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2018 Secretary's Award Winners

Secretary Wilke with Acting Chief Nursing Officer Taylor at virtual award ceremony

Each year the Secretary's Award for Excellence in Nursing and Advancement of Nursing Programs is given to individuals who have been nominated by their colleagues for outstanding service to our veterans and the Department of Veterans Affairs. They have demonstrated excellence and the highest level of dedication to their profession. Chosen from individual medical centers, the nominees go through a rigorous review before the final selection is made.

Registered Nurse: Anabel Quintanar, RN-BC, MSN; Greater Los Angeles, CA

Anabel Quintanar

Anabel Quintanar, RN-BC, MSN, is a PACT RN float nurse in the Santa Maria (SAM) and San Luis Obispo (SLO) Community Based Outpatient Clinics (CBOCs). Ms. Quintanar has obtained expert competency in nursing practice as evidenced by her role as nurse trainer and preceptor. She is board certified by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) in ambulatory care nursing. She has worked 10 years in ambulatory care. As a nursing supervisor at a local acute care hospital Lompoc Valley Medical Center, Quintanar exhibits nursing leadership skills to coordinate hospital operations. Quintanar is recognized as a leader in ambulatory care for her nursing knowledge and expertise by international publisher Lippincott, Williams, & Wilkins, contributing to the company’s text books and other publications as a clinical editor for ambulatory care nursing.

Ms. Quintanar is invited annually to the leadership conference for the American Academy of Ambulatory Care Nursing (AAACN). She has done collaborative work with the AAACN in developing ambulatory care nursing procedures for Lippincott, Williams & Wilkins. Additionally, she has provided legal nurse consulting for a local attorney. Quintanar is a CE provider. She delivered a course on PACT panel management in 2016 for the SAM and SLO CBOCs. Ms. Quintanar co-led a team of nurses in redesigning the PACT nurse training program in 2015. The project, “Welcoming New Nurse Hires: The Development of an Effective and Engaging PACT Nursing Orientation Program,” was a semifinalist for the VHA Under Secretary "Shark Tank" Best Practices Competition. In further nursing innovation, Quintanar collaborated with a SAM CBOC primary care provider, the Sepulveda Wound Care Clinic team and the Telehealth CVT program to develop the Telehealth CVT Wound Care Clinic at the SAM CBOC.

Ms. Quintanar is the president and founder of Central Coast Nurse Professionals (CCNP). She founded the professional organization in January 2017 with a goal to create a local nursing community. She is also a member of the American Academy of Ambulatory Care Nursing (AAACN).

Registered Nurse Expanded Role: Shantia McCoy-Jones, PhD (c), MSN, RN, CRNP, CWCN; Philadelphia, PA

Shantia McCoy-Jones

Shantia McCoy-Jones, MSN, RN, CRNP, CWCN, is the Office of Nursing Service Clinical Nurse Advisor for the Pressure Injury Prevention & Management Field Advisory Committee. She is field based at the Corporal Michael J. Crescenz VA Medical Center in Philadelphia, PA where she serves as the Wound Specialist for Geriatric and Extended Care. She has over 20 years’ experience in nursing and wound care. Shantia began her career in critical care but realized early that her passion was education and wound care. Shantia earned a BSN from Mansfield University and a MSN in Adult Health Nurse Practitioner and post masters in Family Nurse Practitioner; Nursing Education; and Wound, Ostomy and Continence nursing from La Salle University. She is a doctoral candidate (PhD) in Nursing Science at Widener University School of Nursing and a Jonas Foundation Nurse Leader Scholar (2016-18).

Shantia’s passion for Veterans’ health and wound care management lead her to the VA where she currently manages Veterans with skin and wound complications. As a subject matter expert for pressure injury prevention, Shantia assisted in the development of two new mobile apps, VA Pressure Ulcer/Injury Resource (VA PUR/release July 2017) and the Skin Check app (tentative release 2018-19). Shantia hopes to use her research to educate nurses on the use of mobile technology to improve health outcomes of Veterans with pressure injuries.

She has led her Field Advisory Committee in collaborating on projects with Office of Informatics & Information Governance/Health Informatics, and Office of the Chief Nursing Informatics Officer to develop skin and wound terminology data for Veteran Centric Clinical Documentation (VCCD). She collaborated with ONS; the VHA Office of Quality, Safety, and Value/Product Effectiveness; Office of Innovation and the Office of Connected Care in application revisions and testing, development of educational resources (YouTube videos, handouts, user guide and manual) and marketing material for the VA PUR app.

