Excellence in Nursing 2012 Winners

We know doctors and surgeons aren’t the only important people providing medical care to you and your family. So we established our first annual Excellence in Nursing contest to call attention to some of the often underappreciated but extraordinarily caring nurses that dedicate their lives to compassionate care. We were so impressed by the quality of nominations we received, and it was time well spent narrowing down our candidates to the 10 highly skilled and deserving nurses you will read about on the following pages.

Compiled by Patti Hinson, Michael Jon Khandelwal, Ben Swenson and Karen Queen | Photos By Jim Pile

Golden Bethune-Hill

Hospital/Practice: Founder and Executive Director, Community Free Clinic of Newport News. Retired as Executive Vice President, Riverside Health Systems, and Administrator, Riverside Regional Medical Center.
Years as a nurse: 46.
Special recognitions: Trailblazer Award, 100 Black Men of the Virginia Peninsula; District Award Citizen of the Year by the District Council of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity; New Jersey Governor’s Award for Excellence in Nursing Administration; Distinguished Service Award from the New Jersey State Board of Nursing; Most Influential Leader Award, Lynchburg.
Why did you choose nursing as a career? As a child, I witnessed my best friend die of bone cancer. I also saw older people sitting idly in nursing homes or at home, and the look on their faces stuck with me.
Favorite part about being a nurse? Caring for patients and seeing patients get better in part because of a decision that I made. Providing support and care to patients who did not get better and to their family members.
Most important thing you have learned during your nursing career? The real value of the expression, “Nursing is an art and a science.” More than once, I trusted my instincts when the science was saying something different and was able to prevent a major complication in a patient.
Proudest moment as a nurse? Receiving the Governor’s Award for Excellence in Nursing Administration in New Jersey. My second proudest moment was when Central Health in Lynchburg met the requirements for magnet designation by the American Nurses Credentialing Center. Out of nearly 5,000 acute care hospitals in the United States, only 361 have earned this designation.
One memory of a particular patient you feel your care had a significant influence on? As a vice president, I did not practice often at the bedside, but I did attend lectures and read to remain current. One day a lecture was given on a condition called epiglottitis, inflammation and swelling of the flap that prevents food from going into the trachea. This swelling can interfere with breathing. That afternoon when was making rounds, I saw a mom in the admissions office holding a baby that had classic symptoms of this condition. I asked the mom a few questions and directed her to come with me to the pediatric unit. I shared what I observed with the nurse, we called the doctor stat, and this child had a tube inserted just before he stopped breathing.
From her nomination: “She had a vision for a free clinic in the southeast community of Newport News, and she made it a reality. The free clinic has been open since Nov. 23, 2010 and has seen more than 1,000 patients.” —Gwen Hartzog


Carol Brandt

Practice: Retired from Sentara Port Warwick Internal Medicine after a 16-year partnership with Dr. Glenn Ross.
Years as a nurse: I graduated from the University of Virginia School of Nursing in 1967.
Special recognitions: Let it suffice to say I have received recognition, and while that is very appreciated, the real reward in my career has been the respect given to me by my patients.
Why did you choose nursing as a career? My family lived in Wiesbaden, Germany when I graduated from high school, and because of the distance from the United States, our awareness of opportunities in the States was limited. Additionally, this was a time when women were still boxed into the nurse, teacher or secretary options as career paths. My mother was a nurse who loved her profession and loved to share stories about her experiences. So my choice to go into nursing was a no brainer.
Favorite part about being a nurse? Trust and relationships. It still amazes me how often patients called to ask me if I agreed with a course of treatment suggested to them by a physician specialist. I have been so blessed by the patients who have come into my life.
Most important thing you have learned during your nursing career? Early in my career, I worked in the ICU at University of Virginia Hospital and was mentored by a Vietnam War MASH unit nurse. Ms. Norris taught me the real skills I would need to be effective and make a difference in the outcome of illnesses I would encounter. Her work in the fields of Vietnam provided the experience to teach me quick assessment skills, appropriate decision making, how to be tenderhearted and yet be honest with patients. Above all, I learned how easy it is to love people into health.
One memory of a particular patient that you feel your care had a significant influence on? Recently, a man called me when he learned of my upcoming retirement. We reminisced about a time many years ago when he was a new patient to the practice and was involved in some health-destructive behaviors. One day he called and asked for something that was not in his best interest, and I turned him down. This gentleman recalled this was the first time anyone had set limits, stuck with them, and that I really did keep my word by always being his advocate.
From her nomination: “Several years ago, I evaluated a patient with symptoms that were not straightforward. I
ordered several tests which returned normal. I asked, as I do routinely, for Carol to call the patient and report the results to him. When she looked over the patient record, Carol asked if I thought the patient could have a pulmonary embolism (blood clot in the lung)—a potentially serious condition. I took her suggestion, and subsequent testing confirmed her suspicion.” —Dr. Glenn Ross

