Health Care

Honoring nurses – the hearts of health care

Donna Lane works as a labor and delivery manager at WakeMed Raleigh.
Donna Lane works as a labor and delivery manager at WakeMed Raleigh.

The News & Observer, The Herald-Sun and Triangle Today, in conjunction with the community, honored the Hearts of Healthcare with a special luncheon awards celebration Thursday, May 3, at Aloft hotel in Brier Creek. In celebration of National Nurses Week, the community was invited to nominate a local nurse who has made a difference in someone’s life or had an impact on the community.

The nomination process ran Monday, March 12 through Friday, April 20. The North Carolina Nurses Association selected the 2018 winner from a group of 20 qualified finalists among nearly 200 nominations. The event was sponsored by Duke Health, WakeMed, UNC Health, NC Board of Nurses, North Carolina Nurses Association, Aloft, Cambridge Village, Whole Foods Market and Gingham & Posh. During the luncheon, the 2018 winner, Donna Lane, was announced by Audrey Neal of the North Carolina Nurses Association.

Donna Lane, BSN, RN, LPN, works as a labor and delivery manager at WakeMed Raleigh.

Here’s what her nominator had to say: Donna promotes nursing on a daily basis by demonstrating the art and care of nursing. As a labor and delivery manager she feels that a patient allowing her to be a part of their birth experience is the greatest honor and reward she could achieve. She has been quoted as saying, “Being a witness to the moment a mother holds her new baby for the first time is by far one of the most rewarding events a nurse has the opportunity to be a part of.” Despite that, she was recently honored by a business journal as the 2015 Healthcare Hero Nurse of the Year. As a BLS and Neonatal Resuscitation Program instructor she offers her services to the promotion of her colleagues and community, and has been featured in our hospital system’s local television commercials for her drive to promote the field of nursing. She has been a guest speaker at high school career days and was recognized for having the highest number of volunteer teaching hours outside of her own department. As a former nurse educator, she achieved her national OB certification and became an AWOHNN fetal monitoring Instructor, providing services not only for our system, but for other hospitals as well. Undoubtedly, this has influenced hundreds of labor RNs throughout our state to be more proficient and providing safe and effective nursing care.

Donna began to realize her childhood dream of becoming a nurse as a nurse aide, LPN, RN, supervisor/educator and manager. With each step, her education continued by achieving her BSN after 20 years of nursing. Through her own experience, she is a lifelong preceptor; teaching the inexperienced RN not only nursing skills, but the art of caring beyond words for her patients and families.

Read about each of the other 19 inspirational finalists below.

1) Bonnie Angelelli MSN, RN, FNP-BC

Carolina Partners in Mental HealthCare PLLC

What her nominator had to say:

Bonnie Angelelli is not only a great nurse, but a great person. I’ve worked with Bonnie for almost three years and I have seen her advocate time and time again for our patients. Bonnie sees patients on an out-patient basis at least five days a week. She is always willing to open her schedule and extend her hours for patients in need of emergency appointments. She also added telehealth to her patient care schedule to accommodate patients who couldn’t make it to the office for varying issues (mobility, transportation, etc.). Bonnie has always been a mentor to our other nurses and other NPs and PAs new to the field of psychiatry. Not only do her co-workers love her, her patients do too! Her reviews speak for themselves — her positive and kind personality and her way of helping patients.

2) Dave Bowen RN

Emergency Department, WakeMed Raleigh campus

What his nominator had to say:

Dave has been with the emergency department for 26 years. He worked his way from nurse tech to paramedic to RN. I have known Dave my entire 23 years at WakeMed and have tremendous respect for the nurse he is and the nurse he inspires in others. Dave, in every situation, has a patient-centered focus and drive that pushes him to be an outstanding nurse. He will overcome many hurdles in the healthcare world only because it is right for the patient. He has even put his career on the line for the benefit of the patient and the staff he leads in the emergency department. I love working with Dave day in and day out. He will not let you down in the time of need. He will stay late so you will not be the last one out at the end of your shift. He worries about the emotional needs of the staff he leads on a daily basis. He is a wealth of knowledge and a great resource during a crisis event. I have been in very tough times with Dave and his optimism and regard for others always serves as a beacon in the darkness. I have heard praises regarding Dave from the janitorial staff to the paramedics to the physicians that work with him on a daily basis. On an occasion in the past, my mother called in with symptoms of a stroke, upon arrival I had the luxury of a slow department at the time and was able to choose the nurse to take care of my mother—it was Dave. I think Dave should be recognized for his career-long compassion and skill in the medical field.

