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The Catalyst

Honoring everyday contributions of MUSC nurses

By Mikie Hayes
Public Relations

2014 Nurse of the Year winners are Melanie Ann Archer (Expertise), from left, Kathy Kurowski (Integrity); Michelle Cooper (Accountability); Emmaline McCulloch (Leadership); Savannah Galloway (Innovation); Melanie Ann Archer (Expertise); and Kelly Cavins Kornegay(Advocacy). photo by Cindy Abole, Public Relations

MUSC celebrated the kickoff of National Nurses Week with the 2014 Nursing Excellence Awards ceremony on May 6 in Saint Luke’s Chapel. In a show of support and appreciation for their hard work and dedication, MUSC recognized the special contributions nurses make every day.

It has long been said that nurses are the heart and soul of health care. Their numerous and diverse contributions across the entire spectrum of leadership, education, research, and clinical care are celebrated every year during National Nurses Week which began on May 6 and will end on Florence Nightingale’s birthday, May 12.

Heather Sodee, RN, co–chair of the event’s planning committee, kicked off the hour-long tribute to MUSC’s nurses by welcoming guests and introducing the master of ceremonies, Matt Wain, MUSC chief operating officer.  

“Matt will willingly tell you he is not a nurse and does not have a clinical background,” Sodee shared. “Today, however, we would like to change that and make Matt an honorary MUSC nurse as he is such a strong nursing advocate here at MUSC.”

On behalf of MUSC nurses, she presented him with a nursing cap, a set of his own scrubs and two pens so he has one at all times, like all nurses should, she said. Sodee also performed a mock pinning ceremony which made his honorary status official and caused the receptive audience to laugh with delight.

Wain expressed his gratitude to the standing-room-only crowd, “To recognize the excellence that exists in nursing is really a special moment for me. I’ve always admired the role that nurses play in an organization. It only took me a short period of time to recognize who really makes the difference at the bedside. It’s the nurse.”

He shared that he hadn’t really understood exactly what took place at the bedside and decided it might be a good idea to shadow a few nurses. He admitted it only took about three hours before he was ready to throw in the towel. “Holy cow,” he said. “This is pretty darned hard stuff.”

That experience and many others, which include having two family members in the nursing profession, have allowed him to see just how profoundly nurses connect with their patients and the meaningful impact they make.

Nursing professional development facilitator Madeline Gehrig, center, celebrates with her peer nurse educators for her award. photo provided

“I truly believe that nursing is at the core of our success,” said Wain. “Many of us go through life wondering if we make a difference in our careers and our lives. You all are blessed that you don’t have to wonder.  You make a difference every day. You make a difference in the lives of our patients. You make a difference in our community and you make a difference in our organization.”

Gayle Wadford, MSN, MBA, RN, nurse program manager of Neurosurgery and Spine, presented the keynote address. In a play on words, she told the audience she was hopeful “they would find her address to be as ‘EPIC’ as she planned for it to be.”  With the rollout of the new record-keeping program, EPIC, looming close on the horizon, the audience enthusiastically shared in the double entendre.

Wadford spoke about nursing leaders who had come before and made their mark on history and reminded guests that while women make up the vast majority of the nursing workforce today, there was a time when the profession was powered by men. Fast-forwarding to the present, Wadford focused on the many critical areas in which nurses make an enormous impact.

“Nurses are leaders. They give 100 percent at all times. Nurses are phenomenal individuals. Nurses lead the way at MUSC — every day in everything they do and demonstrate nursing excellence. MUSC is the definition of nursing excellence.” Wadford added, “MUSC nurses, you rock!” a sentiment that was received with cheers and applause.

The highlight of the event was the presentation of the nursing awards. This year, the award process was conducted differently than in the past. Rather than a single Nurse of the Year award being presented, seven MUSC hospital nurses received recognition for their contributions in specific categories: accountability, advocacy, collaboration, expertise, innovation, integrity, and leadership.  

According to Sodee, this year the awards were aligned with the professional practice model. The model was developed as the result of a process MUSC nurses went through to determine how they see their practice and contributions on a day-to-day basis, explained Katie Steidle, R.N., 8East clinical unit leader, who co–chairs the 2014 Nurses Week with Sodee.

The practice model also serves to map out the route to achieving the highly sought-after Magnet designation. The Magnet program, overseen by the American Nurses Credentialing Center, recognizes health care organizations that provide quality patient care, excellence in nursing and innovations in professional nursing practice. This designation is considered the highest form of recognition in nursing excellence.

To arrive at the seven Nurse of the Year recipients, the committee reviewed 140 nominations and selected the top five for each category. From that group of finalists, they selected the following award winners:

  • Accountability—Michelle Cooper, Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Clinic
  • Advocacy—Kelly Cavins Kornegay, Comprehensive Epilepsy Center
  • Collaboration—Madeline Gehrig, Nursing Professional Development facilitator
  • Expertise—Melanie Ann Archer, Institute of Psychiatry
  • Innovation—Savannah Galloway, Pediatric Ambulatory Care
  • Integrity—Kathy Kurowski, 7 East
  • Leadership—Emmaline McCulloch, 9West

The nomination letters for each of the seven recipients were read while they accepted their respective awards.

Each submission was a heartfelt tribute to the many achievements that nurse had attained at MUSC and her dedication to the profession. While each had unique strengths and skills she brought to her nursing areas, consistent in all seven winners was a high level of personal responsibility, a history of going above and beyond for their areas and generosity of time and spirit.

Kornegay was excited to have been chosen for the Advocacy Nurse of the Year award. “I love taking care of patients,” she said. “I’m lucky to be able to do what I can to help them.”
Integrity Nurse of the Year winner Kurowski shared, “I’m a nurturer. I nurture everyone around me: my colleagues, patients, student nurses, staff. I’ve been blessed to work with the best nurses anywhere.”

The committee considered the planning of this special event a labor of love and enjoyed seeing their own receive much due recognition.

“This process has been so special — bringing recognition to all the MUSC nurses. On a day-to-day basis we just do our jobs, so to be able to organize a week that’s all about nurses has been just amazing,” said Steidle.

In a message to medical center employees, Patrick Cawley, M.D., MUSC Medical Center CEO, recognized the significance of National Nurses Week.

“This is a great time for each of us to reflect on the importance of the nurses on our teams and personally thank them for their unique roles in health care. Each one of us can easily recount an incident in our lives, both professional and personal, where a nurse had long–lasting impact,” he said.

To learn more about MUSC nursing, visit:

2014 Nurses Week Committee
Donna Padgett, Nursing Professional Development; Amelia Little, 7East nurse manager; Janet Bryne, MICU nurse manager; Kim Curnell–Pean, 8West/2EAU nurse manager; Polly Guffin, 6West/2TCU nurse manager; Karen Stephenson, Women's Care Services; Heather Craven, Enterprise Analytics; Leah Ramos, 9East nurse manager; Linda Horton, New Graduate Residency facilitator; Linda Foster, Meduflex; Mary Laura Smithwick, NNICU nurse manager; Andrea Coyle, Professional Excellence and Partnership for Epic Preparedness manager; Vance Donahoo, CTICU/CCU nurse manager; Steve Schaer, Meduflex nurse manager; Donna DiLuna, Pediatric Cardiology; and Rick Majure, ART 6East/West, assistant nurse manager



May 9, 2014



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