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Excellence in Nursing Awards 2011

Recognizing the region's healthcare pros

(page 1 of 2)

St. Louis Magazine's Excellence in Nursing Awards 2011 from St. Louis Magazine on Vimeo.



For the second year in a row, SLM received 150-plus nominations from patients, physicians, and nursing colleagues who were excited to recognize the region’s top nursing professionals. Our prestigious selection committee then scored the nominees and chose the finalists. (Note: health organizations cannot pay to be included.) Finally, SLM asked the resulting 19 winners, across 16 categories, to share their top tips for patients and new nurses. here’s to your health—and the health of St. Louis’ medical community.

[See all finalists and committee members on p. 2]

McKnight Place Extended Care

Long-Term Care

It wasn’t long ago that extended-care facilities were synonymous with nursing homes, and living there meant abiding by their rules. These days, the philosophy’s shifted. “It’s the responsibility of the facility to do everything it can to accommodate the needs and lifestyle of the resident,” says Bernice McGuire Irwin, director of nursing at McKnight Place Extended Care. Toward that end, it’s crucial that loved ones pass along every conceivable detail about the resident. “We need an extensive medical history,” says McGuire Irwin. “But we also need to know whether they are an introvert or extrovert, whether they like to stay up late or sleep in, what foods they love or hate.” She invites family to bring in not only official paperwork, but also photographs and background info. “It’s important for us to understand who this person was before they came here, before they were ill or impaired.”

St. John’s Mercy Medical Group

General Practice

Anne Voss sees patient care more from the “doctor’s angle” as a nurse practitioner at the St. John’s Mercy Care Now acute walk-in clinic. Her advice: Honesty is the best policy. If you talk to your doctor or nurse practitioner openly, they “can find out what’s wrong and treat you better,” says Voss. Dubbed “Dr. Anne” by patients, Voss encourages people to err on the side of caution when debating whether to see a doctor—especially if they’re experiencing any type of unfamiliar pain. She recommends carrying a list of current medications and an “allergy list” in your wallet to help doctors and nurses alike.

BJC Hospice

Hospice, Home Health & Palliative Care

“Families think it’s the end of life with hospice...but nobody knows that,” says Nina Brethauer, a registered nurse with BJC Hospice. She admits “there is nothing that the hospice nurse can do to slow down or speed up the process,” but says “we are very good with pain control.” Brethauer recommends asking the nurse to visit as needed. She also suggests assigning a family leader to work with medical staff, and discussing advance medical directives. “Medicine is wonderful, but there comes a point where medicine fails,” she says. “Just know that death doesn’t have to be painful—it can be a beautiful, peaceful journey.”

Saint Louis University School of Nursing


As director of the Ph.D. program at Saint Louis University School of Nursing, Andrew Mills knows what makes young nurses successful. “Upon graduation, new nurses should strive to stay current in their clinical practice,” he says. “They should be able to use the best scientific evidence available as they care for those who are ill and vulnerable.” Then there are the more basic things—like listening. “They need to use their best communication skills to establish trust with both patients and their families, and with more seasoned nurses,” he says. “New nurses should carefully listen to the stories that patients have to tell, so they can understand the context and meaning of their illness.”

Shriners Hospitals for Children and Barnes-Jewish Hospital


The night of Nicole McLemore’s high-school graduation, she checked into Shriners Hospitals for Children for spinal-fusion surgery. Three months later, she was off to college. “I’m a go-getter,” McLemore explains. She currently works full-time at Shriners and as needed at Barnes-Jewish Hospital as an orthopedic nurse. She tries to be an inspiration to patients undergoing similar procedures. “The nurses helped me get better, and I wanted to have that type of impact on other people,” she says. Her advice: Talk to your nurses, and let them advocate for you. “The doctors always joke that I call them constantly—which I do,” she says. “But I want to make sure I’m giving my patients the best care that I can.”

Barnes-Jewish Hospital


Patients are often nervous when they first meet Beverly Dressel, a nurse in the Cardiac Cath/EP Lab at Barnes-Jewish Hospital. “A big part of what we do here is trying to make patients comfortable, to decrease that anxiety,” says Dressel, adding that about 90 percent of patients say the experience wasn’t as traumatic as anticipated. Part of that may be due to Dressel, whose motto is “It’s all about the patient.” This sometimes translates to long hours, but for “a lot of us that enjoy what we do as a nurse, that just goes with it,” she says. Dressel encourages patients to educate themselves about their health and medical procedures before coming to the hospital. The Internet is a start, she says, “but you should always consult with your doctor.”