3) Kathy C. Buckmaster RN

Passport Health

What her nominator had to say:

I was diagnosed a few years ago with a very rare disease and had all kinds of complications. One of the more serious complications was DVTs and pulmonary emoboli. I was rushed to the hospital at UNC and spent quite a bit of time there taking chemo for my disreease and then being treated for the DVTs. Finally, when I was released, I was told I would have to give myself daily injections. I was very stressed about doing this, but Kathy told me she would come to my house and teach me. She gave me my first injection and then taught me on an orange, how to do it. She came back several days to make sure I felt comfortable doing it myself. She was my comfort in the storm. I was dealing with a new illness that had no cure and many complications. She made it possible for me to navigate the disease, because I knew she was a phone call away and would help me with whatever I needed.

4) Nicole Coates RN, ONC

Duke Cancer Services- North Durham

What her nominator had to say:

Nicki always goes above and beyond for our patients. She will stay late to make sure that all patient needs are taken care of prior to the end of the day. She makes sure all of our patients have all the resources needed with their cancer treatments, she will call and make sure they are doing ok and check up to see if there are any needs. She has worked to obtain free chemo medications through patient assistance programs when patients are not able to afford their medication. She is always available to answer any questions or concerns of our patient’s no matter how busy we are. She always treats our patient with dignity and respect and builds trusting relationships with them. Our patients often times say that. She treats me like family and I know I am always taken care of. She is a true example of a caring and devoted nurse.

5) Ronda Decker MSN, RN, CNML

Duke Raleigh Hospital Clinical Nurse Manager

What her nominator had to say:

Ronda promotes nursing by her sheer joy of it! She enjoys managing the unit and thrives with hiring novice nurses and watching them mature and advance professionally. Her encouragement of staff to advance themselves through the clinical ladder or with certification is motivating and inspiring. She allocates funds to send staff to the Emory University Cardiology Conference, Magnet, NICHE, NTI or NCNA. Having been a manager for over 10 years, she helps staff see their potential as preceptors, charge nurses and beyond. She helps staff navigate the different BSN programs and recommends others who are already in that program for a buddy system. She has encouraged staff to work toward their MSN or DNP for their development and to help the person realize their full potential as a nurse. She helps accommodate the school schedule even at the last minute when making the staffing schedule. She celebrates accomplishments with certificate presentations at shift change briefings and in her weekly staff update newsletter.

6) MaryBeth Gallo BSN, RN, CDE

Duke Raleigh Hospital Diabetes Nurse Clinician

What her nominator had to say:

MaryBeth role models the skill set of a diabetes educator and supports both staff and patients with answering questions and sorting out the complexities of the disease. She is an extraordinary resource. She has volunteered monthly since 2014 at Alliance Medical Ministry, a faith-led medical ministry serving working uninsured adults in Wake County in need of affordable, quality healthcare for diabetes education. She teaches classes and also sees several patients one-on-one to answer specific questions. Her focus is review of diabetes medications, timing and amount of insulin, carb counting, the “math” of insulin and those important diabetes standards of care, such as protecting the eyes, feet and circulation. The non-profit notes that A1C scores have been lowered since her volunteerism there. Her patience to gently guide stressed or frustrated patients toward a better understanding of this chronic disease is legendary. Her warm and caring presence helps patients to realize that they can make adjustments and that even small steps can be beneficial to their health. Her can-do, let’s-try-again approach is reassuring to patients and they feel comfortable that they will get reeducated effectively and graciously.

7) Jason Hawkins BSN, RN

Duke Health Hospital — Lung Transplant Team

What his nominator had to say:

This young man has made a difference in so many lives. He is a single father with two boys. He is a son, a brother and a nephew. He takes his role on the Duke Lung Transplant team seriously. He cares for his patients, listens to them and helps them through life altering changes. Never loses his patience with calls, interruptions, questions, etc. He’s there for them. As a community advocate, he served on the Hillsborough Fire Department and Orange County Rescue Squad while in high school and at East Carolina University — coming home every weekend to perform lifesaving duties (volunteer). From that experience, he chose his career. Duke has been the first and only place he has worked for the past 20 or so years. As a father, he sees to meals three times a day (cooking from scratch daily for the kids), makes sure their schoolwork is first, encourages them in sports and gives them chores at home and on the farm. This is all while making sure he is physically fit by running three or more times a week and participating in charity road runs. At the family-owned farm, he oversees a livestock herd for his boys’ FFA project. AND, the farm has a buy-local beef program. He attends Little River Presbyterian Church and is always available for service there when needed. As my son, he has made me proud that through many trials and efforts he completed ECU Nursing School while working to sustain his living expenses as he comes from a single mom family!

