Celebrating excellence

College of Registered Nurses presents six awards

Excellence in Professional Nursing award winner Poh-Lin Lim.
Excellence in Professional Nursing award winner Poh-Lin Lim.

BY ANDREA BODIE
Winnipeg Health Region
Published Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Six Winnipeg Health Region nurses have been recognized by the College of Registered Nurses of Manitoba for their contributions to nursing practice, education and leadership. The awards are presented annually during a special presentation during National Nursing Week.

This year's recipients are:   

Rising Star Award

This is the first year for the Rising Star Award, which is presented to a nurse with less than five years of experience in clinical practice who exceeds their employer's and colleague's expectations while demonstrating excellence.

Chinyere Asagwara's path as a new grad has not been typical. While new grads often struggle to find their footing, Asagwara has actively sought new opportunities to learn and challenge herself during the past three years she's been practicing on a Cardiac Medicine and Day Surgery Ward at Health Sciences Centre.

Curiousity, when combined with her love of science and encouragement from leadership and her team members to learn and do her best, has helped Asagwara thrive.

"Chichi's interested in what's ahead, as well as what's happening right now. She's interested in how to better herself for the purpose of becoming a better nurse," says Gloria Kirouac, Unit Manager. "What I like about working with Chichi is that she puts a lot of thought into holistic care for her patients. She does not assume things, she asks the right questions and looks a little deeper than what the surface brings."

Being recognized for her positive attitude, her willingness to take on challenges and new opportunities, the contributions she makes to mentoring and preceptoring by sharing her clinical knowledge, communication and passion for nursing has been both overwhelming and heartwarming for Asagwara. "It further motivates me to seek what else I can do now. My peers think I'm doing a really good job . . . what more can I do, what's next for me?" she says. "I think that just furthers the level of care I can give my patients."

One thing she can see: possibility. "When I first started nursing, I had no idea how much you could do as a nurse," she says. "It's pretty amazing."

Watch the Rising Star video

Interdisciplinary Health Care Team Award

This award is given to an interdisciplinary health-care team whose work has made a difference to the health and well-being of a client population.

And the Intensive Care - Medical/Surgical (ICMS) team at St. Boniface Hospital has done just that. The list of accomplishments include: rolling out an early mobility protocol, reducing ventilator associated pneumonia rates, celebrating no central line infections in 2010 and helping to reduce the cardiac surgery wait list by more than 50 per cent in four months.

The ICMS team is about 150 people, comprised of nurses, health care aides, respiratory therapists, dietitians, pharmacists, physiotherapists, clerks, porters, residents and medical staff. On any given shift, about 20 people are working with the unit's 11 patients.

Working collaboratively is something the team is proud of doing. The benefits of this became clear to them when the first wave of H1N1 hit in 2009. Although the health crisis created plenty of unknowns, ICMS seized the opportunity to build compassionate, caring and intimate relationships with the patient, family and within the team itself.

"It created a can-do team," says Heather Carlsson-Reid, Program Director of Medicine at St. Boniface Hospital, noting they had about 14 ventilator patients during pandemic. "Everyone was touched in a very different way during that time. I think it really demonstrated the power of that interaction."

Including the patient and their family is an essential part of the collaboration, particularly when a patient may be intubated and unable to speak for themselves.

Family conferences, for example, include family members, the health-care providers, and the patient, if available. "Involving the family in patient care and the decision making process has been enhanced over the last three years," says James Danell, Critical Care Clinical Educator for ICMS.

Excellence in Professional Nursing Awards

Nurses in direct care, administration, research and education are acknowledged as registered nurses who exemplify excellence in nursing. This year there were four recipients. They are:

Beth Brunsdon-Clark RN, (Nursing Administration)

Beth Brunsdon-Clark approaches her leadership role a little differently than many might.

It's why she's been called a "tempered radical." It's also why - innovation and leading through change - a group of staff nominated her to receive this award.

"I hold true to my value system even if I may not necessarily hold true to the dominant culture of the day," says Brunsdon-Clark, Vice President, Programs and Patient Services and Chief Nursing Officer at Victoria General Hospital. "I'm determined to retain what makes me different. I have always rocked the boat, but want to stay in it."

Brunsdon has spent about 20 of her more than 30 years as nurse in leadership positions. The Mature Women's Centre - the first real nurse-managed clinic with an inter-professional team - is an example of something she's proud of since it has evolved over the last 18 years to be a model of patient-centred inter-professional care envied across the country

Creativity involves risk, which Brunsdon-Clark believes provides learning opportunities. "One has to allow for emergence as well as being able to accommodate risk. We learn best by trial and error but you've first got to be willing to risk it and learn from it… and then go back to the drawing board to rethink and try again," she says.

The Victoria General Hospital has many new, young staff. This generation has a different way of approaching their work and brings many strengths and capabilities to health care delivery.

"It's not about years of experience. It's about passion, brilliance and the need to move and grow," she says, noting she has a reputation for spotting and nurturing talent. "Encouraging new perspectives and honouring passion and brilliance while teaching and mentoring, you can inspire people."

The dignity of patient care is one consistent voice she represents at the various tables she sits at. "I'm always in awe of the human spirit," she says. "I think that's what's kept me going, no matter what population I'm working with. I try to influence people to work positively for positive outcomes for patient care."

