Nurses honored for dedication, service

Todd G. Higdon

More than 90 nurses in 15 categories were nominated by the community for the 2008 Excellence in Nursing Awards, as Freeman Health System hosted the sixth annual Excellence in Nursing Gala Thursday evening at the John Q. Hammons Center.

The event honored area nurses for dedication to their profession and contributions to society.

When the night was over, the top 15 nurses were given awards in their respective areas, ranging from maternal/child RN to lifetime achievement to surgical RN to student RN and advanced practice RN/CRNA.

“We recognize nurses in the community for their achievements and it is also students and the schools, because without those schools, our community would not be in good shape,” said Coleen Cameron, vice president of clinical services at Freeman Health System.

According to K’Alice Breinig, RN, MN and chief clinical officer with Freeman Health System, “nurses make a difference in patients’ lives through the caring relationships they establish with their patients. This gala is about recognizing nurses who have touched the lives of patients in a positive way."

“I have wanted to be a nurse since I was a little kid,” Molly Smith said. “My mother was a nurse, my grandmother was a nurse. I wanted to make my life to help other people.”

She won the medical registered nurse award.

For more than 36 years, Pamela Wiegand, with St. John’s Regional Medical Center, has worked in the same capacity.

“I have worked in the operating room,” said Wiegand. “It is really interesting work, you meet a lot of people; it has really been a blessing.”

Prior to the awards, the keynote speaker, LeAnn Thieman, spoke about her involvement with Operation Baby Lift.

“I was accidentally caught up in Operation Baby Lift at the end of the Vietnam war,” Thieman said. “Thought I was going to Vietnam to rescue six babies and bring them back to pre-assigned homes in the United States, but when I got there, we had to bring out 300 babies in a cargo jet, strapped in cardboard boxes and with bombs falling on the city.”

When it was all said and done, Thieman adopted one of the children and later wrote a book about her experience called “This Must Be My Brother.”

“My passion has always been to make a difference,” said Thieman. “The reason that this keynote speech is titled that is this applies to nurses as well. There was a sign above the burn victims unit in Vietnam in the plastic surgery unit and it said ‘It is better to light a single candle than to curse the darkness.’ And I think that is what nurses do.

Sometimes we can’t do it all, we can’t make all of the pain go away and we can’t make everything better, we can’t cure everybody but we can certainly light some candles, and nurses do that indeed.”

Freeman also presented donations to fund scholarships or nursing program enhancements at Crowder College, Franklin Technology Center at MSSU, Labette Community College, Missouri Southern State University, Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College, and Pittsburg State University.

Freeman Health System employees Tim Casey and Tracy Dye received full-tuition scholarships to Pittsburg State University and Crowder College, respectively. Dr. Robert Willcoxon and Mrs. Dorothy Bramlage Willcoxon established the Willcoxon/Bramlage Scholarship Fund in 2003 to assist Freeman employees entering the nursing field or continuing their nursing education.

Neosho Daily News