8) John Kabler RN

Well Care Home Health of the Triangle (Raleigh)

What his nominator had to say:

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” That’s John Kabler’s motto. Kabler is a registered nurse for Well Care Home Health of the Triangle. To say he’s a positive influence on his community, colleagues and supervisors is an understatement. John is the epitome of a compassionate nurse who cares deeply for his patients. His holistic approach to patient care is the reason why he’s such a valuable member to the Well Care Home Health team.

John spent the past eight years in the Middle East as a registered nurse working with patients through a variety of charitable organizations. While overseas, he developed health strategies for patients needing in-home care, and taught them specific, actionable plans to living a healthier lifestyle. He realized the diabetes epidemic is a worldwide problem, not just a national problem. He worked with patients one-on-one, developing customized care and healthy eating plans. In addition to treating diabetic, kidney and heart failure patients, John taught first aid and CPR classes to oil company employees. He also worked as a nutrition counselor and led CrossFit classes.

During his time in the Middle East, John discovered his deep-rooted passion for home health care. He realized that patients were more receptive to his nursing plans because they were learning inside the comfort of their own homes. “It’s their safe place,” John said. “When patients are inside their own homes, they feel safe. They’re more open to learning and following a specific course of action for healthier living; and it gives them a sense of ownership,” he added.

This realization piqued John’s interest in pursuing home health nursing opportunities upon his return to the United States in 2017. John’s motto remains the same, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” He implements the same principles he used in the Middle East with his home health care patients now in the Raleigh-Durham area. “It’s about practical, baby steps that patients can conquer,” John said. “When working with diabetic patients, for example, I don’t simply tell them to avoid foods that are high in sugar; I specifically outline the exact foods they should eat for optimal health, starting with breakfast. Once they’re able to conquer a healthy breakfast plan,” Kabler said, “we then progress to creating a customized lunch plan.”

9) Brittany Komansky MHA, BSN, RN, CEN

Wakemed Raleigh Campus Emergency Services

What her nominator had to say:

Brittany is an amazing person, nurse, mentor and leader! I have worked with Brittany in many different roles as she has become an emergency room nurse, charge nurse, supervisor, manager and director. From the beginning, Brittany has taken the time to get to know me and help me become the best nurse and nursing leader I am today. When she became my supervisor several years ago, she invested her time into me and started teaching and mentoring me how to become a successful role model and department leader. She started having me precept new hires and eventually it evolved into teaching new fellows directly out of nursing school. She also got me involved in departmental education so I could teach others critical care thinking and skills. During our meetings together, she would give me amazing feedback and encouragement to help me advance my career. Because of her coaching and guidance, I successfully obtained my Certified Emergency Nurse certification. This certification allowed me to further advance my career in nursing and leadership. I then became a charge nurse of a Level 1 Trauma Center. As my career started to flourish, I then had the opportunity to apply for a nursing supervisor position. I obtained an emergency services supervisor/clinical educator position because several years ago an amazing person saw something in me I didn’t even see in myself. Because of Brittany Komansky, I am a hardworking, dedicated, goal-oriented emergency services nursing leader. She continues to provide guidance, teaching and encouragement to help me continue to grow as a nurse and nursing leader. I am so grateful for her and her amazing talents. If it wasn’t for her, I would not be where I am today. I hope everyone is able to find a true, loving mentor who will give you an opportunity for success.

10) Jaclyn McKinley RN

UNC Children’s Hospital — NICU

What her nominator had to say:

Jaclyn is a NICU nurse at UNC Children’s Hospital. She takes care of the sickest and smallest of babies. She loves her babies. She has heartbreaking stories about the condition of some of her most challenging babies, and the lives they lead. She truly cares about “all her babies,” and gives the best care that she can to help make them comfortable and loved. I don’t know many people that could love that much.

