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April 26th, 2020

Nurses: The Heart of Health Care winners for 2020

Courtesy of The Times of Northwest Indiana • April 26, 2020

The Times of Northwest Indiana salutes the top nurses in the Region based on popular vote and peer review:

Janee Babbitt, RN, St. Catherine Hospital

Janee Babbitt, a charge nurse in the intensive care unit at St. Catherine Hospital in East Chicago, got her start in critical care 34 years ago.

Doing her part to give every patient a fighting chance is what motivates her every day. The successes she has seen in her career also give her hope, particularly in the darkest moments.

“Probably the most rewarding part of my job is when a patient gets better and comes back to see you,” said Babbitt, who was voted a top nurse in the Region. “Getting people better and getting them back to their families — that’s what it’s always been about for me, especially with people you don’t think are going to survive.”

In nominating Babbitt for the honor, Stephanie Hernandez, a registered nurse who works in critical care, said: “Not only did she take care of her patients with the utmost quality, she took care of her nurses. She never let us sink. She always was an advocate of being a team player and displayed that everyday. I learned a lot from her that will stay with me for a lifetime.”

Dawn Clark, RN, Methodist Hospitals Northlake

A nurse on 3 South at Methodist Hospital Northlake Campus in Gary, Dawn Clark, is working in the COVID-19 unit, which she said is a challenge. She is risking her life to help others.

She spends three long days on a shift and then gets three off to sleep and take care of herself and her family. Clark, selected a top nurse in the Region by peer review, is known to go the extra mile for her patients.

“My patient had asthma and had been hospitalized. She then lost her job and her insurance, and because she didn’t have the money, she couldn’t get her medication, which landed her back in the hospital,” Clark said. “When she was about to be discharged, I learned that she again could not pay for her medicine, so I called the pharmacy. I paid the $25 for her medication because otherwise she’d end up hospitalized a third time.”

In nominating Clark, Mary Jo Valentine, a member of the Methodist marketing team, said: “Dawn paid for the patient’s medicine prior to discharge. She paid for it out of her own pocket and didn’t have to. Dawn’s kind actions brought the patient to tears because of her generosity.”

This is just one of the reasons Clark also won a DAISY Award that recognizes extraordinary nurses who make an enormous difference in the lives of others through their clinical skills and compassionate care.

Rachel Day, BSN, RN, Porter Regional Hospital

After experiencing childhood health issues that prompted multiple doctor visits and hospital trips, Rachel Day knew what the future held for her.

“Seeing the support of caring nurses gave me direction on how to field my own compassion for others into a purposeful profession,” said Day, who was selected a top nurse in the Region by peer review.

“My favorite aspect of my job is being able to lift others and lead and guide them into nurses who act with compassion and advocacy for our patients,” she said of her work as clinical manager of the intermediate care unit and progressive care at Porter Regional Hospital, Valparaiso. “I also enjoy that in my position, I still am able to interact and help care for patients.”

In nominating her, Shelby Heavilin, said that Day brings out the best in her coworkers, patients and anyone else who crosses her path in this difficult time.

“She maintains harmony within her team and puts in whatever work is necessary,” Heavilin said. “She strives for superior levels of patient care and is always searching for the best ways to provide even better outcomes.”

Jennifer Jimenez, RN, FNP, BC, PMHNP, St. Catherine Hospital

“I’m a hugger by nature, and I can’t hug anyone now,” said Jennifer Jimenez, a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner at St. Catherine Hospital. “A lot of the hospital’s policies have changed, and I work with patients who are in for mental health issues and who are COVID-19 positive.

“I still do telephone visits instead of personal ones, but it’s tough because I love to see my patients and give hugs.”

Jimenez, who was selected as a top nurse in the Region by peer review, knew she wanted to be a nurse at age 8 when she helped care for her grandfather, who had lung cancer.

“I helped him do almost everything,” Jimenez said. “As I grew older, I’ve always been a person who loves people, and I never could imagine doing anything else. I really liked taking care of people.”

Her career has taken many twists — pediatrics to private practice to psychiatric to teaching.

In nominating Jimenez, Emily Johns, who studied under her at Purdue North Central and now works with her, said: “She wants to change the world by healing the minds of the most broken individuals in the Region. When I first met her almost 10 years ago, she was this amazing, larger-than-life nurse. She continues to demonstrate the art of caring in nursing.”

Melissa Meadows, RN, BSN, Franciscan Health Crown Point

Melissa Meadows had always wanted to go into nursing.

“I love to care for people, and I always felt like I was a good caregiver,” she said. But the road to get there took a little longer than anticipated. After high school, she started nursing school, but then married and got busy rearing a family.

“My mother always perseveres and has absolutely flourished as a nurse over the years. She has achieved it herself while raising three children,” said her daughter, Audrey Burgess. “She loves her profession and has become advanced in her career. … What a role model I have.”

Meadows, who was chosen a top nurse in the Region by peer review, is patient care coordinator on the third floor medical/pediatric unit at Franciscan Health Crown Point.

In nominating her for the honor, Michael Polomchak, a fellow RN, said: “Melissa is a cornucopia of joyful energy. Her personality is a ray of sunshine that can pierce even the most downtrodden of souls.”

