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Emory Healthcare CNE Sharon Pappas Honored With AONL's Lifetime Achievement Award

Analysis  |  By Carol Davis  
   March 28, 2023

The prestigious award recognizes a 'significant leader' in the nursing profession.

Sharon Pappas, PhD, RN, NEA-BC, FAAN, chief nurse executive at Emory Healthcare in Atlanta, has been named the 2023 recipient of the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award given by the American Organization for Nursing Leadership (AONL).

The award honors an AONL member recognized by the nursing community as a significant leader in the nursing profession and served AONL in a significant leadership capacity.

Pappas, as a senior leader of Emory Healthcare and the Woodruff Health Sciences Center, leads Emory Healthcare’s nursing workforce, which consists of more than 8,000 nurses across the organization’s 11 hospitals and more than 250 clinic locations. 

Sharon Pappas, CNE, Emory Healthcare / Photo courtesy of Emory Healthcare

Five Emory Healthcare operating units are Magnet® designated, and Pappas works to establish this same nursing excellence throughout Emory Healthcare. She is also a faculty member for Emory’s Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing.

This honor follows another prominent accolade Pappas received at the end of last year when the Georgia Hospital Association (GHA) presented her with the Hospital Hero Award for her outstanding contributions to the healthcare field, particularly the field of nursing. Pappas was one of five individuals to receive the statewide award.

“Emory and the entire healthcare industry are fortunate to have Sharon Pappas’ expertise and her passion for the well-being of nurses and patients,” Earl Rogers, GHA president and CEO said at the time.

An example of that is Emory’s Care Partner program that she and her chief nurses developed during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic when they realized that having a "no visitors" policy like most other hospitals around country was not good for most patients.

“The chief nurses realized that patients needed family members with them as part of their healing, so they came up with a concept called Care Partner, which was different than a visitor," she told HealthLeaders in explaining the program. A visitor socializes and boosts a patient's spirits, but the Care Partner—a family member or trusted friend—has a purposeful role in contributing to patient care, she said.

"It became very important to our frontline clinical nurses who were having to spend an extraordinary amount of time on FaceTime or on the phone, updating families," Pappas explained. "The Care Partner could also, with a patient's permission as appropriate, communicate with broader family constituents who were interested and worried."

Serving nurses and patients

Pappas served on the National Academy of Science, Engineering, & Medicine Committee on Systems Approaches to Improve Patient Care by Supporting Clinician Well-being, which issued a report being used to measure burnout and improve work conditions for nurses and others in healthcare on a national scale.

She also has authored multiple publications contributing to the international body of knowledge on how improving healthcare cultures through inclusion in decision-making, respect, and leadership contributes to patient care. One of these publications, Quantum Leadership, is a textbook commonly used in Doctor of Nursing Practice programs across the United States.

Pappas previously served as a member of the AONL board of directors and currently represents AONL on the American Nurses Credentialing Center’s Commission on Magnet® Recognition. She recently chaired the AONL Workforce Subcommittee on Leadership.

Pappas is a fellow of the American Academy of Nursing and past chair of its Expert Panel on Building Health System Excellence. She has received numerous honors including the AONE Research and American Association of Colleges of Nursing’s Exemplary Academic Practice Partnership awards. She earned her Ph.D. at University of Colorado, Denver, master of science in Nursing from Georgia College, and bachelor’s degree from the Medical College of Georgia.

Carol Davis is the Nursing Editor at HealthLeaders, an HCPro brand.


Sharon Pappas, chief nurse executive at Emory Healthcare in Atlanta, has been named the 2023 recipient of the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award.

Pappas leads more than 8,000 nurses across Emory Healthcare’s 11 hospitals and more than 250 clinic locations. 

She has contributed to the international body of knowledge on how improving healthcare cultures contributes to patient care.

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