Outstanding Nurses

2012 Outstanding Nurses Awards

Recognizing the unsung heroes of health care.

2012 Outstanding Nurses Awards

WE ASKED. YOU ANSWERED. Mpls.St.Paul Magazine asked doctors, nurses, and patients to recommend nurses who go above and beyond the call of duty in all areas of health care. Our judges reviewed nearly 100 nominations with an eye toward professionalism, bedside manner and patient interaction, credentials and experience, and impact on organization. We’re happy to recognize the work and commitment of 54 finalists as the 2012 Outstanding Nurses.

Here, the top 20 winners share their expertise and health care tips. As one judge says, “These stories are just a few, but exemplars of the BEST OF THE BEST.”

Photographs by Stephanie Colgan



UnitedHealth Group Center for Nursing Advancement
Senior vice president of the Center for Nursing, responsible for the creation and execution of programs to advance the nursing profession

“As the largest component of the health care work force, nurses are critical to a modernized health care system. Nurses exist on the front lines and know what works and does not work in our health care system. Access to professional nurses means receiving care at the right place and getting the right treatment at the right time, leading to the best care and outcomes.”



Park Nicollet Institute Frauenshuh Cancer Center
Oncology research manager focusing on educating staff about clinical studies available and presenting consent documents to patients

“Studies have shown that clinical trial patients have better outcomes. Participants also have the benefit of a research nurse coordinator to monitor them and provide support and education. For example, a woman in her 50s with ovarian cancer had a particularly difficult time emotionally with her diagnosis and treatment. Because she enrolled in a trial, I was able to spend several hours with her.”



Ridgeview Specialty Clinic-Pediatric Integrative Medicine
Certified pediatric nurse practitioner focusing on care and guidance for pediatric patients and their families from a holistic perspective

"With a multidisciplinary approach, providers, patients, and families work together for the patient. For example, one patient received medical care from me for ADHD and anxiety while working with a child psychologist on emotional and behavioral aspects. He also benefited from services from an academic therapist in our clinic and occupational therapy at a Ridgeview network clinic. Parents also began to use skills that had been taught. Working together, the patient’s concerns were addressed through different approaches for the mind, body, and spirit.”

Learn self-regulation skills. They are key for self-healing.
Eat breakfast and carry a water bottle. Both allow your body and mind to function optimally.



North Metro Pediatrics
Executive director, co-founder, and a primary care provider at North Metro Pediatrics, a nonprofit pediatric primary care clinic for uninsured/underinsured children

“There was a young man who was not going to be able to participate in track his senior year because he needed a sports physical and his father had lost his job and insurance. When the family came to the sports physical night at his school (a collaborative effort by school nurses, trainers, and North Metro Pediatrics) to receive his $20 physical, his mother was teary-eyed. The physical meant he had a chance at a college scholarship.”


“I ask myself, ‘How would I want someone to care for my grandfather, parents, or sister?’”
— Tricia Daly


United Hospital, Allina Health
Registered nurse in the patient care float pool working in most units of the hospital, including surgery, orthopedics, neurology, epilepsy, and oncology

“I strive to do little things every day. Whether that means reassuring an anxious patient or bringing a patient a warm blanket, I make a conscious effort to make them feel someone truly cares.

“My inclination to care for others extends beyond the hospital. I travel to Tegucigalpa, Honduras, twice a year with medical-surgical brigades at the Holy Family Surgery Center located on the Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos Orphanage. I’ve cultivated a love for other cultures and fervor for serving marginalized citizens who need quality health care.”

Live a balanced lifestyle. Moderation really is key to living a healthy life.



Regions Hospital Stroke Center
Adult health clinical nurse specialist and stroke program coordinator focusing on quality care for stroke patients in all facets of stroke illness

“My favorite stories are those in which the interaction you have with someone results in a ‘light-bulb moment’ and you realize some small speck of new understanding took place and is likely to have a positive influence. This goes both ways, as I know it happens to me as often as it happens to the patient, family, or staff member!”

Know the signs and symptoms for stroke, such as sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm, or leg, especially on one side of the body; loss of vision or double vision; confusion or trouble speaking or understanding; trouble walking, dizziness, or loss of balance or coordination; and severe headache.
Do not delay in calling 911. The best stroke treatment options are available when hospital arrival times are fast.



