2009 Nursing Image Awards Leadership Winners

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The 2009 Nursing Image Awards honor nurses whose leadership, teamwork, and clinical expertise embody an image of nursing excellence and who make a difference in improving patient care, quality outcomes, nurse satisfaction, and the healthcare environment.

A panel of nurse leaders and senior editorial staff from HCPro served as judges for the awards, which will be presented at the 2009 Excellence in Leadership seminar in Boston on September 21.

About the award

Last year, HCPro, Inc. asked nurses around the country to submit nominations for the 2009 Nursing Image Awards. We received a deluge of wonderful entries, and after weeks of careful deliberations, here are the winners in the leadership category.

This category concerns the image of nursing in leadership. It honors nursing leaders who embody a positive image of nursing through their leadership excellence and who have served as inspiring leaders, mentors, and role models to nurses as they strive to portray an image of professionalism in all that they do, whether by overcoming significant challenges, spearheading change, or inspiring teamwork that resulted in achievement of operational goals/objectives.

Winner: Image of nursing in leadership

Dianne Aroh, RN, MS, NEA-BC, chief nursing officer at Hackensack (NJ) University Medical Center

The nomination essay noted Dianne's abilities as a transformational leader. She joined Hackensack University Medical Center when the organization was at a crossroads after a beloved, long-serving CNO had departed. Aroh set out to increase staff nurse involvement in shared governance and let all nurses know their voices are heard and are valued.

During her tenure, Dianne has successfully fostered a transparent, dynamic culture of excellence, collaboration, harmony, and synergy across the entire organization.

The colleague who nominated her also noted that she role models mentoring, coaching, listening, and visionary leadership, and has transformed the organization into a culture of creativity that supports professional nursing growth.

"Dianne is a transformational leader because she is a visionary," says Claudia Douglas, RN, MA, CNN, APNC, supervisor clinical practice and ANCC Magnet Recognition Program® (MRP) coordinator. "She's a risk taker who was willing to say, we can do this better."

The judges noticed something special about Dianne, too.

"As a nurse travels up the corporate ladder, leadership becomes more of a challenge than ever," says judge Kathleen Bartholomew, RN, RC, MN, coauthor of the book The Image of Nursing, consultant, and speaker at Excellence in Leadership. "What inspired me to pick this CNO as the winner is two things: Her success is documented by measurable outcomes and the following description is very unique and embraces the essence of what nursing needs to succeed: 'culture of creativity, supporting professional stretch, conscious, deliberative, and contemplative risk taking.'"

Judge Shelley Cohen, RN, BSN, CEN, president of Health Resources Unlimited, coauthor of The Image of Nursing, and speaker at Excellence in Leadership, shared a similar sentiment.

"Empowering nurses at the staff level not only promotes excellence in patient care, but role models excellence in leadership," notes Cohen. "What an inspiration this leader is! Her ability to transfer her vision to staff is highly commendable. This nurtured collaborative workforce is the foundation for promoting the image of nursing today and tomorrow."

Honorable mention: Image of nursing in leadership

Kathy Schuler, MS, RN, NE-BC, chief nursing officer at Winchester Hospital, MA

The entire group of nursing directors at Winchester Hospital went offsite on an overnight to get together and collectively write their nomination for the hospital's CNO, Kathy Schuler. They note that she distinguishes herself as a transformational leader by her ability to inspire, motivate, and mentor, which allows her team to lead dynamically, autonomously, and creatively.

"Kathy is the epitome of professionalism and a nurse advocate who never loses sight of the patient," says Donna Sherrill, RN, BSN, MN, director of MRP and special projects. "She listens before she speaks and actually listens to what you have to say."

Sherrill describes Winchester Hospital as a nurses' organization, by which she means nurses drive what happens with patient care and that nursing is expected to take the lead and raise the bar.

"The very fact that the nursing directors came together to nominate their leader speaks volumes in today's hospital culture," says Bartholomew. "The amount of risk taking required to defend nursing in these economic times speaks of her commitment and dedication. As a leader, her clear and passionate vision has resulted in hard-wired improvements and earned respect beyond her hospital's walls."

Cohen mirrored Bartholomew's sentiment.

"Her attribute of 'unfailing humor' reminds us that the image of nursing is not of a nurse per se, but of an individual, a person who chose the profession of nursing," she adds.

Honorable mention: Image of nursing in leadership

Debbie Pusateri, MSN, RN, assistant vice president nursing people officer/critical care services/education, Florida Hospital, Orlando, FL

The nomination essay for Debbie Pusateri, MSN, RN, used an illuminating quote to illustrate the leadership spirit of their leader:
"The task of leadership is not to put greatness into humanity, but to elicit it, for the greatness is already there."

Whether on the units talking with nursing teams or in the board room advocating for nurses, this leaders connects with and seeks input from the frontline staff.  

"She takes the staff nurses into account and she takes that back to leadership," says colleague Monica Niece-Dechau. "She is all encompassing and hands on."

The judges were equally impressed with her team-oriented work ethic.

"Debbie distinguishes herself by her willingness to get in the trenches with her staff," says judge Mike Briddon, executive editor at HCPro, Inc. "Through spearheading the creation of a nursing journal to engage staff and focusing on succession planning, she keeps nursing excellence at the forefront of all her endeavors."