Amy Mirowski, RN, BSN, Franciscan Health Dyer

Brenda Roach, whose mother, Hope Jones, passed away in Franciscan Health Dyer’s ICU in January, feels certain that God places angels in the ICU, and counts Amy Mirowski as the angel who especially blessed Roach’s mother and her family. “Amy exemplified God’s grace and mercy. She eased our mother’s fear and pain as well as our own.”

Mirowski, who was named a top nurse in the Region by peer review, draws inspiration from “Patch Adams,” a movie based on the true story of a doctor who incorporated joy and laughter into every treatment plan.

Joy is something Mirowski strives to bring into the ICU in her interactions with patients and their families. It’s a mission that began some 30 years ago. “Looking back, I didn’t know what to expect. The patients are sicker and older, and the cases are more complicated, than I thought they would be.”

In nominating her, Candy Anderson, an RN and another daughter of Hope Jones, said: “It was Amy’s personal connection with my mom as well as her ability to bring out a playfulness and smile even toward the end that set Amy apart from the other wonderful people who cared for my mom. Our mom may have earned her wings but Amy helped to give her the peace and courage to be able to fly. Our family will be forever grateful to Amy.”

Angie Pigg, RN, LPN, St. Mary Medical Center

Angie Pigg runs the intermediate care unit at St. Mary Medical Center in Hobart, and she teaches the next generation of health care workers how it’s done.

“I love sharing my knowledge and experience with others, whether it’s a classroom type setting or just a conversation in the break room,” said Pigg, who was chosen a top nurse in the Region by peer review. “Sharing our experiences is how we all learn the nuances of nursing.”

For more than 20 years, Pigg has been a nurse at various stops in Northwest Indiana. She has worked in the IMCU at St. Mary Medical Center for the last five years.

Compassion is one thing Pigg isn’t short on. “I knew early on that I wanted to help others,” she said. “There’s no feeling like it.”

In nominating Pigg, teammate Kelly Brajacki said: “Angie is an amazing nurse. During the five years we have worked together in the IMCU, I’ve witnessed her compassion for patients daily. Her empathy is evident from the moment she meets a patient until she helps get better and go back home.”

Jamie Pritchard, LPN, WCC, AWCC, RAC-CT, COCN, CWCN, Symphony Chesterton

“I always said, since I was little, I wanted to be a nurse,” said Jamie Pritchard, director of wound care at Symphony Chesterton, a transitional care and assisted living facility.

She said she isn’t sure what attracted her to nursing as a girl. Pritchard, who was selected as a top nurse in the Region by peer review, even tried other fields, including marketing, law and banking, but she always came back to the medical world.

Pritchard, who also has worked in a variety of specialties, including the emergency room, obstetrics and neonatal intensive care, was finally drawn to wound care, which has accounted for more than 10 of her 15 years in nursing. She enjoys explaining to patients what needs to be done to wounds and why to help her relate to her patients and put them more at ease.

In nominating Pritchard for the honor, Samantha Mahoney, a nurse at Symphony Chesterton, said: “Her commitment to wound care is an inspiration to many. She developed our wound department into a successful healing environment with an emphasis on patient and family education.”

Sadie Urbanski, CNA, RN, BNA, Oak Grove Christian Retirement Village

As the pandemic rages, Sadie Urbanski, a registered nurse at Oak Grove Christian Retirement Village in DeMotte, worries about the effects of the coronavirus. But it’s not for her own health and safety; instead, her concerns focus on the people in her care.

“There are so many things going on now that are so hard for them, such as no one can visit, which is very lonely for our patients,” said Urbanski, who was selected a top nurse in the Region by peer review. “Also, our patients are used to participating in group activities and being able to do things together, and now they need to stay 6 feet apart.”

Urbanski added that care is as much about meeting physical needs. “It’s about providing compassion and care as well during this time because that’s so important to their well-being.

“My elderly grandmother had memory issues and had to be placed in a nursing home,” says Urbanski. “We would go visit her there and I liked the staff and the people who lived there and knew it was the type of place where I wanted to work. I have a great heart for this population.”

In nominating Urbanski, Alexis Rose, a registered nurse, director of nursing at Aperion Care Arbors Michigan City and a friend since high school, said: “That’s so Sadie. She cares for her patients as if they are family. They’re No. 1 as far as she’s concerned.”

Debra VanWoerden BSN, CMSRN, Methodist Hospitals Southlake

Like many in the profession, Deb VanWoerden grew up in a family of nurses.

And though neither her mother nor aunt necessarily encouraged her to follow them into the field, her early fascination with medical research and patient care propelled her into a diverse and gratifying nursing career at Methodist Hospitals that is approaching three decades.

She currently manages the staff of an orthopedic medical-surgical unit, where she continues to find daily reminders of why she got into nursing.

“I am very passionate about giving the best patient care to everyone who comes through these doors,” said VanWoerden, who was selected a top nurse in the Region by peer review. “From the time I was a staff nurse, my manager would give me the difficult patients because she knew I would take care of them and make their hospital experience better. I try to live by our Methodist mission statement to provide quality care to all patients in need.”

In nominating her, Dawn Magiera, an executive assistant at Methodist who worked with VanWoerden for five years, said: “Deb truly cares for her staff and her patients, and, in turn, her staff and the physicians highly regard and respect her. She has often been seen coming in early in the morning to visit with her midnight shift and rounding on her patients, then leaving late to make sure she sees everyone again. She truly models the statement ‘every patient, every day.’ ”

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