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Amazing Children's Nurses

2011 National Nurses Week Awards Ceremony, Recognizing the exemplary practice of nurses at Children's Hospital


“Come in, come in and let’s get started,” said Beverly Hayden-Pugh, vice president and chief nursing officer at Children's Hospital Central California. “We’ve got some exciting things to talk Nurses gather for awards ceremonyabout.” Hayden-Pugh called everyone attending the 2011 National Nurses Week Awards Ceremony away from the cookies, coffee and conversation and to their seats. Her enthusiasm and pride in her nursing staff were evident in her smile.

The event was held May 4 in a conference room at Children’s. The number of nurses and supporters in attendance exceeded the number of available seats. The “standing-room only” crowd had gathered to recognize recipients of the 2011 Nurse of the Year Awards. They were not dissuaded by limited seating. Hayden-Pugh set the stage for two of Children’s highest ranking executives to speak on their perspectives of nursing. 

Todd Suntrapak speaksTodd Suntrapak, executive vice president and chief operating officer at Children’s, spoke briefly from an executive’s perspective. “Some of the decisions we make organizationally are pretty lofty decisions and they don’t necessarily translate to the bedside,” he said. “But the decisions we make, we believe are ultimately going to support the good work – the hard work – that you do every day.” Suntrapak closed by thanking our nursing staff with visible sincerity. “Know that you are appreciated and recognized,” he said.

Hayden-Pugh introduced Dr. Gordon Alexander, president and chief executive officer at Children’s, as a leader who values nursing. “I can tell you that Gordy brings values with him to this organization that are important to us as nurses,” she said. “Every Friday he spends time in various patient care units. He knows what it’s like out there.”

Dr. Alexander began his address by acknowledging Children’s Magnet Nursing designation. “A commitment to nurses demonstrates the strength of a hospital,” he said. “It’s a critical indicator. It attracted me to this Hospital.” The CEO spoke of his view of nursing from three distinct experiences. “My first perspective was as a med student,” he said. “I saw a senior med student who was full of himself.” The room rocked with laughter when Dr. Alexander joked. “You’ve never met anyone like that have you?” He pointed out the stark contrast he saw between the medical student, who was “full of sound,” and the nurses, who were “full of compassion and caring.”

Gordy Alexander SpeaksDr. Alexander shared his second perspective of nursing from the vantage point of a director at a small hospital. “Decisions were made on a daily basis at the beside,” he said. “The communication that took place with the nurses was key.” Through that experience, he was able to identify the importance of clear and consistent levels of communication between administrators and patient caregivers.

The third perspective Dr. Alexander shared was the one he currently holds. He spoke of the eye-opening experience of shadowing nurses here at Children’s. “I really underestimated you,” he said. “You are amazing – really amazing. The way you’re always covering for each other and watching kids with eyes in the back of your heads.” Dr. Alexander commended our nurses for not only keeping track of medications, monitors, pumps and more, but also for dealing with the strong emotions that accompany their often difficult job. “I apologize for thinking you were just excellent,” he said as laughter ensued. “You are more than that.”

Hayden-Pugh took the remainder of the event to recognize service and nursing excellence at Children's Hospital. She expressed her conviction that our nurses could take part in transforming nursing practice by adhering to a three-fold commitment:

1. To practice nursing to the full extent of their abilities
2. To pursue opportunities for higher education
3. To participate in nursing governance and seek positions of leadership

After asking those who participated in the nursing governance structure at Children’s to stand, Hayden-Pugh challenged everyone present to involve themselves through leadership or membership on a nursing committee. “Next year I’d like to see everybody standing,” she said.

The main event followed Hayden-Pugh’s challenge, as she introduced the recipients of the 2011 Nurse of the Year Awards.

Susan Willoughby accepts awardNurse of the Year, Clinical Practice – Susan Willoughby, RN, CHPN

Hayden-Pugh became better acquainted with Willoughby through working with her to write a First Five grant. Hayden-Pugh acknowledged her initial surprise at the impact that “little grant” had on the culture of nursing here at Children’s. “Susan came in and taught us we don’t always have the ability to change the outcome, but we can certainly change the journey,” said Hayden-Pugh. “She’s transforming clinical practice one individual at a time.”

Jo Lyons accepts awardNurse of the Year, Education – Jo A. Lyons, MOB, BS, RN-BC

Pointing out that Lyons has been at Children's Hospital since 1973, Hayden-Pugh suggested the attractive nurse must have begun her career as a 2-year-old. “Jo is all about transformation,” she said. “I’m sure you’ve noticed how she lights up a room with her smile.” Lyons has served in as many as 11 different areas of the Hospital during her tenure. Hayden-Pugh credited Lyons for her work “transforming education for a new generation of nurses coming behind us.”

Carole Cooper accepts awardNurse of the Year, Administration/Leadership – Carole Cooper, MHA, BSN, RN, CPN

Hayden-Pugh introduced Cooper as someone with a history at Children’s dating back to 1988. She credited Cooper for her role in driving nursing research and bringing evidence-based practice to our organization. “With an inquiring mind, Carole questions what we do,” said Hayden-Pugh. “She doesn’t accept it when we say, ‘That’s the way we’ve always done it.’ Carole says, ‘Show me the proof.’” Hayden-Pugh congratulated Cooper for her success with her pediatric falls research and for the significantly improved outcomes due to furthering and implementing pediatric early warning system (PEWS) research here at Children’s Hospital.

“My inspiration comes from the people I meet every day,” said Cooper. “I don’t always have the answers, but I try to find them. So keep asking.”

Father Simon accepts awardFriend of Nursing – Father Simon B. Howson, B.Th., M.Div.

Nominations for Father Simon came from every part of the Hospital. “Father Simon provides a caring and healing touch in a different way than those of us who are clinicians,” said Hayden-Pugh. She spoke of the stories written into his numerous nominations. “Everyone had an individual story to tell about how he had touched a patient, a family or themselves. It’s clear what he brings to this organization is priceless.”

Father Simon humbly received the praise and noted that he was receiving the award on a significant day. “Twenty-seven years ago today I started RN training in England,” he said as he held up the award. “God has a sense of humor.”

After a few tears and many smiles, the event came to a close. “I’d really like to honor you, thank you, and recognize what you do every day,” said Hayden-Pugh. “This is a tough profession.” She stressed the significance and value of nurses who own their practice and own their commitment. “You really do exemplify and demonstrate what is core to our practice.”

Hayden-Pugh’s dismissal included an invitation to drop by the new Nursing Hall of Fame located in the hallway just outside Conference Room G150 at Children’s.