Debbie Campbell

Hospital: Administrative Director of Nursing & Clinical Services, Riverside Behavioral Health Center (RBHC).
Years as a nurse: 30.
Special recognitions: Third year Champion of Caring pin; Outstanding Director of Nursing, RBHC; Thirty-year service pin, RHS.
Why did you choose nursing as a career? My sister Sunjy was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor when I was 15. I spent my evenings and weekends caring for her on the neurology unit at Riverside Regional Medical Center and helped my parents care for her at home. Before my sister’s condition declined, I promised her that I’d go on to become a nurse. My sister died two years later, exactly two months before I went off to college to pursue my nursing career.
Favorite part about being a nurse? I’ve been able to roll up my sleeves in my current role and provide hands-on care with a loving, personal touch, and I’ve made critical decisions that will have a positive impact on our patients/residents at RBHC.
Most important thing you have learned during your nursing career? Treat patients and their loved ones the way you’d want your family to be treated. Keep your patients safe from harm; treat them with compassion, kindness, respect and dignity.
Proudest moment as a nurse? One night, while making rounds, I went through the lower lobby—not part of my normal path—and found a staff member in severe respiratory distress that required CPR. The Code Blue team and the CCU staff were able to revive the employee, who fully recovered. I’m grateful that I followed my instincts and found the employee. I was able to save a life.
One memory of a particular patient that you feel your care had a significant influence on? I cared for a young patient with metastatic lung cancer in 1986. I considered the care I gave to be typical of how I treat all patients. However, this patient and family, who were grieving, viewed my care as special. The patient passed two weeks later, and the family included my name and the work that I did for him in his funeral service.
From her nomination: “Debbie is an intelligent and caring nurse—she is very much hands-on, and the staff loves her for it. She is an excellent role model, takes responsibility for everything and everybody under her leadership and educates to ensure that whatever is not right is corrected.” —Belinda Ford

Heidi Crocker

Hospital: Sentara Williamsburg Regional Medical Center.
Years as a nurse: 14.
Special recognitions: Grand Prize Winner of the January to June 2011 ACE (Always Committed to Excellence) Award for the entire Sentara Healthcare system; member of the Extraordinary Care Committee, which focuses on ways to improve customer service.
Why did you choose nursing as a career? I don’t think I chose nursing; nursing chose me. It was bred in me from an early age. My brother was in the hospital a lot when we were younger, and we would take him things to make it more enjoyable, and I remember getting to the point where I looked forward to going there. At age 13, I started as a  candy striper, and everything else pretty much fell into place from there.
Favorite part about being a nurse? I know I make a difference with everything I do. I treat everyone with dignity, compassion and respect. And I take care of not just the individual patient but the family too. It could be as simple as getting someone a cup of Starbucks, but small gestures like that go a long way.
Most important thing you have learned during your nursing career? Each patient is going to be different. For example, no matter how many people are diagnosed with pneumonia, it’s not the same every time. Just because protocol says you do it this way, you have to be ready for anything thrown your way.
Proudest moment as a nurse? When I can have a family tell me this is a challenging process, but I’ve made it easy, and I’ve made it better than what they were expecting, I’m happy.
One memory of a particular patient that you feel your care had a significant influence on? One of the last people I helped in the hospital actually thanked me for making this a good experience. He was expecting to have a horrible time, but no one should have a horrible time in the hospital, and I work hard to make sure that doesn’t happen.
From her nomination: “Last Christmas, a young child was devastated that he was in the hospital and Santa Claus would not be able to find him to deliver presents. Nurse Crocker pulled together resources to ensure the child had a memorable Christmas. She helped the child write a letter to Santa Claus and ‘mailed’ it for him. She then found a local Santa Claus, who made a visit.” —Sharon Hoggard