Westfields Hospital
Education coordinator focusing on learning and need assessments, as well as planning, supporting, and providing staff education

“I was one of the early supporters of patient- and family-initiated rapid response teams: a designated group of medical professionals who can be assembled quickly to deliver critical care anywhere in a hospital. I served on a national task force, taught the subject at multiple national conferences, and was instrumental in setting it up in my health care system. Although initially controversial, the practice of patient- and family-initiated RRT is now considered common and best practice.”

Write down your questions. Concerns can be forgotten in the whirlwind of health care, and it is easy to misunderstand what is said during a short visit.
Find health care providers who will be your partners.

“The patients, families, and friends who have passed through these doors are the ones who have taught and will continue to teach me about my impact
as a nurse.”
— Rebecca Englund


Regions Hospital Emergency Center
Charge registered nurse focusing on emergency care

“I welcome you to our ER. I am often the voice on the other end of the phone call that you don’t want to receive in the middle of the night. It is my job to care for your physical and emotional needs. It is my hope that I make you feel comfortable and less scared.

“It is in these brief moments that there is an opportunity to truly help others. Being present in the moment and listening and empathizing with compassion are some of the most healing interventions one can give.”

Safety! Safety! Safety! A lot of what we see in the ER could have been prevented.



Ridgeview Regional Radiation Oncology
Registered nurse in radiation oncology, focusing on new patients, teaching, collaboration, and advocacy

“Through the years, my eyes and heart have been opened as I have met the nicest patients during the most trying of times. I am in awe of those who fight their cancer with determination, dignity, thankfulness, and—believe it or not—humor!

“I’ve learned about life and loving. I’ve learned not to put things off and to celebrate success along the way. I’ve learned about life’s journey, including the final chapters.”


“Outstanding staff nurses are caring, compassionate individuals who consistently look for innovative ways
to elevate our profession.”
— Terry Graner


Abbott Northwestern Hospital, Allina Health
Chief nursing officer, focusing on nursing and exceptional care

“It’s been a number of years since I worked as a bedside nurse. Today, my success stories come in my work with Abbott Northwestern’s nursing staff. I feel tremendously privileged to lead a group of nurses who rise to the challenge of being innovative, compassionate experts in their profession.

“In my role today, I hear from patients and families about the exceptional care they’ve received from nurses. Those personal notes and stories are testaments to the bond that forms between patients, families, and the nurses providing care.”



Regions Hospital Burn Center
Registered nurse focusing on direct bedside care for critically injured burn patients

“We work closely with firefighters to provide burn and fire prevention education. We also work with businesses to be part of their safety fairs and/or kids camps. We are very fortunate to have a Survivors Offering Assistance in Recovery program, which provides for former burn patients to come back to the burn center and visit with current patients. The SOAR program is instrumental in providing recovery experiences that the health care provider might not be able to offer.”

Be careful around campfires and do not leave children unattended around fires.
Keep water temperature down on hot water heaters.
Be aware of open flames in the kitchen and do not leave pots and pans unattended.



St. Francis Regional Medical Center, Allina Health
Emergency department patient care supervisor and Heart Safe coordinator

“Generating teams made up of patients, families, community volunteers, and health care specialists to earn a Heart Safe designation for a city illustrates many groups working together.
The impact is tremendous. Because of our work, rather than dying from a heart attack, there are dads who get to walk their daughters down wedding aisles and there are moms who get to bake cookies for their grandkids.”


“I like to think of nurses as the glue that holds health care together. Nurse case managers use
a lot of glue.”
— Diane MacLennan


Minneapolis VA Health Care System
Outpatient nurse case manager focusing on rehabilitation nursing case management with veteran and active-duty patients with traumatic brain injury and polytrauma

“Taken from an Abraham Lincoln speech in 1865, ‘to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan’ serves as the official motto of the VA and underscores the importance of our mission. My work has allowed me the opportunity to serve those true American heroes who have borne the battle. Many of the successes have been nothing short of miracles, and all were derived from strong partnerships between patients, families, and health care providers working toward common goals.”


“Outstanding nurses find hope in sometimes hopeless situations and then convey that hope to the patient.”
— Dona Maki


University of Minnesota Medical Center Gynecologic Cancer Clinic
Clinical care coordinator focusing on women in cancer treatment

“I worked with a young woman who had a germ cell cancer and went through chemotherapy at 17. It was stressful for her, her mom, and family. She eventually graduated high school and college, became an oncology nurse, had a daughter, and brought her baby to see us. She will still stop in to say hello and thank us, saying she and her family could not have gotten through this experience without my help.”