SSM DePaul Health Center

Emergency Department

Given the nature of most emergency-room visits, it might seem counterintuitive that you can be prepared for them. But certain things can help, says Jon Caron, clinical director of SSM DePaul Health Center’s emergency department. “Leave valuables at home, but in your wallet or purse keep a current list of medications, dose, and frequency—including those you are allergic to, as well as the name of your physician.” Then there’s the importance of details. “Be specific about your complaint: Know when the problem started, if anything makes it better or worse, if it is constant or intermittent, et cetera,” adds Caron. As for what to expect when it comes to the dreaded wait time? “Patients are seen based on the severity of their illness and then in chronological order,” he says. “Three- to five-hour waits are average. The best way to avoid future ER visits is to follow up on the recommendations and resources provided at the time you are discharged.”

St. Louis Children’s Hospital

Pediatrics (tie)

Nancy Duncan and Joan Renaud Smith regularly care for children at their most vulnerable, with a combined 56 years of experience. Duncan, a nurse practitioner who works in St. Louis Children’s Hospital’s Child Protection Program, evaluates minors for everything from brain injuries to neglect to burns. “Most of my day, however, involves evaluating children who are suspected of being sexually abused,” she says. Over the years, Duncan has become a stalwart advocate of healthy sexuality. And how is that achieved? By talking with kids early, openly, and honestly. “The goal should be that your child feels completely comfortable discussing sexual topics with you and knows that you will calmly give them accurate information without fainting or getting embarrassed,” Duncan says.

Smith, a neonatal nurse practitioner, cares for preterm, ill, and special-needs children. During trying times, she often sees friends and family at a loss. “You may want to help out with chores, errands, or meals at home,” Smith says. “But avoid telling a parent what you think they should be doing or feeling. It’s important to know that you don’t always have to say anything. Being present and listening could be the best support.”

St. Luke's Hospital

Women's Health

In the 21 years health outreach nurse Mary Pfenning has performed health screenings, she’s occasionally encountered women with dangerously high cholesterol or blood pressure. “There was one woman, a couple years ago, whose cholesterol levels were through the roof,” she recalls. “I told her she needed to see her physician immediately.” A year later, at the same screening site, the woman told Pfenning that she’d gone on medication, lost weight, and brought her cholesterol down. “She told me I saved her life,” says Pfenning, whose latest efforts focus on heart-disease prevention and awareness—in particular, recognizing the signs of a heart attack. “For women, the experience can be very different from men, very subtle,” she says. Extreme fatigue, shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting, sweating, and pain in the neck, back, shoulders, or jaw are all signs that a woman should go to the hospital. “Don’t do that load of laundry first, don’t wait and see how you feel in the morning, and do not drive yourself to the hospital,” she says.

Barnes-Jewish Hospital

Intensive Care (tie)

The hospital ICU can be a scary place. “We encourage families to be with the patient and ask questions,” says Marilyn Schallom, a clinical nurse specialist at Barnes-Jewish Hospital. “It’s best, however, to have one family spokesperson for phone calls; this minimizes communication confusion.” Nurse Nancy Lane recommends ensuring that whoever is at the bedside is a calming influence. “If the family member is high-strung, that doesn’t help the patient,” says Lane. “Allow the patient to rest, and don’t be in their face—just be there for them.” Both Schallom and Lane recommend visitors take care of themselves and stay informed. Schallom recommends a host of websites, including,, and Finally, they suggest that important discussions about life-sustaining treatments be held well in advance.

Washington University School of Medicine


Jeane Kuensting, a nurse practitioner in the Division of Oncology’s Section of Bone Marrow Transplantation at Siteman Cancer Center, not only regularly sees patients and donors, but also works with specialists, pharmacists, and social workers to meet her patients’ needs. “With nursing, you’re doing a lot of counseling and encouraging and really trying to help patients get through,” she says. A large part of her work is with clinical trials. “One advantage of being on a clinical trial is that typically there’s a set schedule for follow-up and repeat office visits,” says Kuensting, adding that organizations conducting the trials sometimes cover the cost of medicine and related office visits. More important, though, is the patient’s attitude when undergoing any type of treatment. “That definitely plays a part” in recovery, she says.