Glory Gill

Practice: School Nurse, Hampton City Schools at Hunter B. Andrews, Pre-K through 8th grade.
Years as a nurse: Seven.
Special recognitions: Juanita Redmond Award; Outstanding Nurse of the Year, Air Force Association; Air Force Accommodation Medal (4); Meritorious Service Medal; nominated for Virginia Association of School Nurses School Nurse of the Year, 2011.
Why did you choose nursing as a career? My maiden name is Nightingale, and I am distantly related to Florence Nightingale, so I’d always thought about becoming a nurse while growing up. I graduated from the University of Maryland at Baltimore in 1980 and joined the Air Force, where I served for almost 13 years. I’ve stayed in nursing because I feel like I make a difference to the students and adults I care for each and every day.
Most important thing you have learned during your nursing career? It’s important to remember that everyone you come into contact with wants to know that they are valuable. Whether it is a 4-year-old or a 90-year-old, people need to know that someone cares about their needs.
Proudest moment as a nurse? I once had a student who couldn’t see well, but her parents couldn’t afford to buy her glasses. I worked with the Prevent Blindness Mid-Atlantic organization to get her a voucher to receive an eye examination and a pair of glasses, if necessary. The best day I’ve had was when she came to school with her new pair of glasses that she had to stop and show me.
One memory of a particular patient that you feel your care had a significant influence on? A parent came to my clinic complaining of abdominal pain; she was planning to just go home and rest. But I asked her questions and determined that she was most likely having an ectopic pregnancy and needed to go to the emergency room right away. She’d had no intention of going to the hospital that day, but when she came by to see me after being released, she said that I’d saved her life.
From her nomination: “To say that Mrs. Glory Gill exceeds the expectations of a public school nurse would be an understatement. She’s passionate about nursing and improving the quality of services in Hampton City Schools. She is knowledgeable, passionate, caring, dedicated, conscientious and a team player with a great attitude who believes that everyone pulling together can make the school a better place to work and a better place for students to get a true education.” —Linda Lawrence

Wendi Johnson

Practice: Sentara Williamsburg Regional Medical Center, Comprehensive Breast Center, Women’s Imaging Pavilion.
Years as a nurse: 14.
Special recognitions: Honored as Nominee for Women With a Cause, 2009; SWRMC Nursing Excellence Award, 2010; Featured in Daily Press front page article on patient navigators for breast cancer, October 2010; SWRMC ACE (Always Committed to Excellence) Award, 2nd quarter, 2011.
Why did you choose nursing as a career? Nursing chose me. I pursued marine biology, accounting, occupational therapy ... but all the roads kept leading me back to nursing. I finally surrendered and went to nursing school at 23. Luckily for me, it has been a perfect fit. We all want to make a difference in this world, and nursing has allowed me to do that on an individual level.
Favorite part about being a nurse? Every day brings new challenges for my mind in staying current with the academic side of breast cancer and solving problems for patients and staff. Each patient brings a unique scenario to the table, and it takes knowledge and compassion to navigate them as individuals. Not always easy, but certainly rewarding.
Most important thing you have learned during your nursing career? Everyone wants to be treated like the unique and special human being they are. Be sincere in your interactions and accountable for your words and actions. Trust is something that grows over time, therefore you have to be consistent and accessible.
Proudest moment as a nurse? When I was asked to be the Survivor Dinner Guest Speaker at the local 2009 Relay for Life. Being asked to speak in front of 500 survivors as an oncology nurse is humbling to say the least.
One memory of a particular patient that you feel your care had a significant influence on? A patient I gave chemotherapy to over 10 years ago sends me a card for Christmas and my birthday every year. The wool blanket on my couch was handmade by a patient during her chemotherapy sessions to give to me as a thank you when she finished treatment. At work, I keep a folder of letters and cards that patients and their spouses have written to me. Each one has made an impact on my life.
From her nomination: “My wife was scheduled for surgery in October 2010. As part of the pre-op procedure, the radiologist had to insert several marker clips. Wendi showed up unexpectedly to offer calming words of encouragement and consolation and to hold my wife’s hand. Wendi was the shoulder to lean on much as a dear mother or sister.” — Ed Merz