Linda Davidson RN, Winnipeg (Clinical Nursing Practice)

A person may be medically cleared to go home after a hospital visit, but is it safe for them to do so? And if not, what resources could be put into place so that it is?

That's the main question Davidson, a hospital-based home care co-ordinator, asks in assessing clients from the emergency department, dialysis unit and internal medicine clinic at Health Sciences Centre. This is a pivotal role in the community to hospital, hospital to community continuum.

The assessment process is complex. "I work closely with a multidisciplinary team that includes occupational therapists, physical therapists, the geriatric program team, pharmacy, social workers, nurses, doctors and community home care to determine if the needs of an individual can be met at home with family and homecare or other community supports," she says. "If it isn't possible, we look at a more viable, affordable alternative than an acute care hospital."

For example, if a person comes into the emergency department after a fall and it's determined it's not safe for them to be at home, rehabilitation or an alternative living situation might be something Davidson would advocate for. "Sometimes, we have to be creative with our clientele and come up with options that are innovative to get people home and keep them safe. Important decisions often need to be made quickly but also in our client and family's best interest," she says. "If people want to go home, we work as hard as we can to make that happen successfully."

Since Davidson started in this capacity in 1984, after working in neonatal intensive care and as a visiting nurse in the community, the number of individuals that are assessed has grown considerably. Eleven co-ordinators - as opposed to the four when she started - currently work at Health Sciences Centre as hospital based co-ordinators. An aging population and people who live longer with chronic illnesses are possible reasons. "Supporting people at home is more medically and socially complex than it used to be," she says. "Home care supports are more extensive."

"Amazing" is the work Davidson uses to describe being recognized for her work. "I never realized what I was doing was worthy of an award. It brings to the forefront that nurses care for patients and that dedication and the goal of providing the best care possible to individuals and families with dignity and respect is important and valued," she says. "It's stimulating. You feel like you've actually impacted somebody's life."

Poh-Lin Lim RN, Winnipeg (Clinical Nursing Practice)

It's been a time of recognition for Lim, a Clinical Nurse Specialist at the Victoria General Hospital. She was recently nominated as a Canadian Association of Wound Care Hero for her work in developing the Victoria General Hospital wound care program "From SORES to SKINS."

The program enabled staff to build capacity and critical thinking in wound management and was integral in keeping the hospital acquired pressure ulcer prevalence and incidence rate lower than statistics cited in the Region and national data.

The latest recognition is centered around Lim's care for older adults. Focusing on the whole person and their functioning level - not just the disease - helps enhance quality care and get them back to their optimal level of functioning. "The elderly need us to treat the acute illness and prevent de-conditioning during hospitalization, so they can go back to enjoying golfing and hobbies in a vital way," she says. "To see those little moments of vitality despite all the difficult ailments is very fulfilling."

Lim believes it's important to build the capacity and give health-care providers evidence-based information that will help them care for the older patient with special developmental/functioning needs. "Older adults often present their illnesses with atypical symptoms and decrease in functions resulting in falls, decreased mobility and acute confusion. We should not miss the reversible or treatable cause just because they are old," she says. "Often, the care of older adults requires interdisciplinary approach. It's an honour to be able to work collaboratively with an interdisciplinary team where each person brings their specialty to help the patient improve."

Including the patient's family, who Lim sees as a valuable component of a patient's quality care. She says, "We need to provide the family with support, education and recognize they need a break as well. Keeping them informed helps to decrease some of the fear of unknown and helps to reassure the family that their loved ones are being care for."

Values handed down from her grandmother - competence, caring and compassion - echo the nursing values Lim believes in. "Competence is important to provide evidence informed quality care. Caring is important because without it, nursing care becomes just tasks," she says. "Without compassion, even the nice words we say are just like ‘cold cement' and lose the therapeutic effect."

Elaine Mordoch, RN PhD, Winnipeg

Mordoch is an advocate who attempts to ensure those who may not be heard - children, people with mental health issues, Aboriginal people, trauma survivors - have a clear voice and are considered in health care delivery.

Her 25 year career has been in nursing education and clinical practice in psychiatry. Currently, she's an assistant professor with the University of Manitoba's Faculty of Nursing.

When she works with senior nursing practicum students, Mordoch gets nurses to consider the importance of mental health when dealing with a person who comes for care. "I think it's important that our students pay attention to the medical aspects of dealing with physiological crisis as well as the mental health issues that arise for the person and the family within physical crisis," she says, noting treatment from this perspective is more holistic.

Mordoch recently completed a study with Dr. W. Chernomas that looked at how nurses perceive psychological trauma in the clinical setting and how that relates to their practice. What they discovered will help shape how nursing educators teach about trauma experiences.

The fact that childhood trauma can impact an adult's health is something Mordoch wants health providers to pay attention to. That's why she's advocating for trauma informed care. Resources recently secured for a trauma informed education and resource centre will help make trauma informed care a reality. Currently in the development stages, it is anticipated it will have a virtual component to ensure more people in Manitoba receive the benefits of this type of training.

Receiving the award was a wonderful validation that helped Mordoch focus on what she hopes to accomplish in the next few years: how mental illness impacts family members. Mordoch's teaching and research has included how children who grow up in a family with a parent who has a mental illness are impacted but she would like to pursue that further.

When she works with senior practicum students, one key point she stresses is how integral the family is to consider. "New grads are fresh and add new eyes to clinical practice. They take these concepts into the system," she says. "They are the change makers of the future."

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