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Zablocki honors four nurses with excellence awards

Nursing honorees holding their plaques
Tandria Williams, left, associate director of patient care services, stands with the Zablocki VA's four winners of the 2023 Secretary Awards for Excellence in Nursing: Meghan Lorbiecki, Colleen Rakowski, Jimmie Gulley and Brittany Taylor.

Four Zablocki VA Health Care System nurses were honored for their dedication, service, compassion, leadership and excellence during the annual Nursing Recognition Ceremony Monday.

Receiving the 2023 Secretary Awards for Excellence in Nursing for Zablocki VA:

  • Brittany Taylor, ICU, Nursing Assistant/Health Tech/Medical Instrument Tech
  • Jimmie Gulley, Blue Clinic, Primary Care, Licensed Practical Nurse
  • Colleen Rakowski, 7C, Registered Nurse
  • Meghan Lorbiecki, 3C, Registered Nurse in Expanded Role.

As well as earning accolades in Zablocki, Taylor and Lorbiecki were finalists for the regional VISN 12 honors in their respective categories.

Taylor was recognized for her “positive, professional attitude in all situations” and for being “committed to improving and delivering high quality care to the Veterans in the ICU and beyond,” according to her nomination.

She has championed oral hygiene for ICU patients and was lauded for her flexibility and ability to work well with everyone. She has also become a leader in the ICU, coaching others and working to improve communication during shift changes.

“Her efforts have led to higher nursing satisfaction, better patient outcomes and increased efficiency in the ICU,” the nomination stated. “She takes time each day to look you in the eye and ask how you are doing.

“She takes time to listen when she is needed and always has a kind sentiment or motivational statement to help others be resilient and positive every day. When Brittany is in our space, her ability to cheer on her team … makes huge impressions on the care delivered each day.”

Gulley was recognized for his “dynamic presence” in the Blue Clinic, where he “interacts well with all Veterans and staff,” according to his nomination.

He was also lauded for his leadership in planning clinic workload, preparing for rounds/audits, working with Supply Chain staff, serving as the safe patient handling representative and helping to accommodate patients sent to the Blue Clinic for toileting needs.

“Veterans and staff alike have been very complimentary of Mr. Gulley’s nursing practice — safe, proficient and expeditious,” the nomination concluded.

Rakowski was cited for her compassion, professionalism and knowledge. She garners feedback from staff and pushes for improvement and was recognized for her advocacy for patient safety and care. In one instance, Rakowski found that a patient had been prescribed a medication to which he was allergic and worked to rectify the situation so it wouldn’t be repeated.

“Her actions and attention to detail protected the patient from a very serious event,” according to the nomination.

She’s also involved in furthering education and enhancing career development, serving on numerous committees and task forces that “impact nursing practice and give bedside nurses voice and avenue to their own practice.”

“Ms. Rakowski has been praised by her colleagues for her calm demeanor, kind nature and team-focused mentality. Her efforts to collaborate with her peers and other members of the interdisciplinary team help drive the excellence and quality of Veteran care on 7C.”

Lorbiecki was recognized for “enhancing the quality of nursing practice on 3C.” She has facilitated training for staff as well as performance improvement projects, which have led to more nurses becoming more involved and engaged.

She has championed aromatherapy for patients, reduced waste of logistic items and led projects regarding revamping of the procedures for Clinical Institute Withdrawal Assessment, which included an escape room exercise that helped nurses better assess patients and pursue the proper protocols.

“Staff found this extremely helpful and are now more competent in CIWA administration,” according to the nomination. This project led to a submission to the Journal of Addictions Nursing and a presentation at the annual Southeastern Wisconsin Research Conference.

The award ceremony was part of the National Nurses Month observance. Also recognized were the DAISY Award honorees from the past year:

  • Gregg Gwidt, Northeastern Wisconsin Ambulatory Clinics
  • Heather Berken Emergency Department
  • Key Marsicek, Appleton clinic
  • William Day, Zablocki Integrated Health Program
  • Lauren Wooton, Green Bay clinic
  • Kaley Wendorf, Progressive Care Unit
  • Ryan Lockett, Ambulatory Procedure Center
  • Staff of 7C

Tandria Williams, Associate Director of Patient Care Services, thanked all Zablocki VA nurses for their service.

“As healers, advocates and creators of change, you make a difference,” she said. “Through the art and gift of caring, you promote wellness and hope. With your knowledge, talents and innovation, you create, inspire and excel.

“It is a true blessing to be part of this team. I am deeply inspired by your commitment, resilience and conscious efforts to demonstrate nursing excellence. … Your influence and contributions to the well-being of Veterans, colleagues and the overall health of our organization show the power of nursing. … As a team, we care better together, and that is what truly makes the difference”