University of Minnesota Medical Center, Sports Surgery
Perianesthesia charge nurse for sports surgery, focusing on preoperative and postoperative care

“The most rewarding aspect of my job is connecting preoperatively with patients who are anxious and putting them at ease. Recently, a change of practice required us to send home surgical patients, rather than keeping them overnight. As a group, the nursing staff created an instructional DVD tailored to patients of complicated surgeries who are sent home. We used downtime to write a script, and several nurses acted the part of patient and nurse.”“The most rewarding aspect of my job is connecting preoperatively with patients who are anxious and putting them at ease. Recently, a change of practice required us to send home surgical patients, rather than keeping them overnight. As a group, the nursing staff created an instructional DVD tailored to patients of complicated surgeries who are sent home. We used downtime to write a script, and several nurses acted the part of patient and nurse.”

Don’t follow instructions without knowing the rationale. The greater your understanding, the more likely you are to stick with the treatment.
Treat pain aggressively so acute pain doesn’t turn into chronic pain.


“My favorite success stories are when I was able to provide actual patient care and also give emotional support and caring.”
— Jo McLaughlin


HealthPartners Medical Group and Clinics
Director for nursing and nutrition services, focusing on nursing leadership and specialty ambulatory care practice

“I will always remember a young child who was on dialysis and was awaiting a kidney transplant. One night the parents were not able to stay with her. Shortly after I started my shift, her call light went on and I went in to see what she needed. She was frightened about being alone. We moved her to a room closer to the nurse’s station. The rest of the night we were able to have someone stay at her bedside, and finally she was able to fall asleep.”

Take an active role in the management of your health and medical conditions.


“We are all human, all struggling in this world to make a good life for ourselves and those we care about.”
— Heather Nelson


Regions Hospital Emergency Center
Registered nurse focusing on emergency care and sexual assault examination; St. Paul Park firefighter

“Recently, in my role as a sexual assault nurse examiner, a patient was blaming herself because she was addicted to heroine and had been prostituting herself when a man kidnapped her and held her hostage for days, assaulting her frequently. We had nowhere to discharge this woman. The shelters were full, as was the hotel we frequently use for others in similar situations. I decided to take a chance. I reserved her a room at a different hotel, which gave me a huge discount. I got her a cab ride, gave her a bit of money for food, and told her to call me if she ran into major problems. I didn’t hear from her until several months later. She called me and told me she was in treatment, that I treated her like she was human—like she was a sister—and that it gave her the courage to change her life.”



Minnesota Oncology
Clinical nurse specialist focusing on direct patient care through cancer survivorship visits

“I had a young woman diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. Every night she wrote furiously, documenting important memories and words of wisdom for her children. I would just sit with her and listen. I brought her pads of yellow paper. When she went to hospice, she presented me with a five-page note thanking me for taking care of her soul. It has been 21 years. I still have that letter and pull it out to help me remember the importance of what I do.”



Ridgeview Medical Center Neonatal Care Unit
Registered nurse focusing on neonatal care and maternal child health

“Being an outstanding nurse requires you to be available to celebrate the phenomenal firsts (such as a first feeding), to hold hands and listen to a scared or frustrated parent, and to explain the complex equipment and procedures that surround a tiny new life.

“It requires you to be available to work an unscheduled shift in the middle of the night because triplets are being born; to help your fellow nurses; to be continually learning, applying, and adapting new information to provide the most up-to-date care with a positive attitude, smile, and sense of humor.”



Diamond Women’s Center
Certified nurse midwife focusing on the care of healthy women from adolescence through menopause, with a special focus on pregnancy and birth

“The word ‘midwife’ means ‘with woman.’ I have had the honor of welcoming hundreds of babies into parents’ loving arms. I am proud to have been the first midwife to receive hospital privileges at Abbott Northwestern Hospital and Fairview Southdale Hospital.

“There have been many advances in birth technology. However, there seems to be a focus on potential birth problems. Though this is well-intentioned, many women have such a fear of birth they lose sight of their own ability to develop a calm and welcoming approach to this life-changing event.”

Understand the power of birth. around campfires and do not leave children unattended around fires.
Have faith in your body. Know that it is competent and embrace its inner strength.

Judges' Profiles


Linda Chlan

University of Minnesota School of Nursing

Linda Chlan is an associate professor for the School of Nursing at the University of Minnesota. She has worked in the field of nursing for 28 years. She received both her master’s and doctorate from the U of M and completed additional postdoctoral research training at the University of Iowa. Her undergraduate degree is from the College of St. Scholastica in Duluth.

Chlan is the recipient of the Circle of Excellence award from the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses, the Presidential Citation for Service from the Society of Critical Care Medicine, and the DAISY Faculty Mentor Award from the U of M.


