Kerry Turley G'98 received the prestigious Marie Hippensteel Lingeman Founders Award for Excellence in Nursing Practice, one of the highest awards bestowed by nursing honor society Sigma Theta Tau International.
erry Turley knows she does good work. The number of lectures she gives around the country, the joy on parents' faces when seeing their recovering children, and her own satisfaction tell her so. But she didn't know how good her work was. Until now.|
Turley, a May graduate of the College of Nursing's Summer Limited Residency Program, received the prestigious Marie Hippensteel Lingeman Founders Award for Excellence in Nursing Practice, one of the highest awards bestowed by nursing honor society Sigma Theta Tau International. "I never would have dreamed this in a million years," says Turley, clinical nurse coordinator/case manager in the congenital and pediatric cardiovascular surgery service at California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco. "There are so many wonderful nurses out there that I was honored just to be nominated."
Turley's fascination with cardiovascular surgery started when, as a young girl, she read the book Hearts about two cardiovascular surgeons. Her education took a circuitous path. She earned an associate's degree in nursing from Gloucester College, became a cardiac surgical nurse, obtained a bachelor's degree in social science from the University of Southern Florida, was a sales rep for artificial heart valve manufacturers, and finally secured a master's degree in public administration from Golden Gate University. Now she was positioned to go back into the hospital, right where she wanted to be.
At California Pacific Medical Center, Turley made major changes in pediatric cardiac surgery. She recognized that the hospital had to be competitive, with aggressive outcomes and early discharges. "But early discharges without good care are not right," she explains. She grasped that putting children in play clothes instead of hospital gowns immediately after surgery sends a strong message to parents, cardiologists, and the children themselves: the children will be OK. She dresses the children in their own clothes as soon as their chest tubes are removed and walks them into the waiting room. "You cannot imagine what it's like for a parent to see a child, who 20 minutes ago was connected to machines and tubes, in his own clothes with just an IV in. They look like they've just witnessed a miracle," Turley says.
Because she knew nurses are too busy for such routine tasks as walking recuperating children every hour, Turley began educating parents before surgery on ways they could help their children recover. She also leaves chartspersonalized by each child's choice of stickersin each room listing schedules for walks and medication. This gives parents needed information, and staff members read them more often because they are accessible.
Turley is on call 24 hours a day, without pay, to answer parents' questions once the children are discharged. "When a job is not a job, but your life, you give a lot," she says. "But what you're really doing is giving to yourself. Your life has a purpose."
For her final graduate project at Syracuse, Turley correlated data from follow-up questionnaires she sent to parents she worked with at California Pacific. "You'd be hard pressed to find one family who didn't love this," Turley smiles.
No one at the College of Nursing is surprised. Especially director of professional and graduate admissions Jan Pedersen, who wrote Turley a letter of recommendation for the award. "Kerry's down-to-earth and creative, humorous approach to children and their parents to decrease pain and length of stay are simple methods, yet so effective," she says. "Parent involvement is crucial, and Kerry possesses the caring, empathy, and teaching skills to promote that process."
The Founders Awards are named after the seven founding members of the international nursing honor society and recognize excellence in nursing practice, education, creativity, research, leadership, fostering professional standards, and chapter programming. The award was presented in Indianapolis in December. The College of Nursing and the Omicron Chapter of Sigma Theta Tau hosted a reception for Turley at Convocation.
Laura Mahlmeister, president of Sigma Theta Tau's San Francisco chapter, nominated Turley for the award, citing Turley's relevant contribution to excellence in clinical practice, particularly in an era of health care redesign and restructuring. "You have advanced the highest standards of nursing practice, expanded the knowledge base for the discipline of nursing, and improved the lives of patients with cardiovascular disorders across the globe," writes Mahlmeister, notifying Turley of the nomination. "You exemplify the finest characteristics of a professional nurse."
"When I got to Syracuse and learned about the college's philosophy of empowerment, I felt this is where I belong because that is my personal philosophy," says Turley. "I feel very lucky Syracuse University is in my life. Without it, I know none of this would be happening."