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Meet the 2011 Nursing Image Award Winners

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   November 29, 2011

This year's search for nurse leaders and staff who have helped elevate the image of nursing is over, and two winners, representing exemplary leadership and clinical skill have been announced.

More about them in a moment, but first you should know that  HCPro's 2011 awards honor nurses whose leadership, teamwork, or clinical expertise embodies an image of nursing excellence and contributes to improving patient care, quality outcomes, nurse satisfaction, and the healthcare environment.

Nursing Leadership
Tracy Williams, RN, DNP, is responsible for the nursing care provided in 1,400 beds across the Norton Healthcare system in Louisville, KY, and she oversaw the transformation of this system to a patient- and family-centered care philosophy. The benefits to patients, families, and the system's culture have made Williams the winner of the 2011 HCPro Nursing Image Awards: Image of Nursing in Leadership.

As system chief nursing officer, Williams exemplifies positive leadership by creating a vision and sharing that vision with her colleagues. Her staff report that she inspires and ignites passion to attain goals by developing people as she guides and instructs them in new and innovative ways to care for patients.

"What struck us about Tracy was her action-oriented leadership," said Elizabeth Petersen, associate editorial director, HCPro, Inc., and member of the judging panel. "She's created real, measurable change in her organization and she seems to have found that wonderful balance between practical and visionary management."

The move to patient- and family-centered care increased accountability at all levels: personal, departmental, interdivision, and across the system. It also enhanced transparency, improved outcomes, and created a single standard and language across the system. Since the transformation, feedback from patients, families, and staff has been positive and embracing of the change in practice.

Williams also created the Integration and Alignment agenda for the Norton Healthcare system, which drives quality, safety, and service achievement of goals throughout the system and has resulted in a 1.5 standard deviation improvement in results in fewer than four years.

As a result, Norton Healthcare was recipient of the 2011 National Quality Forum National Quality Healthcare Award for its exceptional leadership and innovation to achieve quality improvement.

Williams inspires nurses in her organization by her commitment to education. She returned to school and successfully obtained her doctorate in nursing practice. Now she guides other senior nursing leaders in appreciating the value of the advanced practice degree and seeking enrollment themselves.

Clinical Excellence
As well as visionary leadership, the awards also recognize clinical excellence. This year's winner of the Image of Nursing in Clinical Practice Award is Cheryl Lillegraven, a clinical nurse specialist with expertise in neuroscience. She is at Iowa Health Des Moines (IH-DM), in Des Moines.

Lillegraven is the first adult clinical nurse specialist to be hired by IH-DM and she has demonstrated how vital the role is to the neuro unit on which she works.

Lillegraven is being recognized for raising the bar for the care of neuro patients, which she does by educating nursing staff and role modeling excellence. She makes a difference in the lives of patients and staff in less visible ways—such as serving on the hospital pain committee, trauma committee, stroke committee, and nursing research—and through being present in patient care—such as rounding with staff, consulting on specific patients, and providing staff education regarding care of stroke patients.

Within the past year, Lillegraven was instrumental in bringing simulation into the training of staff in preparation for IH-DM's certification as a Stroke Center of Excellence. She is currently facilitating the creation of an advanced practice nursing council, overseeing pain management nursing research, and is responsible for the hospital-acquired condition initiative to decrease patient falls.

Lillegraven's ability to inspire others is summed up by a quote from a staff nurse at IH-DM. "Cheryl's strength is that of teaching other nurses and assisting them in using their own critical thinking skills. She is always willing to assist you in looking at the big picture with the patients.  She makes the nurses on the floor be better nurses.  The care she provides for the patients is nothing short of excellent."

It was the combination of clinical excellence and elevating the profession as a whole that made Lillegraven stand out to the judges.

"Cheryl's work as a clinical nurse specialist at IH-DM is pioneering, but it's her unwavering commitment to her patients, her peers, and the profession that is most impressive," says Petersen.

Please join me in congratulating this year's winners and thank them for the positive image of nursing they portray.

See Also:
Anatomy of a Nursing Image Awards Nominee

Rebecca Hendren is a senior managing editor at HCPro, Inc. in Danvers, MA. She edits and manages The Leaders' Lounge blog for nurse managers. Email her at

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