11) Jaime Morris RN

Duke University Hospital

What her nominator had to say:

Jaime is an exceptional nurse. She is in the pediatric unit working with children who are terminally ill. She loves her patients. It is hard, but she is the best with them. Jaime is now a graduate student at UNC-Chapel Hill working on her master’s degree, as well as working full time. She graduated in 2014 with her bachelor’s degree in nursing and graduated with honors. Her co-workers, many of whom have been nurses for 20 years, say that at this time in her career, the knowledge that she has is phenomenal. Jaime definitely has an impact on her patients at the most difficult time, and that is so important as the parents of these children journey through this difficult time. It is so good to have a compassionate person as well as nurse who truly cares and makes this difficult time a little easier. Jaime is an asset to her patients, her co-workers, the patients’ parents and to the community she serves.

12) Kathy Robinson RN

Duke Children’s Specialty Services of Raleigh

What her nominator had to say:

Cathy has been a pediatric cardiac nurse for over 15 years. She has been with Duke for almost 30 years. She is dedicated to her patients and is very knowledgeable about pediatric cardiac issues. She is always available to the families for advice and care. The patients always ask for her when they return for visits. The children trust her and have a lot of affection for her. I believe she deserves to be recognized for her dedication. She is always available to teach other nurses and mentor them in cardiology. The physicians rely on her daily to help with patient calls and issues that arise.

13) Ruth Ruppe LPN

William Peace University Wellness Center

What her nominator had to say:

Ruth is our nurse at William Peace University. She is an absolute joy to work with as she brings love and comfort to every student who walks through our doors. She consistently has a smile on her face and cares deeply for the wellness of our students. Ruth is innovative and regularly brings new ideas to promote health and wellness on our campus. This year, Ruth took charge of applying for grant monies to host a health fair, which is something we have never done in the past. Ruth recognized a need for health promotion amongst our campus community and she diligently worked to receive the grant.

Ruth is the warm and inviting face everyone loves to see when they walk into the wellness center. Even if a student is feeling their very worst, Ruth has a magic way of making them smile. She forms a true empathetic connection with every patient she treats, and her deep care for the students at William Peace University is evident in all she does. She is hard-working, adaptable and communicates with ease. She treats her patients with admirable compassion and spreads positive energy wherever she goes. Nurse Ruth has made a significant impact in the WPU Community. She is a gift to all who know her.

14) Martha Taylor RN

UNC Pediatric Cystic Fibrosis Center

What her nominator had to say:

Martha is incredibly invested with the patients and families seen in this clinic. She puts patients and their families at ease and develops professional relationships with patients and their families. Therefore, patients and families are able to trust her and be more forthcoming when challenging clinical situations arise. Martha is also an excellent team member and collaborates so easily with everyone on the clinical team. Martha is not interested in being recognized for individual contributions but is motivated by what will be best for the patient. Martha has worked with this patient population for many years and is highly knowledgeable yet always interested in learning about new developments on the field.

15) LaDonna Thomas DNP, ANP-C, VHA-CM

Durham VA Health Care System

What her nominator had to say:

LaDonna is a compensation and pension (C&P) examiner within the Durham VA Health Care System. She is a colleague who conducts disability exams for our nation’s disabled veterans. She displays commitment to patients, families and colleagues by implementing ways to advance patient outcomes. She upholds President Abraham Lincoln’s quote “To care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan.” Although committed to all veterans and their families, she is dedicated to the homeless and terminally ill. A homeless veteran with multiple disability claims was scheduled in her clinic. His mental health and other appointments were scheduled on different days. Because he was homeless, it was a burden to return for other appointments. She coordinated a plan with other providers. By initiating actions to bundle the visits, the veteran didn’t have the burden of returning for repeat visits. His exams were adjudicated. He informed the nominee that because of her assistance, he received 100 percent disability and purchased an apartment for his family.

She received the February 2017 Durham VA Clinical Professional Best Practice Award for developing/implementing a Caregiver Resource Manual, an evidence-based project (EBP) designed to increase caregiver knowledge. She isolated two problems — caregivers are not knowledgeable about available support resources and assistance is needed with deciding the right resource. She provided empirical substantiation that the Caregiver Resource Manual was effective. Caregivers gained a sense of knowledge and empowerment regarding obtaining support. To sustain change, she created a partnership with the Perioperative Optimization for Senior Health Clinic to engage patients and caregivers and continue ongoing support. Two hundred patients have benefited from receiving this manual since 2016. Her project was published in the Federal Practitioner Journal, March 2017. The editor stated how the article has increased her knowledge and as a caregiver herself, the information was supportive.

