Six years into her career as a registered nurse in the UConn Health Center’s intensive care unit, Rosemary Swanke started to blaze a new trail that would define her career.
Twenty years later, in recognition not only of her work as a clinician, but as a pioneer for the role of critical care nurse practitioner, Swanke is one of 10 UConn Health Center nurses to earn a 2013 Nightingale Nurse Award for Excellence in Nursing.
This week, the Health Center is celebrating its Nightingale recipients as part of a larger celebration of National Nurses Week. “Delivering Quality and Innovation in Patient Care” is this year’s theme, chosen by the American Nurses Association, which advances the nursing profession.
Swanke, a member of the first class to graduate from UConn’s Acute Care Nurse Practitioner program, is credited with making the critical care nurse practitioner a mainstay in the UConn Health Center’s intensive care unit.
In 1993, the UConn School of Nursing introduced a master’s program, one of the first of its kind in the U.S., that would produce acute care nurse practitioners. Swanke naturally evolved into a leadership role while helping grow the nurse practitioner role in the ICU. Today she is the lead nurse practitioner, overseeing nine others, in an ICU that most days cares for more than 20 patients.
“I guess I like the adrenaline,” says Swanke, who’s known for her work ethic and her keen awareness of everything that’s happening—or isn’t happening that should be—in the ICU, recognizing patient details that the rounding medical residents, or house staff, might not immediately catch but that could turn out to be crucial.
“Rosemary always puts the patient first, followed by the needs of the overall unit, hospital, and Health Center,” says Ellen Leone, the Health Center’s chief nursing officer. “She has the innate ability to remain calm in any situation. She is a nurse leader in the clinical role. Nothing makes Rosemary happier than to be on duty managing high-acuity patients.”
Swanke says as much as she appreciates the Nightingale honor, she finds special moments with patients and families to be even more rewarding.
“It makes a lot of difference to me when patients and families are happy and they say ‘thank you’ to me and they leave here and, even when somebody has died, they come over and hug me, or they cry on my shoulder sometimes, and they just say thank you.”
Along with Swanke, UConn’s 2013 class of Nightingale nurses includes five others who work on the Health Center’s main campus and four Correctional Managed Health Care nurses. Following are the rest of the honorees, with excerpts from their nominations:
Patricia Ardolino, Nurse Manager, Diagnostic Imaging & Therapeutics
“As a leader, Patti is very approachable and understanding. The staff feels very comfortable with her and knows that she follows up on all issues presented to her. Regardless of the overwhelming demands of her day, Patti exemplifies professionalism, respect and a commitment of service excellence. Patti truly lives the Nightingale pledge to do all in her power to maintain and elevate the standard and prestige of the nursing profession. Patti’s lifelong legacy would be that every patient and every family member receives her best care and always a smile or a touch, that no one ever be alone or frightened by illness.”
Irene Bent, Clinical Nurse III, Dermatology
“Without question, Irene is one of the most professional outpatient nurses with whom I have interacted in my 11 years as a dermatologist. Irene is a pleasure to have as a colleague, as she indefatigably multi-tasks from the start of the day until its end, never revealing a hint of frustration or weariness. She has earned the respect of the other nurses and medical assistants in our department. When new nurses have joined our ranks in Dermatology, Irene has trained them and mentored them to advance the success of our team. Simply put, Irene Bent is a model patient-centered nurse and my practice would be immeasurably less enjoyable, efficient and effective without her.”
Jason Cruz, Licensed Practical Nurse, Garner Correctional Institution
“Mr. Jason Cruz demonstrates a high level of professionalism, collaboration, caring and support to not only the challenging inmate population he cares for, but with and for, the clinical and custodian team he works with. Mr. Cruz has been assigned to Garner C.I.’s restrictive housing unit, providing care to inmates who present with numerous medical, psychiatric and behavioral issues… Mr. Cruz is part of an important initiative between CMHC and UConn School of Nursing developing correctional nursing competencies within CMHC. He is one of the identified trainers for the newly begun simulation training, which is playing an important role within the correctional healthcare training environment and provides CPR training to employees.”
