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WRNMMC Nursing Team Honors Members


By Bernard S. Little

WRNMMC Command Communications​

The Directorate of Nursing Services at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center recently honored four of their team members, as well as their former director, with DAISY nursing awards.

Each month, the WRNMMC nursing team recognizes one of their own with the DAISY Award for Extraordinary Nurses, established by the DAISY Foundation and family of J. Patrick Barnes to recognize nurses and the care and support they provide patients and their families.

In 1999, Barnes was diagnosed with the auto-immune disease Idiopathic Thrombocytopenia Purpura (ITP) and died at the age of 33 from its complications. DAISY is an acronym for Diseases Attacking the Immune System. Appreciative of the nursing care Patrick received during his hospitalization, the Barnes family created the DAISY award and piloted the program at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, where he was cared for during the latter stages of his life.

Nurses recognized with the DAISY award are honored for demonstrating “excellence in the delivery of patient care, extraordinary compassion, courage, integrity, and promotion of their professional nursing practice,” according to the WRNMMC DAISY award selection committee.

Nurses at WRNMMC who recently earned the DAISY Award for Extraordinary Nurses include: Navy Hospitalman Alona Altuhov, of 4 East (February); Navy Ensign Elexa Sherman, of 5 West (March); Navy Lt. j.g. Alex Pantages, of the Surgical Intensive Care Unit (April); and Agatha Onwuka of Discharge Planning (May). Also, Navy Capt. Valerie Morrison, former director of nursing services at WRNMMC, received the DAISY Nurse Leader Award on May 30 prior to her departure from the medical center for a new assignment.

DAISY Nurse Leader

The DAISY Nurse Leader Award honors executive leaders, middle managers, educators and preceptors who supervise nurses in health-care facilities. The award also recognizes nursing leaders for supporting and recognizing their direct care staff for the help and services they provide beneficiaries and families.

A teary-eyed Morrison, who served as the WRNMMC nursing director for more than two years, said her Walter Reed Bethesda assignment was probably one of the “most challenging, but exciting tours during her 28 years of service.” She called the nursing team at WRNMMC “amazing,” saluting them with the declaration, “This is not about me; this is all about you and what you do every day for our deserving beneficiaries and their families.”

Extraordinary Nurses

Anyone can nominate a member of the WRNMMC nursing team for the DAISY Award for Extraordinary Nurses. The recognition program at WRNMMC carried over from Walter Reed Army Medical Center when WRAMC combined with the National Naval Medical Center in 2011 to form WRNMMC. Since February 2012, the WRNMMC DAISY award selection committee has received more than 4,000 nominations for the DAISY award, selecting approximately 70 recipients. Those recipients included nurses, nurse practitioners, corpsmen, medics and certified nursing assistants from inpatient and outpatients areas at WRNMMC.

A patient nominated Altuhov for the February DAISY award, stating the Sailor “was sharp, attentive, kind and very professional” during an unexpected injection incident. “This nurse is a keeper and very level headed in a crisis. I certainly hope her the best. This nurse was great,” the patient added.

March DAISY Award

A family member of a patient who nominated Sherman for the March DAISY award shared similar comments about the ensign, stating, “[I] just wanted to let you know your staff was exceptionally helpful and professional. One particular nurse on duty last night who helped us move my husband to another unit is the one that really went the extra mile. As soon as we entered the new unit, it was bare (furniture wise) [with] only one upright chair in the room. So I asked the folks at the nursing station if there was at least a couch that we could have so that I would have something to sleep on as companion for my husband. There was none, so I went back inside the room, so upset.

“About 30 minutes later, this nurse and the nurse on the new unit were hauling a loveseat couch [into the room]. We were so thankful,” the family member added.

April DAISY Award

A staff provider nominated Pantages for the April DAISY award, explaining, “I’ve worked with him on multiple occasions throughout the year, and he is consistently one of the best nurses I have ever worked with both in the unit and as a RRT (rapid response team) nurse. His patients routinely praise this nurse's care.”

The nominator stated Pantages “went beyond the responsibilities and led directly to a successful resuscitation” of a patient on April 1. “As soon as we arrived (in the operating room), this nurse became invaluable to the resuscitation process. In addition to literally running to get an ultrasound and other supplies [that] this nurse knew we would need, he provided exemplary clinical acumen and leadership during the code. On his own initiative, this nurse helped organize the nursing staff/OR techs/residents, ensuring proper rotation of personnel performing CPR so that the high quality could be maintained.

“While doing this, he also consistently anticipated the next steps in care, having the medications already drawn up and ready to give prior to the team needing them so that there was no delay in administration,” the nomination read.

“When there was any difficulty in conducting care, this nurse addressed the issue and fixed it to include troubleshooting the arterial line and replacing the defibrillation pads mid-code….This nurse then continued to lead the efforts in the unit, working well beyond when the shift ended,” the nominator continued.

“Overall, his initiative in going beyond the job description to go to the OR, his expert clinical judgement and leadership during the code and willingness to extend a long shift to help care for the patient led directly to this patient having a good outcome. Then in subsequent days, he continued to check on the patient's progress despite not being the primary nurse, showing continued compassion and commitment to care. This nurse's action truly reflected the highest level of the health-care professionals that I have ever worked with,” the nomination concluded.

May DAISY Award

A family member nominated Onwuka for the May DAISY Award, stating about the discharge planning nursing team member, “This type of nurse by the nature of her duties tend to be helpful to patients and families as they leave the hospital to go either to a rehab facility or home. In my 75 years, I’ve met a lot of them, but this nurse stands out.”

The military spouse added that Onwuka was “aware and compassionate” concerning the patient’s and family situation. “[She] helped me get through this third in a row hospital experience. The spouse added Onwuka provided her with additional care information for after her husband’s discharge from WRNMMC, and also “spent extra time in her busy schedule to explain the information. This nurse asked the right questions and was extremely professional.” The spouse stated Onwuka also did more research into patient care options to assist the couple after the husband’s discharge.

“[Onwuka] went above and beyond in the commitment to giving quality customer service,” the family member continued. “This nurse serves as an inspiration to all who meet her with such a positive, can-do attitude. This nurse made a real difference in our hospital experience,” the nomination concluded.

Anyone can nominate a member of the WRNMMC nursing team for the DAISY award. Nominations for the DAISY award can be submitted to any nurse or clerk in WRNMMC directorate of nursing services, or e-mailed to joan.loepkerduncan.civ@mail.mil. Nominations can be mailed to Joan Loepker-Duncan, WRNMMC, 8930 Brown Drive, Bldg. 9, Room 2894, Bethesda, Maryland 20889. For additional information about the DAISY award at WRB, contact Loepker-Duncan at 301-319-4617.​