Barnes-Jewish Hospital


Explaining the nature of her work, Linda York says, “It has peaks and valleys.” As clinical nurse specialist for chemical dependency at Barnes-Jewish Hospital, she counsels patients who have known or suspected substance-abuse problems. Her most common cases are alcohol-related, though with an average of 98 cases per month, York sees patients with a variety of addictions. “Addiction is a chronic illness,” she says. “While you can’t necessarily cure it, you can certainly help people deal with it effectively.” Knowing addiction is a lifelong struggle is key for those trying to stay sober. Even after someone has kicked an addiction, “It is an ongoing issue that needs various forms of intervention,” says York, including “supportive people in your life.”

Washington University School of Medicine

Internal Medicine

When it comes to fighting infectious diseases, it’s all about creating a paper trail. “At your visit, bring your medicines or list of medicines, because you may have many physicians not in the same practice, and your doctor can see if there will be any interactions with what he or she will prescribe,” says nurse manager Lori Watkins. If you have someone to help you make decisions, she advises, then make sure you allow them to have access to your records: “Even a handwritten note to the doctor with a couple of signatures from witnesses will do.” When calling the doctor’s office with questions, she recommends jotting down the name of the person on the other end of the line. “You might also ask for a copy of your records at your visit if you’re going to see another physician outside the practice, or ask that your records be faxed to the other doctor.”

St. John’s Mercy Medical Center


When Dorothy James (a.k.a Dotti) watched her first delivery, she “fainted right into the sterile field,” she recalls. “I spread Betadine and soap and everything else all over the chief of obstetrics.” Nonetheless, James was hired as a labor-and-delivery nurse. Today, with nearly 40 years in nursing, James is a leader in the field. As director of the Center of Nursing Excellence at St. John’s Mercy Medical Center, she manages a staff of a dozen people and oversees the training and education of more than 950 student nurses. “At this point in my career, the best thing I can give back to nursing is to make other nurses the best nurses they can be,” James says. So what advice does she give new nurses? “Slow down and really listen,” she explains. “I tell students that when they go into a patient’s room, sit down when you’re talking to them. The patient’s going to be relaxed, and they’re going to tell you what they really need.”

Barnes-Jewish Hospital (Davis) and Washington University School of Medicine and St. Louis Children’s Hospital (Seigel)

Surgery (tie)

Jennifer Seigel attends to youngsters as a pediatric nurse practitioner with St. Louis Children’s Hospital’s Pediatric Acute Wound Service, while Gail Davis is a clinical nurse specialist in Perioperative Services overseeing the care of patients before, during, and after surgery at Barnes-Jewish Hospital. If they could pass on any advice to their patients, it would be these points:

Seigel: Avoid scalds—the most common type of burn—by A) keeping your children out of the kitchen while cooking, B) not allowing them to use the microwave, and C) keeping water-heater temperatures at 120 degrees or less. If your child does receive a significant burn, wrap the burned area with a dry cloth, and see a physician immediately.

Davis: If it’s offered, take advantage of your hospital’s pre-anesthesia service, a screening process that takes place three to four weeks before surgery. “This is where you’ll have your medical history reviewed, learn pre- and post-op instructions, learn what to expect after surgery—what’s normal and what’s not,” Davis says. “It eliminates wasted time and assures patients and their physicians that every base has been covered.”

Chaminade College Preparatory School


In many ways, Susan Rozier’s current stint as school nurse is similar to the years she spent working the emergency room at Christian Hospital. “I never know what’s going to walk in that door,” she says. Rozier’s experience has prepared her for just about any scenario, but there are things parents can do to make her job easier—and their child safer. “The most important thing is accurate health information,” Rozier says. Chaminade requires that paperwork for physicals be submitted by August 1, but Rozier likes the idea of completing physicals earlier. “If your insurance allows it, do the physicals in May,” she says. “The sooner we have that information on your child, the sooner we can be prepared should anything happen.”

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