2020 Star Nurses Weekly Spotlight - Chapter 8

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.



Karen Drenkard – George Washington University

Karen Drenkard

Karen had an appendectomy when she was 12, and was so grateful to the nurses who worked to get her out of the hospital in time for a seventh-grade dance, that she wanted to be like them. “That, coupled with a grandmother who was a nurse,” she says, “led me to this profession.”

Early in her 30-plus years in the field, Karen says, she had the good fortune of having many leaders “who believed in me, took a chance on me and gave me opportunity. Each of these leaders served as role models of what I might become.” From them she learned the concept of “dreaming big,” she says, which still inspires her and is evidenced by degrees from Russell Sage College, Marymount University and a doctorate from George Mason University.

Much has changed in nursing in her time, and Karen cites such developments as nurse-led care delivery models, expanded scope of practice and the ability to impact primary-care outcomes as career-long inspiration.

“The opportunity to heal others; using my knowledge each day to make a difference; the ability to lead teams.” These are the things that motivate her day in and day out, says the product of Wyckoff, N.J.

Karen describes herself as “an extrovert and optimist in all things—and I have an ever-present sense of humor. I bring that all to my nursing practice.”

As for her Star Nurses nomination, Karen is short and to the point: “I was blown away.”


Miranda Gingerich – Virginia Cancer Specialists

Miranda Gingerich

Miranda, a nurse for 15 years, says she feels it is her life’s calling to be a nurse. “God has given all of us special gifts,” she says, “and every day I wake up with the intention to share my gifts with those I come into contact with. 

“My family called me a ‘mother hen’ when I was growing up,” she continues. “I wanted to take care of everyone around me. I had a little stethoscope and doctor’s bag and I remember going around and checking temperatures and listening to people’s hearts. I loved the feeling you get when you help someone in any way, big or small.”

Patients inspire her on many levels, says Miranda, a native of Millersville, Pa. “When you hear the word ‘cancer’ it can be paralyzing, but I witness resilience and strength in each individual’s journey. It looks different each time, and it is always an honor to be a part of.”

Those with her on the floor are equally inspiring. “I am surrounded every day by influential and compassionate co-workers who have their own life challenges but always meet our patients with a smile and a kind word. We bring our gifts and talents together every day, and try our best to work together to make a patient’s experience one that gives them hope and encouragement. I am blessed,” Miranda says, “to have an amazing work family.”

Miranda, a graduate of Shenandoah University, tries to be present mentally and emotionally during every interaction. “I try to speak from my heart, and for some it helps bring calm and for others it brings joy. Sometimes,” she points out, “there are no words, and just being a shoulder to cry on or an ear to listen is all that can be done in that moment.”

Miranda says It is difficult to find the exact words to describe the feeling of being recognized as a Star Nurse. “I am honored that people have taken their time to say such kind words about me. There are so very many more nurses that deserve recognition.”


Pamela Kravatz – Inova Loudoun Hospital

Pamela Kravatz

“It is so special to be recognized for just being me,” says Pamela of her Star Nurses nomination. “I am so honored. I just try to be myself every day, try to be a good person and a good nurse.”

Pamela became a nurse because she likes to help people and make an impact on their lives. “Patients every day inspire me,” says the 33-year veteran of the profession, “to be a better person, a better nurse. I am privileged to be in a career that makes a difference in peoples’ lives.”

The Monongahela, Pa., native and Carlow University graduate says taking care of patients keeps her motivated: “Being part of their journey,” as she puts it. “I take care of children and adults. Building the trust of a pediatric patient, then making them smile” makes her day. “I want to be there to hold their hands or be a listening ear.

“I am a playful, happy person,” Pamela concludes. “I like to bring that to work. Building an environment that allows people to laugh and smile is a happier workplace.”



Emily Roark – The Johns Hopkins Hospital

Emily Roark

When her grandfather was battling brain cancer years ago, Emily says his nurses were some of the best people her family had ever met. “Always there for him, good or bad, and I wanted to be that for other families.”

Now, having achieved that goal through her studies at Towson University, the Bel Air, Md., native is three years into her profession in pediatric oncology.

She says it is “the little things” she does for her patients that are her personal touch to their care. “I always take time to play a favorite game or leave a cute note or doodle to try and keep them happy. Seeing my patients smile and play, no matter the circumstances,” she adds, motivates her every day.

Emily points out that new treatments and therapies are constantly being developed in her field to provide better and safer care. Such advances inspire her, she says, but her true inspiration is “my pediatric oncology patients and their families!”

She considers it an honor to be named a Star Nurse. “I'm hoping,” she says, that “being recognized can bring awareness to pediatric oncology.”



Shilvone Bryson BSN RN CRRN – Inova Mount Vernon Hospital

Shilvone Bryson

Shilvone is a bridge. “I take the time,” says the 20-year nursing veteran, “to listen to patients who have a life story to tell. I am there to motivate, encourage and to be a bridge of support, healing mentally and physically.”

It’s why she became a nurse. “The act of service to those in need fills my spirit,” she says. “Making a difference in a person’s life feeds my soul.”

A native of Hampton, Va., Shilvone speaks highy of her upbringing. “My hard-working parents inspire me,” she says, “to stay focused, to keep my head up and push through whatever tough situation I may encounter.” Those traits translate to her working relationships. “Knowing that I have inspired other nurses to be great keeps my motivated.”

Advances in nursing over the years have left inspirational impact on Shilvone, who studied at Chamberlain University. “Changes in information technology have blazed a pathway, with faster communication and effective documentation, to reach those in need of more frequent wellness checks,” she says.

What does it mean to Shilvone to be named as a Star Nurse? “To be recognized for doing  my life’s work of service is amazing,” she answers. “The Star Nurse award is another blessing from God!”


Barbara McWhinney – Valley Health Winchester Medical Center

Barbara McWhinney

“I am inspired by the nurses that I get to work with each day,” Barbara says, “sharing my knowledge with them and watching them grow.”

That is a lot of nurses and a lot of knowledge: Barbara has been a nurse for 54 years.

Her talent for it goes back even further. “When I was in the fourth grade,” she recalls, “my mother was very sick in the hospital. The doctors said in order for her to come home, a family member had to learn to give her intramuscular injection shots. The nurse showed me how, I gave my first injection, and knew that I wanted to be a nurse.”

Barbara, who studied at Shenandoah University in her hometown of Winchester, Va., reflects on the many changes that have occurred in nursing over the decades, but cites a colleague as the most insprational: “My co-worker Meredith Baker, who challenges me each day.”

One doesn’t last in nursing as long as Barbara without seeing the humor in things, even in some of the most unpleasant. “My personal touch is caring for ostomy patients and helping them gain independence,” she says, and adds: “These patients find it interesting that their ostomy nurse’s initials are ‘B.M.’”

Lastly, Barbara says of her Star Nurses recognition that it is “a humbling honor to be nominated along with so many excellent nurses. I am still in disbelief.”

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