Meet Our Award Recipients
Selected from over 130 nominations, this year’s Florence Nightingale Awards for Excellence in Nursing recipients include seven extraordinary individuals who demonstrate the great nursing talent in the Greater Cincinnati region. These professionals combine intelligence, critical thinking, and compassion, working tirelessly to provide exceptional care and advance the field of nursing.
In the past year, as the COVID-19 pandemic upended all facets of life, these nurses continued to put their patients first, connecting them with much-needed resources, working extra hours to stay with them in hospitals when no one else could, and mitigating the impact on vulnerable populations most at risk of worsening health outcomes because of the virus.
Meet our 2021 award recipients!
- Felicia Beckham, The Health Experiences
- Jill Jewell, The Christ Hospital Health Network
- Lindsey Justice, Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center
- Brittni O'Leary, TriHealth
- Andrea Owens, St. Elizabeth Healthcare
- Imani Rugless, University of Cincinnati Medical Center
Interprofessional Team-Leader Award:
Felicia Beckham, MSN, RN, FNP-BC
The Health Experiences
Certified Family Nurse Practitioner Felicia Beckham treats every patient as a unique human being with a past, present, and future. Whether counseling individuals with diabetes or caring for those facing mental health and substance abuse challenges, her focus is on improving health disparities through individualized care. “Sometimes people are looked upon as less than, and they feel that,” Beckham says. She believes that each person who walks into a clinic, regardless of past choices, background, or appearance, is making a choice to better their health care outcomes. “And we (as practitioners) should be helping them do that,” she says. This means recognizing the challenges patients in underserved communities face and modifying their plan of care based on such needs. Beyond the clinical space, Beckham “reaches out to the community to provide counsel, support, and services wherever she can,” notes a colleague. She is a frequent health educator and speaker for a variety of organizations and media outlets, serves on the Cincinnati Health Department’s COVID-19 Task Force, and founded Cincinnati’s Black Nurse Practitioner Network in 2019. Beckham believes that more diverse nurses and nurse practitioners are needed in health care. “When a nurse practitioner can relate and empathize with their patients from the cultural or socioeconomic standpoint, a rapport and comfortability is established, trust is built, the patient is humanized, the patient becomes an active participant in their health care, and their health care outcomes improve,” she says.
When nurse practitioners can relate and empathize with their patients ... health outcomes improve.
Jenn Hall, MSN, RN-BC, SANE, FNE
TriHealth Center for Rape and Emergency Services (CARES)
Since 2013 and throughout the pandemic, Jenn Hall has successfully coordinated a growing team of dedicated advocates for assault victims through the Center for Rape and Emergency Services (CARES) at TriHealth. Serving six hospitals, CARES partners with Women Helping Women and works with universities, law enforcement, and many crisis agencies to assist victims of sexual assault, domestic violence, human trafficking, and elder abuse. Hall and her 25-member team are on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. In addition to providing education in schools and communities about safety and domestic violence, CARES advocates remain with patients in hospital emergency departments and follow them through court systems, support groups, and beyond. The program’s caseload increased significantly due to pandemic-related stressors, says Hall, making their roles more urgent, yet more challenging due to hospital restrictions, quarantining requirements, and a team spread thin due to personal sickness and increased nursing demands. Nonetheless, CARES advocates remained at victims’ bedsides during the height of the pandemic, a priority Hall fought to maintain. Colleagues credit her leadership and perseverance for fostering cohesiveness and continuity of service. Described as a “deeply empathetic nurse,” Hall shrugs off the praise. She lauds “the best team in the world” for their work. “To take this kind of job, you have to want this job,” she says.
To take this kind of job, you have to want this job.
Jill Jewell, BSN, RN, PCCN
The Christ Hospital Health Network
Jill Jewell is described by colleagues as “heroic, positive, proactive, and forward-thinking” for her leadership of the COVID-19 medical surgical unit at The Christ Hospital. At the helm of a new cardiac step-down unit, Jewell and her team had to pivot quickly to care for COVID-19 patients at the onset of the pandemic. “Jill took on more in her first year as a manager than others will their entire career, and throughout it all she has remained calm and resilient,” says one colleague. Jewell, who prefers “we” to “I” as she speaks of her work this past year, says her team and the patients they serve motivate her. Tackling changing protocols, medications, and uncertainties about the virus presented challenges that her cohort (40 to date) has managed with resilience, she says. Caring for patients who are scared and extraordinarily isolated requires a strong sense of purpose. Nursing “is a service profession,” she says. “It isn’t glamorous. We don’t have the greatest hours, but I do think that it’s a calling for people who come to it. And even in times when it’s as bad as it was with COVID-19, nurses still rose to the challenges that were brought to them and have managed to care for patients the best we possibly could.” Now, nurses themselves need to heal from the emotional toll of the pandemic, she adds.
Even in times when it's as bad as it was with COVID-19, nurses still rose to the challenges that were brought to them.