“The opportunity and privilege of nurses, to enter a life at its greatest need and offer not just their skill but themselves, is what drives us forward to serve.”
— Ranae Claeys


Mayo Clinic

Renae Claeys has been passionate about nursing for 13 years, with a professional background in the area of thoracic surgical progressive care. She began her career with Mayo in 2000 as a nurse aid, obtaining her associate’s degree at Rochester Community and Technical College and her undergraduate degree at Winona State University. She currently works in the perianesthesia care unit and the pediatric outpatient care area at Mayo.

Claeys volunteers for many committees and takes on leadership roles within her unit and hospital. She also volunteers for Smile Network International, taking mission trips to serve the children of Peru.








(Color text indicates winner and link to profile)

Greg Jones
St. Francis Regional Medical Center Emergency Department

Cindy Jurek
Mercy Hospital Intensive Care Unit Step Down

Michael Keegan
Fairview Southdale Hospital

Diane MacLennan
Minneapolis VA Health Care System

Anne-Cecile Malle-Barlow
Northwest Anesthesia

Dona Maki
University of Minnesota Medical Center Gynecologic Cancer Clinic

Jeanette Maruska
United Hospital Intensive Care Unit

Barbara McAnnany
University of Minnesota Medical Center, Sports Surgery

Jo McLaughlin
HealthPartners Medical Group and Clinics

William Miller
University of Minnesota Medical Center Cardiology

Tonya Montesinos
Abbott Northwestern Hospital Learning and Development

Heather Nelson
Regions Hospital Emergency Center

Michele O’Brien
Minnesota Oncology

Cynthia Olive
Minnesota Oncology

Jane Otte
Abbott Northwestern Hospital Mental Health Unit

Patty Reicks
North Memorial Medical Center Trauma Center

Thomas Scullard
Hennepin County Medical Center Medical Intensive Care Unit

Kay Siemon
North Memorial Medical Center Trauma Neurological Intensive Care Unit

Kari Sorenson
Ridgeview Medical Center Neonatal Care Unit

Susan Spear
Mercy Hospital

Sharon Stanke
Minneapolis VA Health Care System

Debra Stealey
Diamond Women’s Center

Helen Strike
St. Joseph’s Hospital Administration

Jenna Virant
United Hospital Orthopedic Services

Janna Viseth
United Hospital Birth Center

Barbara Walster
Regions Hospital Birth Center

Kelly White
North Memorial Medical Center Trauma Services

Melissa Adney
Regions Hospital Orthopedics

Wendi Baldwin
North Memorial Medical Center Neonatal Intensive Care Unit

Kathleen Barrett
Regions Hospital Digestive Care Center

Dawn Bazarko
UnitedHealth Group Center for Nursing Advancement

Elaine Bell
Park Nicollet Institute Frauenshuh Cancer Center

Michelle Berg
Ridgeview Specialty Clinic-Pediatric Integrative Medicine

Lisa Bird
Regions Hospital Cardiology

Connie Blackwell
North Metro Pediatrics

Chris Boese
Regions Hospital Administration

Susan Bold Schumacher
North Memorial Medical Center, Center for Clinical Excellence

Cleo Bonham
Minneapolis VA Health Care System Staff Education

Kristen Burress
Regions Hospital Outpatient Care

Linda Checky
Twin Cities Health Professionals Education Consortium

Suzanne Constantini
Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare

Tricia Daly
United Hospital Patient Care Float Pool

Carol Droegemueller
Regions Hospital Stroke Center

Lynn Duane
Twin Cities Health Professionals Education Consortium

Dominic Ehman
Regions Hospital Emergency Center

Beth Elchek LaVelle
Westfields Hospital

Denise Engel
Mayo Clinic Patient Education

Rebecca Englund
Regions Hospital Emergency Center

Sharon Eriksen
Neurosurgical Associates, Ltd.

Ann Foran
Abbott Northwestern Hospital Acute Pain Service

Mary Fritz-Barfnecht
Ridgeview Regional Radiation Oncology

Terry Granert
Abbott Northwestern Hospital Administration

Jill Johansen
Unity Hospital Oncology

Mark Johnston
Regions Hospital Burn Center

Slideshow: Meet the Winners

Meet Mpls.St.Paul Magazine’s 20 outstanding nurses of 2012.

All 54 finalists and 20 winners were honored at a July 19 event, which was presented by Allina Health and sponsored by the University of Minnesota School of Nursing and the Minnesota School of Business.