The March of Dimes honored Virginia’s dedicated nurses at its second annual Nurse of the Year Awards Gala at The Omni Richmond Hotel on Saturday, November 10th, 2012. This affair celebrated the commitment to care, comfort, and support that nurses share for their patients. From over 400 nominations received from around the state, 74 exceptional finalists in 17 different categories of nursing were selected. Among the 17 grand winners, four distinguished area nurses received the top honors this year.
“The Star City shone brightly when the four winners’ names were announced from the podium,” said Martina Cannon, Division Director of the Greater Blue Ridge Division. “We were so proud to celebrate these extraordinary nurses from our area.” They included Kay Kostura in Behavioral Health from HCA LewisGale Medical Center; Melissa Ratliff Harper in Emergency Nursing at Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital; Robert Stone in Oncology at Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital; and Donna Deadrick in Pediatrics at Carilion Pediatric Clinic. Nurses from other parts of our area were declared as finalists, including: Cleo Williams in Medical/Surgical Nursing at Carilion Clinic – New River Valley Medical Center; Mattie Gallagher Berry in Advanced Practice at Carilion OB-GYN Associates – New River Valley Medical Center; Jane Lewis in Administration and Leadership at Danville Regional Medical Center; and Bonnie Turner in Administration and Leadership also at Danville Regional Medical Center.
Kay Kostura, a psychiatric nurse at LewisGale, was very honored to receive her award, especially after she and her husband had the opportunity to meet this year’s March of Dimes Ambassador Family. Hearing the touching story about their son who had been born prematurely and had spent several months in the NICU reminded Kay her own experiences following up on her patients as they make their transition from different levels of care. “I enjoy many things about my job,” she commented. “I love working with our patients and their families and seeing their emotional relief at discharge. One of the things we recently implemented was a discharge follow-up program. We were skeptical that our patients would refuse us to call them post-discharge. It has been astounding to see not only the number of patients who have agreed to have us call but how appreciative they are when we do.”
It can be a hug or kiss, a clay figure or a paper snowflake, but whatever a child offers you by way of appreciation is a treasure indeed. Donna Deadrick of Carilion Pediatric Clinic has collected a cache of memories during the past 26 years. Keeping children healthy with proper vaccinations and regular checkups has been her primary mission. She states, “It is very rewarding to assist with the preventative side of health care and make sure each child is adequately immunized. I enjoy working with children because they are so unique and completely honest. Whether they greet me with a smile, a hug, a tear, or a picture they just colored for the office, their energy inspires me on a daily basis.” Donna also works with the Reach Out and Read program at Carilion, which supplies children from six months to five years old with a new book every time they have a healthy visit. Since 2005, over 25,000 books have been provided. Donna has made a point of furnishing Spanish and bilingual books, as well as Spanish books in Braille.
Working with patients who have complicated physical and emotional needs is the path that Melissa Ratliff Harper chose in Emergency Nursing. A forensic nurse examiner at Carilion, she works with the victims of violence and their families. Initially she specialized in treating adolescents and adults who had been victims of sexual assault, but now Melissa also deals with child abuse, intimate partner violence, and elder mistreatment. She teaches classes on local, state, and national levels about combating violence and plans to spend time in Grenada educating medical students about forensic nursing. Melissa also is a member of the Governor’s Task Force for Domestic Violence Response and Prevention. As difficult as her job can be, she is the source of hope for countless patients and their families. Melissa recollects, “I had a patient recently who insisted on coming back to see me because she had something for me. She returned with a heart necklace and told me that she wanted to give it to me to recognize ‘the hand of the heart that held hers’ on the worst day of her life.”
Teamwork is the key to effecting positive outcomes, as oncology nurse Robert Stone would attest. A highly skilled professional, he has worked at Carilion for over 20 years dedicating his life to making patients’ lives a little brighter every day as they face the difficulties of chemotherapy. “I am working with a wonderful group of dedicated oncology nurses who every day exhibit the best of professional care for our patients on a personal level,” he says. “It is a great honor to be recognized by the March of Dimes for my work as an oncology nurse. I can remember collecting dimes for them as a child over 50 years ago, not realizing how much those little dimes meant to the improvement of people’s health on both a public and a personal level.” In 2009 Robert was one of the 15 national oncology professionals to receive the American Cancer Society’s Lane Adams Quality of Life Award.
The March of Dimes is already planning next year’s awards ceremony, which is scheduled for Saturday, November 9th at The Omni Richmond Hotel. The March of Dimes recently formed a partnership with the Virginia Nurses Association to help promote nominations and expand its awards program to be one of the most competitive and prestigious awards for nurses in the Commonwealth. In celebration of the March of Dimes’ 75th anniversary, the gala may have a theme such as ‘Nursing Nostalgia – 1938 to Now.’ The organization has contacted several museums for vintage memorabilia and may dress greeters in nurses’ uniforms from 1938.
Most importantly, the Nurse of the Year Awards Program and Gala will help to educate and raise funds for the March of Dimes’ mission, which is to prevent premature births, birth defects, and infant mortality. For more information on the nomination process and deadlines, contact Martina Cannon at the Greater Blue Ridge Division office at 540.989.8030 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Submitted by JeAnne Chitty