Lindsey Justice, DNP, APRN, CPNP-AC
Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center
As the lead advanced practice nurse in Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center’s cardiac ICU, Lindsey Justice maintains a specialized team that tends to the most critical and complex patients. And she does so with “care that reaches beyond the bedside to the families of her patients,” one colleague says. Admiring the resiliency of the children she serves, Justice strives to bond with and provide for each unique family, noting that despite the sharing of a complex physiology and equal care, disparities in health outcomes may occur due to other realities, including communication difficulties and cultural beliefs and expectations. COVID-19 has further “taxed the health care system, and the at-risk population that already has heart disorders and lives in a complex state of health, so the virus puts them at risk for negative outcomes,” she states. A mentor, teacher, and leader, Justice “embraces and models the core values of respect and diversity” in each of her roles, notes a colleague. And this commitment extends outside CCHMC. On a national level, Justice recently helped develop a diversity and inclusion advisory committee as part of the Pediatric Cardiac Intensive Care Society (PCIS) and she co-led the development and implementation of new PCIS APP curriculum and exam development for CICU advanced practice providers. She also advocates for advanced practice nurses with the Ohio Board of Nursing and is committed to providing equal opportunities for training and advancement at CCHMC and beyond.
(COVID-19) has further taxed the health care system and at-risk population ... so the virus puts them at risk for negative outcomes.
Brittni O'Leary, BSN, RN, C-EFM
"I understand" is a frequent conversation starter for Brittni O'Leary as she interacts with expectant mothers, whether she is talking with a patient at TriHealth Good Samaritan Hospital or working with a mom at First Step Home, an addiction recovery center. She first acknowledges her patients' experiences; then she works to educate them about what comes next. O'Leary is "not afraid to delve into social issues that can be road blocks for patients," notes her colleague. Many of the women she cares for have experienced significant trauma, prompting O'Leary to create a Trauma Informed Healthcare Plan. This plan is now widely used among the hospital's HOPE (Helping Opiate-Addicted Pregnant Women Evolve) patients to consistently communicate essential details about each patient’s history and triggers. Such information is crucial to successful, individualized care, she says. Yet, no patient should be judged by a clinician. "This is a person. This is not a diagnosis," O'Leary says. As a result of O'Leary’s advocacy, local agencies, judges, police, and foster parents are now involved with HOPE. O'Leary has also promoted and now provides newborn education for foster parents, donating "foster care bags" of feeding support information, sleep sacks, and educational material.
This (patient) is a person. This is not a diagnosis.
Andrea Owens, BSN, CMS, RN
St. Elizabeth Health Care
Attentive, hands-on bedside care for every patient defines Andrea Owens. Yet as a colleague explains, she takes "patient/family care to a new, extraordinary level," as evidenced in her recent treatment of critically ill patients in the hospital’s COVID-19 ICU unit. After her own father-in-law became dangerously ill, Owens says she felt the impact of the virus in a new way and she appreciated the caring nurses who understood her family’s distress. “I want to be that person, not only for my patient, but for their families,” she states. Owens fulfilled this call for one patient who recounts a dark moment: "All I could feel was a scary, dark haze as my lungs fought to find air. It was then I felt her gloved hand in mine and heard her say, 'I won’t leave you.''' Owens' presence during this patient’s long battle included staying long after her shifts to provide personal care, to pray with her patient and, on one occasion, to sing to her. She also organized donations for the patient’s husband and small children, who were recovering from COVID-19 themselves. To Owens, none of this is extraordinary, but she says the outpouring of support is emboldening. "Why not do more?" she asks. "If it's good for the patients, let’s step out of the box."
I want to be that person, not only for my patients, but for their families.
Imani Rugless, BSN, RN
University of Cincinnati Medical Center
Long hours in the obstetric (OB) antepartum and postpartum unit, coupled with her own experience as a mother, have given Imani Rugless insight into what new moms need. But diapers, toilet paper and personal care items were all in short supply during the pandemic lockdown, and even more scarce for already underserved communities. Unable to help her patients locate such essential items, Rugless, who is studying to be a midwife, reached out to the community for help and established the "Love, Mom" care package initiative. She collected $1,700 and 99 boxes of supplies for distribution to new families. "Her program helped many mothers in the city and helps set the tone for what it can mean to be a nurse," writes one colleague. Rugless is also a mentor and a role model, reaching out to minority students through programs at Cincinnati Public Schools and the University of Cincinnati. Described as a "beautiful, giving soul, who looks for absolutely nothing in return from anyone," Rugless says what motivates her is simply a basic respect for every patient. "I’m a patient myself," she says. "I’m gonna give you that respect. This is someone’s family member; it’s not just my patient. This is someone’s daughter. This is someone’s mother or son. If I left someone in their care, I would want them to give them their best self."
I'm a patient myself. I'm going to give you that respect.