Terris Kennedy

Hospital: Nursing Administration, Riverside Health System.
Years as a nurse: 44.
Special recognitions: Legion of Merit with Oak Leaf Cluster, US Army; Meritorious Service Medals; Army Surgeon General ‘A” Designator for Nursing Administration; Order of Military Medical Merit.
Why did you choose nursing as a career? Growing up, I had a very caring, considerate and selfless neighbor who was a nurse—she became a mentor to me, providing guidance, support and at times a listening ear.
Favorite part about being a nurse? Making a difference in providing health care services for patients and their families. Even greater is the pleasure of promoting and advocating for nurses as an integral part of the interdisciplinary care team.
Most important thing you have learned during your nursing career? Listening continues to be a key to success— listening to staff and gathering information to make informed and valid decisions and listening to patients and their families.
Proudest moment as a nurse? It was my good fortune to serve as chief nursing officer at Shore Memorial Hospital. It was a wonderful opportunity to make a difference working with a dedicated staff committed to providing quality care to the Eastern Shore community. I now serve as the chief nursing officer for Riverside Health System. I’m proud to be part of a progressive, patient-centered system that values nurses as significant members of the interdisciplinary care team.
One memory of a particular patient that you feel your care had a significant influence on? My initial duty assignment as an Army nurse was in Japan during the Vietnam War. I worked on a 120-bed orthopedic ward and cared for hundreds of young men with traumatic injuries over a two-year period. We never lost one of those young men.
From her nomination: “She’s dedicated, caring, concerned about excellence in patient care, fair, insightful and a mentor who has the ability to find one’s strengths. I only hope that I’ve been able to adequately convey what this amazing nurse leader has contributed to her patients, colleagues, community and her country.” —Kathy Menefee

Patricia A. Montes

Hospital: Clinical Nurse II, Emergency Department, Sentara Virginia Beach General Hospital.
Years as a nurse: 32.
Special recognitions: Eastern Region of Virginia Hospital Emergency Preparedness Coordinating Group member; Award for Heroism – Gov. George Allen; Award of Merit – Virginia Beach Emergency Medical Services.
Why did you choose nursing as a career? At 17, I was admitted to Portsmouth Naval Hospital for possible appendicitis. My nurse, Lt. Warren, was firm in her explanation of what was expected. To a girl who had never been sick a day in her life, Lt. Warren was frightening. Later, when my pain worsened and I spiked a fever, I saw a different side. My parents weren’t with me when the surgeon told me I was getting emergency surgery; Lt. Warren was. She held my hand and dried my tears. The night before my discharge, Lt. Warren said she thought I had the right stuff to become a nurse.
Favorite part about being a nurse? I learn or see something new every day. I love helping people and all the challenges.
Most important thing you have learned during your nursing career? Listening is an art that involves all of the senses and many skills. The most important of these is disengaging your lips.
Proudest moment as a nurse? The first time a fellow nurse told me that if she was ever sick or injured, I was the nurse she wanted to take care of her.
One memory of a particular patient that you feel your care had a significant influence on? I was caring for a cardiac arrest patient in the emergency department. The patient was transferred to Sentara Norfolk General, the only hospital providing advanced cardiac care then. As happens with many transfers, I never knew what happened with this patient. Several years later, I was at a meeting when a man took my hand and with a tear in his eye, said, ‘It’s you, it’s really you.’ He told me about his cardiac arrest and waking up at Sentara Norfolk with no memory of the event except for a voice telling him to hold on, keep fighting and that he wasn’t alone. When he heard me speak, he knew the voice was mine.
From her nomination: “She’s in charge of emergency planning for the hospital in addition to taking care of everything in the ER on a daily basis. She has an excellent demeanor with patients in the ER, and often people only want to talk only to her.” —Marjorie Simpson