Shantia promotes nursing by volunteering as a conference planner for a statewide minority student leadership program and guides undergraduate and graduate students to pursue careers in nursing. She collaborates with colleagues in the education department at her facility on a career development program aimed at educating employees about career development and careers in nursing. She also meets with nurses to assist them in developing personal development plans to advance their role in nursing. Shantia promoted nursing as a presenter for the Centers of Medicare and Medicaid/Partnership for Patients program on the topic, “Getting to Zero: VA’s PI Prevention Program.” The Partnership for Patients program is a community partnership program which represent over 4,000 health care institution across the United States.

Licensed Practical Nurse: Angela Cash, LPN; Tallahassee, FL

Angela Cash

Ms. Angela Cash, LPN, Perry Community Based Outpatient Clinic (CBOC) of the North Florida/South Georgia (NF/SG) Health Care System began her nursing career at the Taylor County Health Department after graduating from Lively Technical College in Tallahassee, Florida in July 2000. She started her VA career at the Tallahassee Outpatient Clinic in January 2012 where she quickly thrived in primary care, specialty care, and telehealth before seeking her current LPN position in the newly opened Perry CBOC. There, Ms. Cash supported a full-time provider, a full time social worker and nineteen Telehealth providers to deliver 3,854 encounters to 732 unique patients. This was an increase of 929 encounters and 193 patients from FY16.

Ms. Cash assists nursing staff with calls to Veterans before appointments and resolving patient care needs and the whole team with automated processes (EKGs, photos and TeleDerm data). She completed training and maintained updated competency requirements in Women’s Health, Telehealth, Stress Testing, Dermatology, Urology, Plastic Surgery, Patient Aligned Care Team (PACT), and Laboratory that ensured Veterans received services at the Perry CBOC and did not have to travel to Tallahassee, Lake City or Gainesville. Ms. Cash volunteered to provide Telehealth classes instructing Veterans on preparing for GI procedures. These classes served Veterans in Tallahassee, Marianna, Valdosta and Lake City. The classes saved numerous hours of travel for Veterans who were scheduled for colonoscopies in Lake City, improved the success of the colon prep and decreased the no-show rate.

Ms. Cash ensured that two automatic external defibrillator (AED) were checked daily and the logs were updated. She scanned the logs and sent to the Tallahassee Health Care Center (THCC) Assistant Chief Nurse at the end of every month for required oversight and signature. The logs were routinely inspected during environment of care rounds for compliance and no discrepancies were noted by the inspection team in two years due to her diligence. Ms. Cash organized a Telehealth binder, which the Telehealth Nurse Manager recommended to be the model for NF/SG. She earned a “Great Catch Award” for her involvement when she identified a potential medication error and prevented the error from harming the patient. Ms. Cash coordinated with registered nurses to assist them in returning and contacting Veterans by phone to coordinate care. Due to her efforts, Perry CBOC was one of the first Tallahassee PACT teams to reach the NF/SG goal of 10% of their Veterans with high Care Assessment Need scores to receive complex care coordination and effective management.

Ms. Cash mentored her other team members on ways and methods to organize their input for evaluations that utilized the critical element model guideline. She assisted in the implementation and coordination of documentation, pathology tracking and digital photography for the Perry CBOC. Her outstanding input has led to a significant decrease in operative and invasive audit discrepancies. Ms. Cash received specialized Tele Retinal imaging training and served the TOPC as a credentialed imager.

Nursing Assistant: Maria Pullins, Telemetry Monitor Technician and Nursing Assistant; Dallas, TX

Maria Pullins

Maria Pullins is a role model amongst all team members regardless of discipline. She has an incredible ability to inspire others and believes wholeheartedly in leading by example. Her rich background within the organization, expert knowledge in patient care, and natural leadership instincts sets her apart. She has committed over 20 years to serving Veterans in both the outpatient and inpatient setting. She currently works in a dual role as both a Telemetry Monitor Technician and Nursing Assistant. When she is not observing cardiac rhythms for up to 39 veterans, she is delivering bedside care, and thriving in her committee work.

