May 8th, 2006

Four Great River Medical Center nurses are among 100 Great Iowa Nurses chosen by the Iowa Nurses Association, Iowa Nurses Foundation, Iowa Hospital Association and University of Iowa College of Nursing. Awards are based on nurses’ concern for humanity, contributions to the nursing profession, and examples of leadership and mentoring.

They registered nurses are:

• Gail Boyd, director of Surgical Services, Burlington
• Kathy Menke, staff nurse, Psychiatric Care Unit, Burlington
• Robin Nevling, supervisor, Acute Care Center, Burlington
• Chris Oleson, director, Great River Home Health Care and Hospice, West Burlington

They will be honored Tuesday, May 9, in Des Moines. Every year, National Nurses Week begins May 6 and ends May 12, Florence Nightingale’s birthday. She is considered the founder of modern nursing.

“It’s significant that the ceremony falls during the week of Florence Nightingale’s birthday,” said Liz Swanson, director of external relations and associate professor at the university’s College of Nursing. “The purpose of the award is to provide the citizens of Iowa the opportunity to recognize nurses across the state. Nurses aren’t accustomed to being honored so it will heighten the visibility of nursing in Iowa.”

In its second year, 100 Great Iowa Nurses is modeled after a program created in Louisiana in 1986 that has been adopted by nursing organizations around the country. The nomination committee received about 270 nominations, approximately 75 more than in 2005. Nominations from colleagues, patients and others were first evaluated by 21 reviewers around the state. Final selection was determined by representatives of the Iowa Hospital Association, Iowa Nurses Association and the Iowa Nurses Foundation.

The award-winning nurses work in hospitals, physician offices, nursing and rehabilitation centers, home health care and hospice, school districts, and colleges and universities.

“We’re delighted with this affirmation that Great River Medical Center nurses provide excellent care,” said Vice President of Nursing Edna Smull. “Even before being named among 100 Great Iowa Nurses, these four women have been recognized as leaders in the hospital and their communities. As you read about each nurse, you will recognize the differences each has made in the lives they have touched. The nursing profession is a blessing, privilege and honor. I am proud to be their colleague.”

Gail Boyd, R.N., B.S.N.
Boyd has done more than see many changes at Great River Medical Center; she has been an influential force behind them. When she began working as a staff nurse at the hospital in 1981, she couldn’t have predicted her future.

As a nurse manager, Boyd helped the Emergency Department develop into a model for treatment of critical injuries and illnesses. Having proved her organizational skills, she facilitated the patient move from the old hospital to Great River Medical Center in 2000. This included working with other hospitals and other organizations to coordinate the use of 13 ambulances. Nurses certified in advanced cardiac life support accompanied each patient during the move, which was completed hours before scheduled and without a single complication.

A new Emergency Department was awaiting her direction, but her nursing career took another path. The Surgical Services Department needed a director and a temporary assignment became a permanent commitment. Always a leader, she has helped implement many changes in an area in which she had little experience. Surgical procedures start on time and new initiatives have been implemented to improve patient care.

“Gail is a role model for new managers and supervisors,” said Surgical Services Manager Ramona DeSotel, R.N. “She has a kind way of mentoring each person she works with, and she creates excitement about the things that need to be done. She’s an excellent representative of the nursing profession.”

Robin Nevling, R.N., B.S.N.
Nevling’s experiences as an Emergency Department nurse led to her opening the Burlington Homeless Shelter in 2001.

“People were coming into the department and we had no place to send them,” said Nevling, who has worked at Great River Medical Center since 1993. She is a clinical supervisor in the Acute Care Center.

In two years, she found a house for the shelter she envisioned, applied for grants to purchase the property, assembled a board of directors, hired staff and opened the shelter. She continues to serve on the board and give community-education programs on the homeless.

Nevling has been a nursing instructor at Southeastern Community College. She teaches an advanced scope of practice course for licensed practical nurses at the hospital, and is pursuing her Master of Science degree in nursing from the University of Phoenix.

Kathy Menke, R.N.
Menke’s most rewarding nursing experience also was the saddest. But working at Ground Zero in the aftermath of the 9-11 tragedy increased her desire to help people with emotional and psychological problems.

Living in Pennsylvania, she had been thinking about becoming a Red Cross volunteer. Although she had been a nurse for 10 years by then, volunteers are required to complete several disaster classes and participate in five local disasters before helping in national incidents. But this one was different. There was a shortage of nurses and mental-health workers. Menke took an intensive three-day training course in Philadelphia and was one on her way to New York City.

She kept a journal and has shared it with others at churches, fire departments and nursing schools.

Before moving to Iowa in 2003, Menke was the medical training coordinator for VisionQuest®, organization that provides innovative intervention services to at-risk youth and families. The program, which is offered in eight states, help kids deal with their pasts, experience success, and make plans for their future.

Menke teaches a nonviolent crisis intervention course at Great River Medical Center. She is earning her Bachelor of Science degree in nursing at the University of Iowa.

Chris Oleson, R.N.
Oleson began working as a staff nurse at Great River Medical Center in 1978. Her passion and driving force are the patients of Great River Home Health Care and Hospice. As director, she has many administrative duties, but she always serves patients first. On many occasions, she has spent hours on the telephone arranging patient care for unusual or exceptional cases.

Great River Home Health Care and Hospice has consistently high scores on patient-satisfaction surveys, and Oleson passionately continues to pursue new and better ways to meet patient and family needs in the hospice program.

She was pivotal in developing Great River Hospice three years ago. There were 50 patients the first year. Now, hospice serves more than 200 each year. A new office in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa, opened in September 2005. Oleson is leading the way for the development of a hospice house to be built on Great River Medical Center’s campus.

Oleson is treasurer of the Iowa Hospice Organization’s Board of Directors. She returns from seminars and training programs excited and inspired, and spreads her enthusiasm throughout the department. Oleson believes in her staff and effectively encourages them to be the best they can be.