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NICU Nurses Win

Nurse of the Year

Central Valley Coalition of Nursing Organizations honors neonatal nursing excellence at Children’s Hospital Central California


The Central Valley Coalition of Nursing Organizations (CVCNO) named two members of Children’s Hospital Central California’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) nursing team Nurse of the Year.Jennifer Norgaard and Stacie Venkatesan win CVCNO Nurse of the Year

Jennifer Norgaard, RNC-NIC, MSN, won Nurse of the Year for Education and Stacie Venkatesan, RNC-NIC, MSN, won Nurse of the Year for Advanced Practice. CVCNO announced the winners on May 1.

“It was really quite an honor,” Norgaard said. “It’s humbling to receive recognition of this magnitude in a category with college educators.”

Norgaard was acknowledged for her efforts to improve nursing knowledge and patient outcomes for neonates in the Central Valley and nationwide.

“Jennifer has been at the organization for over 20 years and has either created or helped create all of the neonatal curriculum that we teach our nurses,” said Susan Keogh, NICU Manager. “That means she’s also helped teach the entire Central Valley because a lot of our curriculum is then shared and taught to referring hospitals.”

Norgaard serves as project lead for the Vermont Oxford Network NICQ Quality Improvement Collaborative. Children’s Hospital partners with 42 other NICUs across the country to impact the well-being of neonates. Her work developing the curriculum for Children’s Hospital’s Nutrition Protocol for Low Birthweight Infants resulted in a 37 percent decrease in infants demonstrating extrauterine growth failure.

“Being heavier at discharge is associated with very good outcomes so she significantly affected the long-term outcome of families,” Keogh said.

Norgaard is the neonatal nursing lead for the Friends of Patan Hospital NICU/PICU project. In June she will travel to Nepal to train the nurses who will staff a new six-bed NICU.

“This will be the first NICU in Nepal,” Norgaard said. “I identified with their mission because it’s similar to Children’s mission to serve any and all regardless of their ability to pay.”

Venkatesan is integrally involved in research and policy development to influence change in the NICU.

“Stacie has an incredible ability to understand the various clinical systems involved in neonatal care and be able integrate them into practice,” said Randy Guerrero, Executive Director, Critical Care. “She’s able to identify where we need to improve care and implement policy and process to affect that improvement.”

Venkatesan participated in a state collaborative to decrease Catheter Associated Bloodstream Infections (CABSI) in preemies. This effort has resulted in a 47 percent reduction in the CABSI incident rate.

“Our babies are set up for infections from birth because of their very immature immune systems,” Venkatesan said. “Keeping one baby from getting an infection keeps them from having a multitude of other health problems.”

For the past five years, Venkatesan has coordinated Children’s Hospital’s annual NICU Graduate Reunion Picnic. More than 150 NICU graduates and their families attend each year.

“I cry almost every year because you see a kid you thought wouldn’t make it playing and interacting with other kids and you’re happy to know they are active, productive members of society,” Venkatesan said.

Venkatesan was instrumental in developing and implementing procedures for the management of children with diabetes at Children’s Hospital’s Easter Seals Child Development Center. Her 3-year-old daughter Jill’s diabetes diagnosis last fall led her to start the program.

“Initially my thought was that I was going to have to quit and go back to being a nurse on nights because I was going to have to test her four times a day and do her shots,” Venkatesan said. “It felt good to use my knowledge, not only to help my own child but also to know it was going to make a difference for other kids.”

Norgaard and Venkatesan also won Children’s Hospital’s Nurse of the Year awards for Education and Advance Practice, respectively. They are considered assets to the NICU team.

“They both have stepped outside of their position description roles and have been willing to fill any hole we’ve had in the NICU,” Guerrero said. “It’s that willingness to go above and beyond, to do whatever it takes to support the NICU that really is most incredible to me. I value both of them.”