Ms. Pullins is a steadfast advocate for patients, always demonstrating the highest regard for patient care, satisfaction and safety within the hospital setting and beyond. She is a member of the Veteran Experience Committee (VEC), and Team Lead for the Point of Service (POS) VEC Workgroup. She was co-lead on the Patient White Boards project, collaborating with leadership, the VEC, fellow colleagues, veterans, vendors, interior design, Privacy Officer, and the nursing service program analyst to help develop facility-wide patient communication boards. The boards had special focus in helping to address the SHEP Top 5 Attributable Effects. Due to her collaborative efforts, the communication boards were implemented to all inpatient units and has spread to the long-term care units as well.

She completed her Six Sigma Yellow Belt Certification and is in pursuit of her nursing degree. As part of her Yellow Belt project Ms. Pullins served as one of two team leaders for a pilot study designed to help reduce noise levels for patients on Telemetry and Medical Intensive Care Unit (MICU). She assisted with the research, planning, and implementation of all noise reduction elements. Ms. Pullins coordinated all unit champion efforts to include training and auditing for outcomes during the pilot study. Thus, noise levels from 68% to 10% in telemetry and 28% to 10% in MICU. The team is developing a noise reduction proposal with the aim of spreading it facility-wide.

When visitors on her unit expressed concerns about travel costs and lack of familiarity with the facility, Ms. Pullins worked closely with leadership and colleagues to develop a unit Welcome Folder. The folder contained items like brochures on the Fisher House, a basic information sheet with canteen/barbershop hours and location, a unit welcome letter with management contact information, etc. The folder also serves to store patient education material and discharge instructions. This simple gesture provided them the comfort they needed upon entry and exit to and from the facility.

Ms. Pullins actively participates in coordination of care and collaborates with RNs daily. She provides input to RNs for interdisciplinary rounds on items related to preferences, home needs, etc. She often assists with ensuring a smooth discharge process. She has received recognition for her active work as the Secretary for the Nurse Excellence Ambassadors, Nursing Workforce Workplace Enhancement Committee, Employee Experience Committee, and Veteran Experience Committee. Ms. Pullins has also received several Courtesy in Action (CIA) awards as a demonstration of veteran and peer feedback for the excellence which she provides at the bedside.

Nurse Executive: Ms. Ruth Mustard, RN, NEA-BC; Columbia, SC

Ruth Mustard

Ms. Ruth Mustard, RN, NEA-BC is Associate Director for Nursing and Patient Care/Nursing Services of the William Jennings Bryan Dorn VAMC in Columbia, SC. Throughout her 40-year tenure in Columbia she has been a steadfast supporter for nursing programs. Starting at Dorn in1977, she excelled as an RN in MICU, CCU and PCU. After many years as a front-line nurse, charge nurse and nurse manager she moved into the nurse executive role. She has fostered the advancement of staff nurse knowledge through the incorporation of evidence-based nursing practice and through the approval and formation of the Nursing Education and Research department within the Nursing Service. These areas include a dedicated Associate Nurse Executive for Education and Research, Nurse Educators, Education Specialists (area specific), as well as a Quality Improvement/Research Council dedicated to fostering evidenced-based nursing practice.

Additionally, Ms. Mustard is an ardent supporter of the Pathway to Excellence/Magnet Journey that the facility is currently on using the Shared Governance model. Ms. Mustard has ensured nursing representation on all major boards and committees, and empowers nurses within the facility to clearly voice their opinions.

Ms. Mustard manages multiple areas responsible for direct patient care. She took over leadership for the Telephone Assistance Program (TAP) and led the dramatic improvement of our TAP to a more Veteran-centric platform that focuses on one-stop inquiry resolution. Under her leadership, the TAP center worked collaboratively with our Business Office to improve scheduling; Engineering to bring multiple hubs into one central location; and Logistics to develop necessary contracts, which collectively reduced our speed of response time from 285 seconds to 24 seconds (benchmark: 30 seconds) and our abandonment rate from 25% to 4% (benchmark: 5%). These significant improvements led to better access for our Veterans and a higher level of morale by our employees.