LaDonna actively seeks ways to support nurses and other health care providers. As the chair of her church/community health fair, she has collaborated with community providers and professional organizations to provide health screenings. She also partnered with Organ Donation organizations. Twelve people signed up to donate organ/tissue, which will save 90 lives. As the leader of her community’s health fair 150 people participated, 95 received blood pressure, diabetes and cholesterol screenings. Twenty individuals received their Flu Vaccinations. Last fall, she collaborated with WakeMed’s Stroke Program Coordinator to assist with providing information within her church/community regarding stroke prevention in the African American community.

16) Michelle Thornton RN

Pediatric ICU, WakeMed

What her nominator had to say:

When people think of what makes a great nurse, compassion, integrity, teamwork, leadership and responsibility come to mind. Michelle is the perfect embodiment of these traits and so much more. When her teammates are drowning in work, Michelle will come in early to help. At the end of her shift, Michelle often stays late to make sure the oncoming nurses have a better start. When the youths of our community are suffering, Michelle is there to apply her vast amount of knowledge and critical thinking, but never forgets to show her compassion by connecting with her patients and their often scared and fragile families. She is there to educate and encourage patients, families and other nurses. She has been a tremendous role model throughout her 27 years as a nurse.

One time in particular that stands out is when a newborn came into the pediatric ICU and was severely unstable. These new parents who brought life into the world just a few short days ago were faced with the toughest predicament they could imagine. Michelle came in early because she knew her teammates needed help. Not only did she help with this one patient, she helped take care of the entire unit while the rest of the staff was performing CPR and starting ECMO. She did assessments, passed meds and just generally made sure every patient in the unit was getting the quality care they deserved. It took so much stress off the nurses and other families in the unit to know Michelle was there to help in any way she could.

Michelle is a great friend, mentor, coworker and simply an astounding nurse. She has helped shape many new nurses into strong, independent, compassionate caregivers. Nursing in the pediatric ICU is made better by her presence and I hope we all continue to learn and grow by her side for many years to come.

17) Emily Van der Hoeven BSN, RN

Capital Pediatrics

What her nominator had to say:

Over the course of her 30-plus-year career, Emily advocates for her “wee” patients, educates them and works with the moms, dads, grandparents to ensure a successful start, childhood and into adolescence. Often, the nurse is an unsung doer of great good. When a four-year-old comes and gives a hug to Emily…before the appointment…and at the previous appointment a shot was given…that is evidence enough to the character and high standard of care Emily provides to her patients.

Am I biased? You betcha, as her husband I hear the stories of the trials of her anonymous wee patients, and see how she worries about then and follows up to encourage. Perhaps it’s that new mom who is struggling with breastfeeding, or the 14-year-old who is beginning track. Emily relates to them all: been there, done that and keeps on smiling, even when cleaning up an “oops” in the exam room.

18) Kathryn Watson RN

Carrboro High School

What her nominator had to say:

I am excited to share some information why our school nurse, who works full-time at our school, is important to Carrboro High School. She is welcoming and helps us to improve student achievement. Our students are less likely to miss school due to illness because they know they can depend on Mrs. Watson’s support and they value her opinion, which also helps ease the mind of the principal, school staff and parents. They know after taking her treatment and observation of the student into consideration she has the best interest in the student.

She also provides assistance to student who may not have insurance (close the achievement gap) and let them know that their programs available for that student and their family, with no prejudice or bias especially for the student who may come from a family that come from a low socioeconomic background. She understands healthy students learn better. Nurse Watson goes beyond the call of duty — she speaks with and reaches out to students to build a rapport, whether they have seen her or not. She is not only at school just for the students but you may often times she her listening to school staff, who may be embarrassed and want to make sure their issue is worthy to making an appointment to see a doctor.

Nurse Watson is important to Carrboro High because she is focused on improving student’s quality of life, making them acquire life skills, and developing their positive health behaviors. Her statement on working at Carrboro,“I wanted to be part of a greater good and to begin a path that would enable me to learn and challenge myself every day.”

19) Kristina Wood RN

Duke Hospital L&D

What her nominator had to say:

Kristina was by our side while our sweet Adalinn (Addie) Jaymes was born 10/28/17. We couldn’t have asked for a better nurse and support person. Even after only knowing her for hours she felt like family. She calmed me before surgery and helped teach us both vital baby tricks that will be with us forever. She left a lasting impression on us all and we will forever be grateful.