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HCA Healthcare Excellence in Nursing: Professional Mentoring

Female nurse touching pointer finger with patient's pointer finger
Leah Farrell

Female nurse in teal scrubs

Professional Mentoring Recipient: Leah Farrell, RN, BSN, CMSRN, CNRN, SCRN, Swedish Medical Center, Englewood, CO

There’s going to be a lot of crying,” Leah Farrell says, laughing when asked what being a nurse mentor is really like. She’s mostly joking, but the easy, straightforward way she answers that question shows why nursing students feel so comfortable around her.

“When you’re brand new, you’re just trying to figure out how to be a nurse,” she says. “Neuro is a very complicated unit, and I love to help nurses figure out first steps, and then next steps. Seeing their faces light up when they do something challenging — it’s so rewarding.”

It’s important to Farrell that nurses have a support system like she had when she started. During her nine years at Swedish Medical Center, the Neuro Mentor Program lapsed, so Farrell made it her mission to bring it back — and she did that and then some.

“Leah has been so successful at helping new nurses enter SMC’s family that the department’s first-year turnover rate is down to 8.4 percent,” says chief nursing officer Ryan Thornton. “Whether she’s leading a new certification class or developing unit curriculum, Leah is always focused on how to grow our nursing skills and knowledge so we can provide the best possible out-comes for our patients.”

As transition specialist, Farrell has coordinated clinical journeys for more than 100 student nurses. She implemented interdisciplinary rounds in the neuro unit, in which every discipline (rehab, case management, pharmacy, neurology) rounds together on each stroke patient every day. The rounds — which the Joint Commission identified as a best practice — are now being done on other units, and they led to her department receiving a HCA Healthcare Med-Surg Unit of Distinction award in 2015. Over the past few years, she’s been named everything from Employee of the Month to the SMC Day Nurse with the most positive attitude.

“Leah Farrell was my lifeline when I started here,” says clinical nurse coordinator Lindsey Boswell. “She provided guidance and support, and she encouraged me to keep growing in my career, which is what led me to become a clinical nurse coordinator. She conveys the joy of being a nurse while helping her students through their fears and anxieties. Leah is a model of inspiration.”

Woman wearing black top and pink cardigan

Professional Mentoring Recipient: Karen Giovengo, MSN, RN, CNL, Director of Medical/Oncology/Pediatrics, St. Lucie Medical Center, Port St. Lucie, FL

Karen Giovengo know what people need to be successful: each other. Rising from RN to director of medical/oncology/pediatrics over 15 years at St. Lucie Medical Center (SLMC), Giovengo says the secret to creating a thriving, happy team is nurturing talent where you find it.

“Karen wants other nurses to see all of the opportunities she has had at SLMC to learn and grow,” says chief nursing officer Nancy Hilton, “which makes her a strong clinical expert and true mentor to others.”

Giovengo’s biggest accomplishment in that arena is the RN Residency Program, which includes many touch points for new RNs: meetings with leadership; a new-hire breakfast; hands-on development days with experienced nurses; and a scavenger hunt she digitized in order to engage millennial RNs. It’s working — last year, Giovengo’s staff gave her an overall favorability score of 85 percent, and unit turnover decreased from 15 percent to 9.6 percent.

Giovengo has a reputation for being someone you can count on, in good circum-stances or bad. When one of her nurse techs didn’t pass her NCLEX exam, Giovengo coached her to a passing grade on the second try. When a patient had to move up a scheduled C-section and her fiancé asked if her team could help him throw a wedding — two hours before the procedure — Giovengo didn’t flinch.

“Karen picked up a cake, decorations, flowers and supplies to make a veil,” recalls Hilton. “She even called her father, a minister, to get him to officiate! That’s the kind of thing that happens because of Karen’s connections with her staff and patients.”

Giovengo’s influence reaches beyond the nursing station. She has chaired the Skin Team for more than eight years, hosting a hospital-wide Skin Fair and leading the hospital to record-low rates of pressure ulcers. She mentors patient care assistants, one of whom recently identified a patient experiencing a stroke because of what she learned from Giovengo. And in 2017, her unit was awarded HCA Healthcare’s Med-Surg Unit of Distinction Award. Everyone agrees Giovengo makes the world brighter, one person at a time.

