2007 Secretary's Award Winners
Winners with Chief Nursing Officer, Cathy Rick, and (former) Secretary of Veterans Affairs, James Nicholson
Winners with (former) Deputy Secretary, Gordon Mansfield
Petra Holder, NA - Northport VA Medical Center
Deputy Secretary Gordon Mansfield, Chief Nursing Officer Cathy Rick, Ms. Holder, Under Secretary for Health Dr. Michael Kussman.
Petra Holder is enthusiastic, goal driven, and passionate about patient care. Embracing each new program, she is able to understand the immediate application as well as its broader outcomes. She provides input to the development of rehabilitation goals and has become a champion for the Restorative Nursing Program. She was a star student and now mentors newly hired Nursing Assistants in the program.
Ms. Holder is aware of the subtle changes in the geriatric population and the potential for serious complications. On a particular occasion, her keen observational skill and swift action led to an early identification of a serious clinical problem and saved the life of one of her patients. Her approach also contributes to the quality of life of the veterans. She is very aware that changes in a patient’s routine often mask serious clinical and psychological problems. Ms. Holder consistently work with the RNs and the Interdisciplinary Team on her unit to provide outstanding care to the veterans.
On another occasion a patient was unable to find a suitable Nursing Assistant to accompany him on a trip to visit his family. Ms. Holder took her annual leave to care for the veteran on his first family vacation in 12 years.
Ms. Holder is an exceptional Nursing Assistant. She is an ardent resident advocate, committed to excellence, and outcome driven. She never loses sight of the holistic picture ensuring that resident, healthcare, and family goals are aligned.
Aura-Lee Nicodemus, LPN - White River Junction VA Medical Center
Deputy Secretary Gordon Mansfield, Chief Nursing Officer Cathy Rick, Ms. Nicodemus, Under Secretary for Health Dr. Michael Kussman
Aura-Lee Nicodemus joined the White River Junction VA Medical Center in August, 1983. She has raised the bar for performance, practice, and service of the practical/vocational Nursing staff through her unwavering commitment to veterans and their families in the bi-state area of Vermont and New Hampshire. Early in her career Ms. Nicodemus worked on a 43 bed surgical unit providing care to urology, orthopedic, vascular, and general surgery patients. Her clinical competencies were superb and frequently acknowledged by the surgical staff. Ms. Nicodemus has worked primarily with the Emergency Department as clinical staff assigned to patient transport and travel. This role requires clinical and critical thinking skills, the ability to make decisions that reflect good judgment, and the need to be extremely resourceful. Ms. Nicodemus is an active member of the First Aid Stabilization Team (FAST) and the “Good Neighbor” program. She makes daily phone calls or e-mails, home visits, and assists with household chores and yard work.
Ms. Nicodemus is a Certified Emergency Medical Technician (EMT), an EMT Instructor, Advanced Cardiac Life Support and Basic Cardiac Life Support (BCLS) certified, and BCLS Instructor and Practical Examination Evaluation Training and Education for the State of New Hampshire.
Ms. Nicodemus is self directed. She has mentored numerous LPNs, Health Technicians, and RNs and is active in Disabled Americans Veterans providing educational activities and working as a volunteer driver.
Aura-Lee Nicodemus is a role model, veterans’ advocate, and VHA ambassador. There is no task too large or small that she will take on to benefit our veterans.
Suzanne Strok, RN - Dayton VA Medical Center (Dayton Campus)
Deputy Secretary Gordon Mansfield, Chief Nursing Officer Cathy Rick, Ms. Strok, Under Secretary for Health Dr. Michael Kussman
Suzanne Strok is a staff RN in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at the Dayton VA Medical Center. She is a dedicated staff nurse meeting the goals of the VA Mission and the needs of our veterans. She continuously strives to obtain the needed knowledge and skills contributing to positive patient outcomes.
Ms. Strok led the initiative to obtain PRISMA, a hemofiltration machine that removes fluids and metabolites for patients unable to tolerate hemodialysis. She has developed and maintains the educational competencies and monitoring of supplies and upkeep for this machine to assure it is ready for the next patient. She is now leading the ICU by initiating research based practice for Central Line Related Blood Stream Infections for the VISN 10 Project. Ms. Strok applies leadership in the application of the nursing processes and has consistently demonstrated her leadership capabilities by working closely with others. An expert clinician and preceptor for the ICU, she is often mentioned as being especially helpful.
Suzanne Strok’s performance is outstanding. She is exceptional in her efforts to bring the best care to the veterans and lead the medical center into the future by researching and implementing Best Practice Performance Initiatives.
Elizabeth A. Noelker, MSN, APRN-BC - Louis Stokes VA Medical Center (Cleveland Campus)
Deputy Secretary Gordon Mansfield, Chief Nursing Officer Cathy Rick, Ms. Noelker, Under Secretary for Health Dr. Michael Kussman
Elizabeth Noelker is Associate Chief Nurse for the Center for Restorative and Transitional Care (CRTC) at the Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center. Her career has included roles as staff nurse, nurse manager, coordinator of nursing staff development, clinical nurse specialist, and research investigator. In her current role, Ms. Noelker has worked tirelessly to institute numerous initiatives, developing the CRTC Falls Prevention Paradigm based on the evidence-based “Geriatric Nursing Protocols for Best Practice.” She is also the Chairperson for the Long Term Care Falls Prevention Team.
