Rush University Medical Center is widely recognized as a leader in nursing excellence, and that leadership starts early.
The Illinois Nurses Foundation and the Illinois Healthcare Action Coalition recently chose eight nurses and nursing faculty members at Rush for the organization’s inaugural 40 Under 40 Emerging Nurse Leader Award winners. Only one other institution in Illinois had more than one nurse who received the award, which was given to honor leadership and commitment well beyond the nurses’ years.
Learn more about the nurses and the work they do:
Amber S. Kujath, PhD, RN, assistant professor, Adult Health and Gerontological Nursing, Rush University College of Nursing. Kujath has served as an officer in the local chapter of the National Association of Orthopaedics and is involved heavily in the Orthopaedic Nurses Certification Board. She has also served as an item writer for the registered nurse certification exam and is on the recertification committee. Her work also includes time with the American Diabetes Association summer camp program for children with Type 1 diabetes.
Nicole Murphy, surgical intensive care unit nurse, Rush University Medical Center. After a long-time surgical intensive care unit nurse passed away due to cancer, Murphy’s work with the SICU Recognition and Morale Committee helped create the Nurses Helping Nurses Foundation to support nurses and their families in times of need. The foundation helps nurses financially, memorializes nurses who have died and supports those who have suffered losses.
Natalie Velazquez, RN, assistant unit director and operating room nurse, Rush University Medical Center.Velazquez started a chapter of the Association of Perioperative Registered Nurses at Rush and has been president of the chapter for more than a year. She has a passion for volunteer work, initiating a winter coat and mittens drive for children in need. She also is quick to act: Velazquez recently took initiative in a code blue — an alert at a hospital when a patient is in need of resuscitation — and performed chest compressions on a patient.
Michelle Heyland, DNP, APN, nursing faculty member for Community, Systems and Mental Health Nursing, Rush University College of Nursing. Just one year after graduating as a nurse practitioner, Heyland assumed a leadership role at a progressive community mental health organization, Turning Point. There, she helped create a crisis center that supports individuals through difficult times while minimizing emergency department visits and psychiatric hospitalization. The model, called the Living Room, served 87 individuals during 228 visits during its first year. People were diverted from making emergency department trips on 213 occasions, representing a savings of approximately $550,000 to the state of Illinois.
Fawn A. Cothran, PhD, RN, assistant professor, Adult Health and Gerontological Nursing, Rush University College of Nursing. Cothran is working to help black caregivers for people with dementia. She is developing culturally tailored interventions to promote these caregivers’ physical and mental health, and in turn to improve quality of care for people with dementia.
Monique Reed, PhD, RN, assistant professor, Community Systems and Mental Health Nursing, Rush University College of Nursing. Reed’s research work focuses on identifying interventions to address the high rates of obesity in African-American daughters and mothers, as well as identifying best teaching strategies for nursing faculty to use in teaching students culturally competent care.
Christine Tatom, MSN, RN, CCRN, intensive care unit, Rush Oak Park Hospital. Tatom has made her mark in the community with her volunteer work for the Village of Oak Park and Rush Oak Park Hospital, where she holds several committee leadership roles. She dedicates her time to the Oak Park-River Forest Food Pantry and the village’s Emergency Response Team and Medical Response Corp. In addition, she spends time educating new nursing graduates.
Jennifer M. Grenier, MSN, RN-BC, director, Telemetry and Resource Team, Rush Oak Park Hospital. Grenier sees the empowerment of her staff of nurses as a direct way to advocate for higher levels of patient care. She has spearheaded many initiatives, including the creation of a daily report card for patients and families outlining the treatment plan and providing needed education. Most recently, Grenier has taken the lead on Rush Oak Park Hospital’s surplus project, which donates food not used at the hospital to a local food pantry.
I consciously joined the Navy just before the first Gulf War because I had no children and did not see the need for those who had families to risk the consequences of service. Friends and colleagues came back diagnosed (as adults) with pediatric cancers. They did not receive medals, rather a diagnosis that typically resulted in an amputated limb.
I went back to school, as a disabled veteran, to become a nurse to care for those who often have little voice in their prognosis. In the pediatric ICU at Rush, I have cared for children dealing with the ramifications of a cancer diagnosis. I encounter these brave souls as I teach our nursing students in the community.
In the military, one obviously faces danger and encounters enemies both foreign and domestic — often on a daily basis. That is what we signed up for — what we pledged our loyalty to. Children (and their families, however defined) never enlisted in a diagnosis that begins with the big “C.”
The most gratifying aspect of Rush’s Facebook page is the positive feedback we get from patients and their families. Since it’s National Nurses Week, we’re sharing a few comments they posted recently about the nursing staff at Rush.
Once again I’m in Rush sweating out the biopsy results. And once again I have to tell anyone listening that the nursing staff on 10 and 11 Kellogg are the best there is. … No matter how rotten I feel or rotten my attitude is, they manage to cheer me up, and for that I again say thanks so much. You ladies (well folks, there is a guy or two in this mix as well and they are just as good) are the poster children for angels of mercy.
I cannot begin to tell you how great the nurses and the ER room were. I almost hated to leave. The nurses were so kind and attentive. They were just great! They kept me updated and made sure that I was OK. … I would highly recommend the Rush ER to anyone.
I came in for a three-day stay to run another course of chemotherapy. I was amazed at how well I was treated. The nursing staff at Rush is one of the best I’ve ever seen. It’s very hard for cancer patients to keep up their spirits, but the nurses there do their very best to keep you in a better mood while providing superb medical care. Ladies and the occasional gentleman, thank you all.
A BIG thank you to all of the nurses on the transplant floor! All of you were truly amazing!
Thank you to all the nurses, especially to those who took care of me and my son during labor and after delivery.
All the nurses we had for my husband’s cancer treatment were wonderful. Thank you!
The nurses who took care of me after my spinal fusion surgery were amazing! God bless you all!
To the nurses and PCTs on ninth floor north you helped me through the scariest time in my life!
Mary Pat Serrano, RN, is a Rush pediatric intensive care nurse and one of 10 national finalists for Johnson & Johnson’s Amazing Nurses 2013. She was nominated by Rush colleague Jennifer Wolf, RN, who wrote the following introduction:
Mary Pat Serrano
Mary Pat Serrano is not only an excellent Pediatric ICU nurse, she is also a truly genuine person who has the ability to build rapport with her patients and families like no other nurse I have ever worked with in my 12 years as a nurse in the PICU.
Mary Pat has an infectiously positive attitude that always sets the tone for the rest of the staff. And, whether she’s helping her peers or lending her patients and their families a shoulder to cry on, Mary Pat is always there — no questions asked.
During November 2012, an oncology patient was distraught about starting chemotherapy and losing her hair. To cheer her up, Mary Pat told the patient that she would shave her own head so that they could be bald together. The patient didn’t believe her. That is, not until Mary Pat arranged for a staff member to come to the patient’s room with hair trimmers.
What is your identity? Identity is a multifaceted concept rooted in culture, religion, sexual orientation, profession, personal philosophy, social roles in society and many other forces driven by nature and environment. There is no right or wrong answer. How I define myself may change over time and may be different than how others perceive me.
I am a faculty member at Rush University College of Nursing. I teach public health, community-based mental health, epidemiology and biostatistics and conduct research to improve the quality of life for people with intellectual/developmental disabilities. I am also a retired noncommissioned officer of the United States Navy, a hospital corpsman, and a 100 percent disabled Gulf War veteran. So what is my identity?
“Care is taken not to disturb any seriously ill patients,” the caption explains, “but all others seem to regard this as a happy way of ushering in the Christmas day that is to be spent in the hospital.”