To improve retention strategies and enhance the support of nurses throughout Dorn and seven Outpatient Clinics, Ms. Mustard presented a proposal to right-size our nursing staff by 80 FTEE in Fiscal Year 2013 using the National Nursing Staffing Methodology. Her success in adding nursing staff has reduced turnover, improved participation by nursing on shared decision-making councils, and created more opportunities for growth into nursing leadership positions. Based on the most recent quarter of VA SAIL data, Dorn's RN turnover rate is only 3.9%, which places the organization in the top 10 of all VA facilities. Staff under Ms. Mustard's leadership has thrived, as many have moved on to other positions as Nurse Executives, National Leadership positions in Central Office, and other opportunities to enhance care to Veterans.

As a past Fellow of the University of South Carolina's Amy Cockcroft Leadership Development Program in the College of Nursing, she understood the benefit of the training and forged a relationship that allowed Dorn VA to send 2 employees each year to attend tuition free. Since that time Dorn has had over 20 Cockcroft Fellows, enhancing Nursing Leadership in the VA.

Director: Vincent Ng; Boston, MA

Vincent Ng

Mr. Vincent Ng, Director of VA Boston Health Care System, has demonstrated contemporary and progressive leadership and his support of Nursing has been unprecedented. Committed to the profession and contributions of Nursing, he is respected by all staff for his commitment and transparency to the ICARE mission and his belief in the philosophy of supporting principles. This engagement and freedom to take care of our Veterans has led to the second highest employee satisfaction rate of all large VA facilities in the country. He has shown his support of our award-winning Academic/Practice Partnership, the Northeast Region VA Nursing Alliance (NERVANA) by funding employee positions to support an affiliation coordinator and support staff. Because of his support, NERVANA has been the recipient of two National awards – the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) Academic/Practice Partnership Award in 2014 and this year the “New Era” Award 2017 – also sponsored by the AACN. We have maintained support and funding for our Post Baccalaureate Nurse Residency through VA’s Office of Academic Affiliations (OAA) and in the past three years also obtained funding and support for the APRN Mental Health Residency for four trainees. The Post Baccalaureate program was the first to receive Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) accreditation in New England and one of the first VA’s to do so in the country.

He has facilitated the incorporation of evidence-based nursing practices and encouraged us to apply for “Pathways” status which is in progress for April of 2018. He supports our staff in achieving their goals – both individually and collectively. Nursing Service has a shared governance structure and Mr. Ng ensures that nursing is represented at every table. He creates an organizational climate ensuring the involvement of Nursing and relies on nursing to provide the foundation for patient care and ensures that input is obtained at every level on every clinical and administrative decision. Because of his leadership, Nursing Satisfaction scores have been the highest or in the top 5 of the country and our turnover rate of RN’s is one of the lowest. He supports staffing methodology recommendations and fully participates in discussions when resources are scant and the need is great. He understands the nuances of patient care and is most supportive when the need can be demonstrated. As a result, our salary structure is competitive. He is careful to manage the budget but understands that to provide the optimum care with the least amount of wasted resources, you want a stable nursing workforce and his support has provided the platform for this to happen.

Mr. Ng identified and facilitated maximum support services to enhance the effective functioning of nursing personnel. He supports the realignment of non-nursing tasks to other services and works to alleviate nursing responsibility for non-nursing tasks. As an example, he added an RN position to environmental management to assist with the education and competencies of that workforce, which was ultimately beneficial to nursing as well as patients. He has been supportive of embedding a quality nurse in our Supply, Processing and Distribution (SPS) departments and as a result, we have had minimal issues with SPS. Nursing Resource requests are handled fluidly and quickly and the HR support we have received is probably one of the best in the country. Mr. Ng understands the criticality of allowing positions to be filled and overlapped before they are vacant. A transparent and accessible leader Mr. Ng shares information with all staff of our Healthcare System by sharing his Director’s Minutes, holding frequent town halls, speaking at many nursing events and nursing education series. He truly values feedback, suggestions and innovative thinking from front line staff. With his “Click to Message Mr. Ng” web link, on VA Boston Healthcare System’s intranet homepage, sharing ideas and feedback directly with him is easy for every nurse and is utilized frequently as staff are comfortable with speaking directly with this Director due to his approachability and visibility in the field. It is vital for nurses to work in a healthcare system where their thoughts, ideas, perspective and knowledge are represented equally and hold the same influence as those of other professionals. Nurses feel they are equal partners on our healthcare team with a voice in decision making that ultimately impacts our Veteran population. Mr. Ng is truly a servant leader and is to be commended for his unwavering support and ability to take innovative risks in this current climate of health care.