Nurses you’d want by your bedside

Nursing is a profession of tangibles and intangibles. There’s the day-to-day of the job, the rounds, the questions, the IVs, the hours, the bandages and alcohol wipes and pills. These are what can be measured.

The intangibles can’t be plotted on charts or graphs. They’re the worry, the planning, the brainstorming, the empathy, the heart and the caring. Always the caring. It cannot be measured, but it can be felt.

Saturday night, 31 Western Slope nurses were recognized for their mastery of the tangibles and intangibles of their profession. They were nominees for the Luminary Award to honor their work, vision, compassion and leadership. From among the nominees, six were chosen for the award. They will represent the Western Slope when the statewide Nightingale Award for Human Caring is presented in Denver in May.

Nurses Tonya Chapin, Connie Estridge, Robin Gilman, Mary Jo Hughes, Lori Mead and Anne Robinson received the Luminary Award on Saturday.

“The professional engagement of individual nurses is essential for our profession to actualize its potential,” said Judith Burke, a member of the Colorado Nurses Foundation board of directors.

She explained that this year the Luminary Awards were revamped to recognize nurses for their advocacy, innovation or leadership in the areas of clinical practice or for their role as administrator, educator, researcher or nontraditional nurse. Nominees for the award were compared only with those nominated in their same category, Burke said, with an eye to recognizing exceptional professional and community engagement.

Each of the 31 nominees was introduced at Saturday’s ceremony, and common themes emerged: She’s compassionate. She’s a leader. She’s a visionary. She cares. She’s dedicated. She goes above and beyond her official duties.

Chapin, an assistant professor and the Practical Nurse Program director at Mesa State College, as well as a department head at Western Colorado Community College, is helping to begin Medical Office Assistant and Medical Lab Technician programs.

Estridge, who has 22 years of experience as a nurse, is the clinical nurse manager in the orthopedic spine unit at St. Mary’s Hospital. She received the President’s Award from St. Mary’s in recognition of the Total Joint Program, for which she teaches preoperative classes to patients and their families.

Gilman, a nurse of 20 years’ experience who is clinical supervisor in St. Mary’s Hospital’s wound/ostomy department, volunteers with the Domestic Violence Project, AIDS awareness and other local charities. After a recent trip to Kenya, she established an ostomy foundation for Third World countries.

Hughes, the palliative care coordinator at the Grand Junction Veterans Affairs Medical Center, advocates, coordinates and facilitates services for veterans with a limited life expectancy, as well as services for their families. In the past year, 92 percent of patients who died at the hospital received palliative care consultation prior to death, compared to a national average of less than 50 percent.

Mead, a primary care nurse for ambulatory care at the Grand Junction VA Medical Center, has 28 years of experience. Her specialty is sports nursing for disabled veterans, and she has helped make the National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic in Snowmass Village a national event attended annually by about 400 disabled veterans.

Robinson, the public health nurse manager in the patient safety office at Vail Valley Medical Center, helped create the first Community Paramedic Program in the United States. She worked with Vail Valley Emergency Medical Services on the project, which will allow for increased access to health care, more streamlined medical and public health services and decreased overall health care costs.


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