Matthew Dobos, Correctional Head Nurse, Hartford Correctional Center
“It is indeed a rare individual that possesses both the skills and the enthusiastic willingness to use those skills in multiple leadership roles. Matthew Dobos can be used as an example of an individual that possesses both… Hartford Correctional Center processes thousands of individuals a year. Of those, one third has profound detoxification and complex medical problems and one third has moderate to severe mental health issues. If you mix those problems with medical emergencies that are generated because of those problems, and the constant inmate assaults on one another, it is obvious that only a rare individual has the scope and breadth of experience and knowledge to effectively manage this environment.”
Heidi Greene, I.D. Case Manager, MacDougall-Walker Correctional Institution
“Heidi is one of a new breed of nurses within the correctional setting. At any given time she oversees the care of 45-50 HIV-positive patients and another 20 Hepatitis C patients, many of whom are in treatment… Her patients trust her and have come to depend on her to assist with navigating the correctional health system… When the outside health care monitors interviewed Heidi they were impressed with her knowledge of pathophysiology and the application of such to her individual patients… In her role of I.D. Nurse Case Manager she has completed long hours of classroom theory and testing. She has a way to make you laugh at yourself and when necessary, the world around you.”
David Kibe, Correctional Head Nurse, Function Unit 10
“Dave is a correctional head nurse who can multi-task and not lose any of the ‘threads’… When a recent nursing supervisor vacancy arose, Dave accepted a temporary transfer to meet the needs of the organization… In accepting this temporary assignment he demonstrated the ability to immediately grasp the role responsibilities of a nursing supervisor without forgetting what it means to be a staff member… His peers find him easy to work with and appreciate his ready smile and easy going nature… Dave is a true example of nursing professionalism, exhibiting genuine concern for both patients and staff… He is an example of someone who brings positive change to the correctional nursing scene and gently inspires others to follow.”
Dawn McCarthy, Clinical Nurse III, Adult Intensive Care Unit
“Beyond the call… Not a day goes by in the ICU where Dawn doesn’t go beyond the call of duty. She advocates, teaches, mentors, brings issues to the forefront of staff minds and is the consummate role model. Dawn is a quiet, competent worker with the experiential knowledge and confidence to obtain optimal outcomes on a daily basis. She exhibits pride every shift she works about the nursing care she provides, the ICU and the Health Center as a whole, which does not go unnoticed by her patients and her peers. Dawn interacts with her patients holistically, with a sense of vigilance, engagement and responsiveness. She demonstrates exemplary caring practice for the entire family not just the patient in the bed.”
Robin Menasian, Clinical Nurse II, Oncology
“Great nurses take care of their patients, their fellow nurses and the whole organization they work in. Robin Menasian is a great bedside nurse who has been caring for fragile cancer patients for over 23 years. What makes Robin so special is how she cares for everyone around her. She is one of the kindest nurses you will ever meet. She always promotes a ‘can do’ attitude. Robin is selfless. She always advocates for her patients and her co-workers. Robin is a dedicated, compassionate caregiver, a teacher, an advocate, the ultimate role model, and a friend. Every day she demonstrates an optimistic attitude, professional behavior and enthusiasm when engaging her patients.”
Andrea Moran, Nurse Practitioner, Neag Comprehensive Cancer Center
“Andrea has continued to provide valuable continuity for her patients for more than 15 years. She shows her dedication and love for oncology patients daily. She is truly talented in displaying compassion for her patients as well as educating them on their disease and treatment. Andrea takes that little extra step that makes patients (especially oncology patients) feel comfortable and at ease with their often scary diagnosis. She is a role model; she makes everyone around her better. Andrea consistently exhibits professionalism, humility, and selflessness. She works seamlessly with six providers and this is clearly an example of ‘excellence beyond the norm.’”
The 2013 honorees will be recognized at the annual Nightingale Awards dinner Thursday night at the Hartford Marriott Downtown.