2010 VA Secretary's Award Winners
Left to right: Lisa Alexander, Chief Nursing Officer Cathy Rick, Terry Gerigk Wolf, Josephine Vranick, Rebecca Knutson, Sofia Puerto, Julie Brandt and Secretary Shinseki at the Secretary’s nursing excellence award ceremony.
Rebecca Knutson, CNA, Tomah VA Medical Center
Ms. Knutson has an excellent work ethic and her efforts go above and beyond for her patients, often volunteering for overtime on the unit. She works well with others and promotes a spirit of teamwork on the ward. She can be counted on her for any aspect of her job. She is exemplary in her role and sets an example for others.
Ms. Knutson is involved in improving her education including courses in hospice care and training at the VA to improve her job related skills. She is well respected for her excellent teamwork in providing quality care for our Veterans. She creates an atmosphere of respect and dignity not only to Veterans but for her co-workers as well.
Josephine Vranick, LPN, Northport VA Medical Center
Ms. Vranick displays an excellent understanding of age-specific care principles and demonstrates the ability to provide care to a complex mix of adult and geriatric patients in both cardiac and general medical-surgical nursing. She spends a considerable amount of time implementing patient education plans allowing her unit to improve discharge planning process. She responds well to emergency situations, tracking appropriate actions to avoid or minimize harm. Ms. Vranick also acts as the Bar Code Medication Administration (BCMA) preceptor for the licensed staff. Her knowledge of BCMA makes her a valuable resource to RN and LPN staff alike.
Ms. Vranick performs her role with remarkable consistency and accuracy and was a key player in reducing the spread of Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA). Her attention to detail makes her vitally important. Through her hard work, intelligence, compassion, and good humor she has earned the respect and admiration of her colleagues. Her dedication to promoting nursing and serving as a role model provides inspiration to her co-workers.
Lisa Alexander, RN, MSN, South Texas VA Health Care System
Ms. Alexander is a valued member of the Care Coordination Home Telehealth (CCHT) team. Her nursing practice demonstrates a high level of critical thinking and clinical skills in adapting the nursing process to the care of patients with chronic illnesses using the innovative technologies developed in the CCHT Program. She excels in her organizational and time management skills allowing maximum patient care opportunities and documentation. Ms. Alexander carries a higher caseload than her peers and still is able to volunteers to assist peers in its implementation.
Ms. Alexander completed a Master’s of Science in Nursing while working in the Home Based Primary Care clinic in San Antonio, later to inspire CCHT. CCHT would later adopt Telework to meet patient needs. The results of her collaboration with the Diabetes Rapid Action Team were acknowledged as a Best Practice at the VISN 17 meeting in September of last year. She demonstrates use of ethical principles, bringing ethical concerns to the attention of the team leading to the development of an appropriate plan. She is recognized as a leader among the national CCHT Master Preceptor group due to her excellent ideas and commitment to national initiatives.
Sofia Puerto, RN, PhD, VA Loma Linda Healthcare System
Dr. Sofia Puerto designed and implemented a Nursing Education Needs Assessment Survey aimed at improving Veteran health care while addressing exigent and ongoing staff educational requirements. She developed an innovative format for nursing competencies that articulate VA Nursing scope of practice. For the past seven years Dr. Puerto has served as president of the American Association of Critical Care Nurses (Inland Empire). She is also a member of the Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society.
Dr. Puerto serves as the Veterans Affairs Learning Opportunities Residency Program coordinator. She spends numerous hours providing staff career counseling , arranging student placement, and monitoring preceptorships. Through collaborative efforts she introduces evidence based practices and developed a teaching tool and competency checklist to track preventative measures.
Dr. Puerto promotes ethical conduct and fairness at all levels; she incorporates and discusses the nursing code of ethics in training sessions and employee orientation. She is instrumental in ensuring VA staff has affordable education. She is on the adjunct faculty at the Loma Linda University School of Nursing in Critical Care.
Julie Brandt, MSN, RN, NEA-BC, Central Arkansas Veterans Healthcare System
VA Secretary: Eric K. Shinseki and Julie Brandt
Ms. Brandt has been Associate Director Patient Care Services/Nurse Executive at the Central Arkansas Healthcare System for the past six years. She embraces a transformational leadership style and demonstrates a contemporary and progressive approach to promoting positive patient outcomes. Ms. Brandt actively participates in executive level decisions and strategic planning and is knowledgeable of VHA goals and their relationship at VISN and Local levels. She develops the business plan to create an organizational framework needed to grow and define best practices. Ms. Brandt is actively involved in patient safety at the facility level as well as serving as the VISN 16 liaison for the Safe Patient Handling Committee.
Ms. Brandt demonstrates strong visionary leadership in the area of recruitment and retention. She actively supports education and career development. Under her leadership the Central Arkansas Veterans Healthcare System she submitted an application to participate in the Robert Wood Johnson American Organization of Nurse Executives, "Transforming Care at the Beside(TCAB) Dissemination Project.” The Healthcare System was selected as one of four to take part in the program resulting in positive outcomes for staff and Veterans
Ms. Brandt has been recognized by multiple organizations for the advancement of nursing practice.
Terry Gerigk Wolf, FACHE, VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System
Disseminating evidence-based practices (EBP) into patient care to improve health care outcomes is not a simple process. Ms. Wolf, with strong leadership encouragement, invests both time and funding to advance EBP at the Pittsburgh Health Care System. She sent five nurses to learn the Iowa model of Evidence-Based Practice, who were later able to bring the program to the facility. Understanding and recognizing the concept of care, she encourages front-line nurses in developing changes to improve nurses’ delivery of care and their daily work lives.
The Health Care System is on a journey towards achieving Magnet accreditation from the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC). Ms. Wolf approved a Magnet budget and allocated funds to support the Magnet initiative. This ensures nurses will have a share in the governance of the facility. Ms. Wolf supports the VA National Education for Employees Program (VANEEP) making Pittsburgh one of the nation’s largest users of the program.
Ms. Wolf’s enthusiasm, ability to communicate, understanding of nurses’ contribution to patient care, and excellence of patient outcomes have enabled the Pittsburgh Health Care System to significantly improve the quality of care and our Veterans’ health.