“I like to see the nurses grow — to see their passion take hold,” says Giovengo. “To be a good mentor, you have to love nursing, believe in yourself and have something to give. I’m so honored and grateful my co-workers see that ability in me.”

Female nurse wearing blue scrubs

Professional Mentoring Recipient: Barbara Rees, RN, PhD, Redmond Regional Medical Center, Rome, GA

Soon after she graduated from the Ohio State University’s Nursing Program, Barbara Rees showed an ability to help other nurses develop their skills. A supervisor on the orthopedic unit where she worked told her she would be a wonderful teacher, and urged her to apply for an instructor position at St. Anthony’s School of Nursing.

“That started everything,” she says.

She got the teaching job and has combined her love of the nursing profession, and her skill in teaching others to excel as nurses, ever since. For nearly 40 years, she has been both instructor and working nurse. She joined Redmond Regional in 1978 as a part-time RN, while she taught at nearby Georgia Highlands College. Over the years, she also raised four children along with her husband, earned her PhD in nursing and had some research papers published. After retiring from academia in 2012, she took a full-time position at Redmond, where she serves as a preceptor for nursing students and new graduates.

Her dedication to the next generation of nurses is heartfelt. She reaches out to students who are struggling to pass the licensing exam, devoting her personal time to help them prepare for the test. She tutors them on her days off, and after work at her home. She loans them textbooks and directs them to websites for studying. She quizzes them with sample test questions, helping build their confidence so their subject knowledge outweighs testing nervousness.

“When I see someone who has all the qualities to make a good nurse, someone who has put a lot of themselves into studying and sacrifices time with family and friends to achieve something that they value, I want to work with them to achieve their goals,” she says. “God put us here to help others. I feel that and it is near and dear to me. It is the right thing to do.”

Her knowledge and leadership are equally valued by her colleagues. She steps up to assist whenever she sees the need, and never hesitates to help when asked. Her compassion and encouragement create a positive atmosphere for all.

“Nursing is a great profession,” she says. “I can’t think of anything else that I would want to do.”

Woman wearing white top

Professional Mentoring Finalist: Requel Simons, RNT, Pediatric ICU Clinical Practice Educator, The Harley Street Clinic, London, UK

A lot of people say they’ll do whatever it takes to get the job done, but very few deliver on that promise. Raquel Simoes does it every day at The Harley Street Clinic. As nurse educator, Simoes is always available for her students, often turning on-the-job situations into teaching moments.

Simoes wants to ensure nurses succeed at the task at hand, but also that established professionals never stop learning. That desire led her to create the Certificate of Excellence program, a motivational framework that encourages colleagues to reach milestones related to consistency, competency, documentation, professionalism and compassionate care.

Using data to provide better care is a defining feature of Simoes’s career. When she learned patients were reporting a lack of care plan communication and emotional connection with staff, she created a training plan to address it. The program improved patient satisfaction and staff engagement so much it was extended to all departments.

“No job is too big or too small for Raquel,” says chief executive officer Aida Yousefi. “She is always jumping in and helping out: leading the Preceptorship Programme for nursing graduates; creating new workbooks; developing a pediatric cardiac services pathway; organizing fun activities for the children in our care; or creating leaflets for PICU parents.

“She can light up a room with her charisma and confidence, and in difficult situations, her calm manner makes everything less chaotic. Raquel is a rock.”

About HCA Healthcare

HCA Healthcare, one of the nation's leading providers of healthcare services, is comprised of 186 hospitals and more than 2,000 sites of care, in 20 states and the United Kingdom. Our approximately 275,000 colleagues are connected by a single purpose — to give patients healthier tomorrows.

As an enterprise, we recognize the significant responsibility we have as a leading healthcare provider within each of the communities we serve, as well as the opportunity we have to improve the lives of the patients for whom we are entrusted to care. Through the compassion, knowledge and skill of our caregivers, and our ability to leverage our scale and innovative capabilities, HCA Healthcare is in a unique position to play a leading role in the transformation of care.

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