Ms. Noelker is articulate, intelligent, and displays a genuine sense of dedication to patient care, quality improvement, and research/scholarship in the pursuit of inquiry. She views opportunities to educate other colleagues as a major focus of her own personal development plan. She continually explores opportunities for collaboration with health care colleagues in her numerous roles as committee chairperson. In 2006, Ms. Noelker was chosen to assist with inspection of nursing homes and implementation of cultural transformation.
Ms. Noelker is an accomplished researcher and author. She is truly an outstanding nurse leader and clinician whose greatest gift for her colleagues and patients is not only her inspirational leadership, but her unwavering passion for excellence in all areas of her clinical and administrative practice.
Christine A. Gregory, RN, MS, MBA - VA Central Iowa Health Care System
Deputy Secretary Gordon Mansfield, Chief Nursing Officer Cathy Rick, Ms. Gregory, Under Secretary for Health Dr. Michael Kussman
Christine Gregory is the Associate Director, Nursing and Patient Care Services, at the VA Central Iowa Health Care System. She co-led the VISN 23 Clinical Team Communication Collaborative (CTCC) aimed at improving communication among interdisciplinary team members including nursing personnel. Ms. Gregory developed and promoted the utilization of data-driven decision making for nursing leadership through a nursing cube in ProClarity, a data warehouse management tool. She adopted a culture of transformation philosophy of care on the long term care patient areas through the efforts of the Cultural Transformation workgroup. Through best practices, Ms. Gregory implemented Nursing Service Line Professional Community Workgroups to govern nursing standards of care. She has improved nurse-physician communication, established unit resource experts on each ward or clinic, and spread knowledge, best practices, and clinical information.
Ms. Gregory championed interdisciplinary team participation in the Institute for Healthcare Improvement’s Intensive Care Unit to identify existing and potential problem areas and develop sound solutions. She developed the Nursing Professional Community Succession Plan that outlines specific strategies to address future needs in response to the continued nursing personnel shortage. As a result of the plan the VA Learning Opportunities Residency (VALOR) program received strong support and resources, a Clinical Resource Nurse (formerly a Clinical Nurse Leader) was hired, the Nurse Manager Development Program was implemented, and all Nurse Manager and Chief Nurses were able to attend the 2005 Nursing Leadership Academy.
Many other contributions include partnership with Creighton University to develop a Transforming Educational Affiliations for Clinical Horizons (TEACH) grant, contributions to the National Nursing Data Base Conference, and presentation on nurse-physician collaboration at the VISN 17 Nurse Manager Leadership Development Institute in Dallas. She also acted as the VISN 23 Mental Health Service Line Nurse Executive, and played a key role as VISN 23 Nurse Executive on the National Nursing Executive Council.
Ms. Gregory has been active in many roles and accomplished a great deal of work for the advancement of nursing programs and the improvement of veterans’ quality of care.
James Tuchschmidt, MD, MM - Portland VA Medical Center
Deputy Secretary Gordon Mansfield, Chief Nursing Officer Cathy Rick, Dr. Tuchschmidt, Under Secretary for Health Dr. Michael Kussman
Dr. James Tuchschmidt, Director of the Portland VA Medical Center, has been a strong and consistent supporter of evidence-based practice to improve patient care. Working collaboratively with the Chief Nurse, he approved the development of a Department of Nursing Research and the hiring of a doctoral-level nurse researcher.
Well before the advent of Advanced Clinic Access (ACA) processes, Dr. Tuchschmidt endorsed the development and expansion of a key position in surgical and medical services. The Clinical Systems Resource Coordinator (CSRC) is a highly experienced nurse facilitator who works with specialty care teams to coordinate and optimize the flow of patients. The early CSRC nurses were included in the initial core of ACA trainers and Nurse Leaders still function as mentors in the ongoing ACA effort at Portland.
With Dr. Tuchschmidt’s support, the facility and the University of Portland School of Nursing collaborated in the opening of a Dedicated Education Unit (DEU) on a hospital acute care unit. Using the DEU model, the unit provides an enhanced clinical learning experience for nursing students. This academic-service partnership has proven to be an innovative recruitment strategy for well qualified nursing applicants.
Dr. Tuchschmidt has actively supported nursing in other ways. He selected the Chief Nurse Executive as Deputy Director in 2002 after she acted in that role for two years. He has made major financial commitments to improve the environment for nursing care. He has developed a Simulation Room, a learning lab that provides a non-threatening interdisciplinary environment for staff to practice complex clinical skills and enhance critical thinking. He authorized special awards for nurses and fostered an environment where professional growth is highly regarded.
In 2006 the Portland VA Medical Center achieved Magnet status. This was accomplished in no small part by Dr. Tushschmidt’s unwavering support of Nursing’s Journey of Excellence.