2019 Secretary's Award for Excellence in Nursing - Office of Nursing Services (ONS)
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2019 Secretary's Award for Excellence in Nursing

Alfred Montoya, Krista Bahrend, Bernadette Jao, Secretary Wilke, Marie Jean-Baptiste,  Chief Nursing Officer Taylor, Acting PDUSH Lieberman and Paul Adams at 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: Krista Behrend RN; Madison, WI

Krista Behrend receives award from Secretary Wilke

Ms. Behrend is an extremely dedicated and valued member of the nursing team and passionate about providing excellent care to our veteran population. She has contributed innovative, sustainable changes in the Emergency Department (ED) that improve our ability to provide outstanding care for Veterans with mental health conditions, including suicide risk.

Ms. Behrend provided education and mentorship to ED staff which has resulted in appropriate risk for harm assessments that are performed for 100% of ED patients. The average length of time in minutes from presentation to the ED to the decision to admit for patients seeking MH care was reduced by 41% when cared for by Krista & her ED/MH RN colleagues compared to when MH care is provided by all other ED RNs (Avg. of 136 minutes vs. avg. of 190 minutes). A 60% reduction in redundant process steps was also achieved for patients seeking MH care in the ED. Significant improvement in patient satisfaction regarding number of providers encountered, amount of time spent in the ED, and entire admission experience when cared for by the ED/MH RN vs. all other ED RNs.

With Krista's leadership in this volatile situation, no injuries were sustained by staff and overall patient safety was achieved. Krista's ongoing collaboration with other health professionals serves to reduce health disparities of our mental health patients by improving psychiatric care in the ED setting and in the Veterans in the community. She practices nursing with compassion and respect for the inherent dignity, worth, and unique attributes of her patients and colleagues.

Registered Nurse Expanded Role: Marie Jean-Baptiste RN; Tampa, FL

Marie Jean-Baptiste receives award from Secretary Wilke

Ms. Jean-Baptiste provides leadership in the application of the nursing process to client care, organizational processes, and system improvement outcomes at the service level as well as hospital wide. She continuously demonstrates that patient care can be improved by involving key stakeholders, process owners, and frontline staff.

Ms. Jean-Baptiste’s team educated a total of sixty nurses on the new Hypoglycemia protocol created by the Diabetes Committee. She was solicited to be a part of a Rapid Improvement Project: Non-Value-Added Tasks (NVAT) in the Progressive Care Unit (PCU). She led this project with team members from other units. This resulted in 88% of the PCU staff members attesting that the Smart Supply cart makes a difference in their daily life and 86% confirmed that this project increased the time spent with the patient.

Ms. Jean-Baptiste developed strategies to demonstrate cost effectiveness, cost benefit, and efficiency factors associated with nursing practice while maintaining a safe work environment. She completed Lean Six Sigma Green Belt training and has been an active member or facilitator for multiple Process Improvement projects. She was also recently accepted into the competitive Competency Development for Leaders (CDL) program where she is completing a detailed project regarding bed management solutions.

She took the initiative to properly train the Peer-to-Peer Champions starting with the Process Improvement members and 5 other units. Her improvements were evident in the global measures. Comparing last fiscal year and data collected quarter to date for this year, Tobacco 20 has improved from 80.5% to 96.7% this quarter and Tobacco 40 has improved from 28.9% to 73.9%. Substance 10 improved from 95.4% to 97.8%. Ms. Jean-Baptiste set in place a reward system to acknowledge the most dedicated unit and to encourage the other units to continue to enhance their performance.

Licensed Practical Nurse: Paul Adams, LPN; Asheville,NC

Paul Adams receives award from Secretary Wilke

Mr. Adams works daily in conjunction with the Podiatrist and the RN’s in the Podiatry Clinic, where staff have come to rely on his expertise in caring for the patient population that they serve. He serves as the Flu Champion, encouraging, educating and administering hundreds of flu shots a year.

In 2018 Mr. Adams transformed the LPN Podiatry Clinic to a higher level of service and accessibility, raising the skill level needed for new patients, requiring an RN to fill in if he is not available. He was one of the first to complete the online TMS foot care training recently developed for the PAVE program. His colleagues appreciate how he stocks the entire Podiatry clinic which includes 3 other clinics in addition to his own with supplies and orders as indicated.

He continues to be a shining light. He has been mentioned 3 times by name in “Veteran Voices” segments from the director and has been recognized by the Podiatrist for being an integral part of the PAVE team. The Podiatrist complimented Mr. Adams’ skill in foot care and his outstanding care to the Community Living Home and the Podiatry Veteran patients. He is recognized by his peers as a great resource for the Podiatry Clinic.