Dale Rogerson

Practice: Virginia Oncology Associates.
Years as a nurse: 15.
Special recognitions: OCN certified (national oncology certification).
Why did you choose nursing as a career? My mother was diagnosed with breast cancer when I was in high school. At that time we had no family members who worked in healthcare. The nurses who took care of her made a profound impact on me and my family. Today we have four nurses and three physicians in the family.
Favorite part about being a nurse? The relationship with the patient and the family. Here we see patients over months and years. People initially come into the office kind of stunned. Their family physician evaluated a symptom and referred them to a surgeon. The surgeon biopsied them and referred them to an oncologist. Our practice model pairs one physician and one nurse with the patient. There is a single face, a single voice, to reach through the confusion and guide the patient through their therapy.
Proudest moment as a nurse? My mother died from her breast cancer. I worked my way through nursing school working on the same floor where she was treated. I have been a nurse’s aide, a unit secretary and an assistant to the department head and finally a registered nurse. I was fortunate to work side-by-side with the same nurses who took care of my mother. I found it extremely cathartic.
One memory of a particular patient that you feel your care had a significant influence on? Madeline came into our office off-balance, trying to find her path through treatment. I watched her transition from her own initial uncertainty to being a source of calm in the treatment room, taking new patients under her wing, even inviting patients who were alone for the holidays into her home. I tell patients to keep living their lives. To see people achieve that is rewarding. If my efforts in any small way facilitate that, I think my mother would be happy.
From his nomination: “Dale is the most compassionate, amazing nurse I have ever met. I watch him hold people’s hands, making them comfortable and just being such a warm affectionate person during such a rough time. I truly love this guy.” —Madeline Rossettini

Jackie Vukson

Hospital: Bon Secours Mary Immaculate.
Years as a nurse: 29.
Special recognitions: Department preceptor for all new employees.
Why did you choose nursing as a career? It’s kind of hard to pinpoint exactly when I knew I wanted to be a nurse. As far back as middle school, I knew I wanted to do something in the medical field. Since early on, I loved the sciences, and I loved to help people.
Favorite part about being a nurse? Helping people, watching the healing process, working with them to get well.
Most important thing you have learned during your nursing career? Nursing is a lot about helping people, being compassionate to patients as an individual. Everybody has a unique story that they bring to the hospital. The compassion helps because you never know what’s going on in their lives.
Proudest moment as a nurse? Recently we started a bariatricprogram [the Bon Secours Surgical Weight Loss Center]. I am proud to be part of the team that helped put that together. It’s a big sense of accomplishment. We do three different procedures, all of which help patients to get and keep their weight down.
One memory of a particular patient that you feel your care had a significant influence on? I have a lot of memories from the nursery, which I worked in for 16 years. Once we had a boy who came too soon. We kept him in the nursery for a few weeks after he had spent some time at King’s Daughters. Over time, I really got to know the parents very well. A few years later, I saw the mother at the hairdresser, of all places, and she immediately remembered me, showed me pictures of her son and thanked me so much for all the care we gave to their son and to them.
From her nomination: “It is nurses like Jackie that make me proud to be a part of this profession. Her patience, compassion and expertise make her the perfect fit for such a delicate task. She is always positive and willing to do the right thing.” —Lori Anderson

Top Nursing Panelists
We recruited two experts from Tidewater Community College’s Beazley School of Nursing to help us select the Excellence In Nursing winners along with the editorial staff of Hampton Roads Magazine. We’d like to thank Dr. Phyllis Eaton and Assistant Professor Rita Bouchard for their time and attention to making sure our Top 10 Nurses were the best selections possible from our pool of nominations.
-Dr. Phyllis Eaton has 30 years of experience in the field of nursing and is currently the dean of the Beazley School of Nursing.
-Rita Bouchard is an assistant professor of nursing at the Beazley School of Nursing. She coordinates the Maternal- Newborn Nursing course and serves as advisor to the Student Nurse Association on campus.