are turned away, your failures make you who you are. Your failures will make you stronger eventually.”
Star Nurses recognition came as quite a surprise, Aja says. “I was honestly shocked! I am very humbled that someone took the time to nominate me and to recognize the work I do. I had everything stacked against me not to make it. To come this far, to be nominated as a Star Nurse, is wonderful.”
Alicia Dillon – The Johns Hopkins Hospital
“I am extremely honored,” Alicia says of her Star Nurses recognition. “In many ways, nursing has been more rewarding for me than for my patients. The unique position that nursing affords me to work closely with people from many different nationalities, ethnicities, religions and socioeconomic levels has enriched my understanding of our differences and has fostered my appreciation of the human condition.
“I feel privileged and honored to stand beside people,” she says, “and help them through some of the most vulnerable times of their lives. It's not easy to be a patient but I like to think that good nurses make the exerience better than could have been imagined.”
In fact, it is her patients who keep Alicia, a 17-year veteran of nursing, motivated, “knowing that I can make a positive difference in someone’s day. I aim to learn from every patient experience so I can be a better version of myself moving forward.”
Alicia finds time to get to know them, “even when I’m super-busy,” she says. The graduate of Prince George’s Community College (ADN) and University of Maryland University College (BSN) shares stories about herself, “so they get to know a bit about me. I think that it helps for patients to know about shared experiences so they know that they aren't alone. Taking this extra time usually means that I have to stay late charting (and my co-workers know that I'm notorious for this!).”
As for inspiration, the Mount Rainier, Md., native looks no farther than her unit, the Neurosciences Critical Care Unit (NCCU). “My co-workers, the amazing nurses in the NCCU, are tireless patient advocates and sharp clinicians who always care to do the right thing, even when doing the right thing is the harder road to follow. I am proud to be ‘in the trenches,’” she says, “with my amazing nurse colleagues, my friends. Working alongside them inspires me to do whatever is in my power to keep the bar high.”
Amanda Rutledge – Southside Regional Medical Center
While pursuing her undergraduate degree in pre-med at Christopher Newport University, Amanda volunteered at the local hospital. It was there on the medical/surgical unit and the labor and delivery unit that she realized she wanted the nurse’s role.
“They spent the most time with the patients and their care was much more hands-on” than that of the doctors, she recalls. “Before switching tracks, I talked with two nurses in my family and listened to their stories and decided nursing was the path for me.” She completed her degree and applied for nursing school.
“Since day one,” of her four years in the profession, Amanda says, “I have been learning in nursing, and I tell all the new nurses on our unit that I am still learning each day, and that if they continue to do the same, this job will always seem new.
“There is no greater feeling than being able to form a connection with a patient, their family or both,” says the Chester, Va., product, “and seeing that patient discharged on their way to recovery, and the happiness it brings them and their family. Even in the worst situations a meaningful connection with the patient or their family can bring so much happiness to me, but also put them more at ease. My patients and their families inspire me every day.
“My amazing co-workers and entire Southside Regional family motivate me each day to do my very best for our patients,” says Amanda, who studied at Southside Regional’s Professional Schools. “On my unit we are a family. There is always someone there to help, no matter how crazy or busy the day is for them. I could not ask for a better team of nurses and techs to help me get through the ups and downs that nursing brings.”
At work, Amanda always tries to stay as “calm, cool and collected as possible. In the midst of a busy day,” she says, “if I can stay organized and focused, I am able to accomplish what my patients need and also help my co-workers. As the clinical coordinator for our unit, I want my co-workers to know that I am always available to work through a difficult situation, and when they are struggling through a rough day, that together we will make it through.
“I was so incredibly honored to have been recognized as a Star Nurse,” she says. “I have always tried to do my very best for my patients, and to have that hard work recognized is such an amazing feeling. To be named among so many outstanding nurses is amazing. It is so wonderful to see nurses being recognized,” Amanda says, “for the hard work that each of us puts into this profession.”
Dian Gish Weber – Capital Caring Health
Hospice work has inspired Dian to understand medicine as a big picture. “Not just to cure,” she says, “but to care for people throughout their lives.” Specifically, the veteran of 43 years in nursing says, “Working in hospice has allowed me to help people, at the most difficult time most of us face, to have comfort and security in facing the unknown.
“Helping others in a difficult time can make a difference in the world,” she believes. “Being able to achieve a person's/family's end-of-life wishes is what means the most.”
The times have made the jobs of nurses more difficult than ever, as has been widely observed. “Connecting personally now” with all the safety requirements is difficult, Dian says. “Dressed up like an astronaut makes it difficult for ill patients to hear and see us. My voice is the one personal part of me that is not affected by PPE (personal protection equipment). Speaking slowly and calmly, telling the patient what I will do before and as I am caring for them, allows them to be more comfortable and trust me.”
Dian, of Alexandria, Va., and a graduate of San Francisco State Univerity, says she is inpired by change over the years that means “medicine will now come to you, not you come to us: We will see you in your home, see the problems, support and understand the challenges you have in your life,” she says, “and be able to provide care that will be effective and that can actually be done.”
She is grateful for her nomination as a Star Nurse “and that they wanted to recognize the value of what RNs do.” Also, Dian says, “I am grateful that I have been able to help someone.”
Courtney Elliott – Inova Mount Vernon Hospital
Courtney loves the “collective chaos” of the emergency department. “You never know how you'll be able to connect with a patient or a family member on any given shift. It is always my goal as a nurse,” she says, “to ensure that my patients and families are very well-informed, and that I exceed their expectations as their nurse.”
A nurse of 19 years and running, Courtney has had a profound respect for all the nurses in her life. “I feel like there's no greater privilege than to be able to connect with somebody during their time of need,” she says. “I truly love people.”
She is continually inspired and motivated by “the miracles and interventions,” as she calls them. “There have been tragic situations, but knowing even in tough situations that I was able to try to provide some comfort inspires me.”
Family, her children and her emergency department team keep Courtney going, too. “For sure my colleagues,” says the Yukon, Okla., native and graduate of Marshall University. “The great medical staff and entire team, we are truly a work family!”
She reflects on “the great privilege” of being recognized as a Star Nurse. She points out that the World Health Organization has designated 2020 as The Year of the Nurse and the Midwife. “So this recognition cannot come at a more appropriate time in history. More important,” Courtney says, is that it highlights “the great work that nurses do every day.”