Healthcare Tech: Bernard Simoneau, Telehealth Clinical Technician; Pittsfield, MA

Bernard Simoneau (unable to attend ceremony)

Mr. Simoneau worked closely with the Registered Nurse (RN), Facility Telehealth Coordinator, to upgrade clinical services provided by CWM’s Telehealth Program. He was in charge of a 2018 program, which added tele-auscultation services using the ClearSteth digital stethoscope to hear heart and/or lung sounds of Veterans at a distant location.

Mr. Simoneau was also responsible for tracking CWM Telehealth Program’s Electronic Inventory List (EIL). He worked closely with the Geriatrics Program Analyst to create a spread sheet of CVT equipment assets. Once this was created, Mr. Simoneau spent hours identifying inventory assets and organizing the spread sheet so that it was a valuable tracking system. During the recent inventory audit, 90% of all assets were identified. This is a marked improvement with tracking of telehealth equipment.

He is often consulted by information technology personnel when equipment upgrades are needed. In fact, he is so trusted by IT staff that they will be training him on how to connect a second monitor/screen. In the future, this will allow him to independently connect a second monitor when it is needed to do video to the home visits.

Nurse Executive:Bernadette Jao DNP; Manchester, NH

Bernadette Ja receives award from Secretary Wilke

Dr. Jao is a compassionate, servant leader, who is highly intelligent, innovative and influential. Though her passion and advocacy for nursing permeates throughout her organization, her Nurse Executive talents and attributes are aligned with advancing the nursing profession at community, state, and national levels. She has a track record of creating, executing and refining system and medical center level strategies that address specific initiatives with measurable outcomes.

Dr. Jao provided leadership support and guidance to CLC leadership team resulting in 5 Star Sail Rating this FY18 Q4. CLC Star Rating is an example of the best in the community, resulting in the Manchester CLC being the best Veteran choice for long term care. She recommended expanding Same Day Surgery services and as a result the department successfully implemented cataract surgery service in 2018. She collaborated with White River Junction Medical Center and utilized evidenced based practices and competencies to guide the expansion of these services for the Veterans at Manchester. To date there have been zero complications from this expanded service and Veterans have expressed positive feedback that they are able to receive this service here at the Manchester VA.

Ms. Jao supported and led the Wilmington and Manchester Medical Center’s successful implementation of Nursing Protocols. Protocols allow nurses to practice at the top of their license which results in improved job satisfaction not only for nursing but for our physician partners. Ensuring Protocols were developed and implemented met the VISN 1 organizational goal of completion in FY18.

She impacted staff seeking to attain educational goals by advocating to increase the ceiling of Education Debt Repayment Plan (EDRP) at both WVAMC and MVAMC as a path to ensure the best candidate for each opportunity. Dr. Jao has successfully supported projects and program development to improve nursing practice. The result has been increased engagement and commitment both with internal and external nursing service customers.

Director: Alfred Montoya, Jr. FACHE, MHA; Manchester, NH

Alfred Montoya receives award from Secretary Wilke

Alfred Montoya, Director of VA Connecticut HCS, West Haven, was formerly the Director at the Manchester VAMC at the time of the awards. Mr. Montoya is a highly respected visionary who leverages inter-professional collaboration through his transformational leadership style. He is a champion for Veterans, and understands the impact of nurses and nursing care on our Veterans. Mr. Montoya is driven to ensure Veterans receive professional, high quality, safe healthcare from dedicated, trained, competent nurses at all levels within the organization.

Mr. Montoya engages nurses in all areas of the healthcare delivery system and supports nurses working at the top of their licensure. He has demonstrated consistent support of nursing at the MVAMC, actively participated in the kickoff event for Nursing’s journey to ANCC Pathway To Excellence (PTE), assisting with developing inter-professional collaboration through active engagement in the process. He was in the halls talking about shared governance and assisting with inspiring the entire Manchester team’s inquiry into PTE.

Recognizing the importance of seamless care coordination related to the VA Choice Program deployment, Mr. Montoya built a joint Office of Community Care (OCC) between the White River Junction VA Medical Center and MVAMC.

Mr. Montoya is a Veteran who trusts the VA Healthcare System for his care and uses his personal experience to drive positive change. Mr. Montoya lives the VA ICARE values of integrity, commitment, advocacy, respect, and excellence and expects the same of those on his team.