2016 Distinguished Dozen (Nurse of the Year) Winners

A “Nurse of the Year” continuously goes above and beyond to provide the highest quality of care and health outcomes for the patients we serve. This year we asked the Seton community to nominate “Super Human Nurses” for the “Nurse of the Year” award. Using an online tool, we received 182 nominations! A 55-member committee composed of nurses, leaders and for the first time two patient/family representatives had the difficult task of selecting just 12 winners.

The 2016 Nurses of the Year

Adel Austin, RN
University Medical Center Brackenridge, Case Manager RN

“Adel exemplifies the role of case manager. In Adel’s world, patient needs come first. She always takes the time to patiently explain things, which ultimately reduces stress for our families and patients.”

Dala Thomas, BSN, RN
Seton Medical Center Austin, Labor and Delivery Staff Nurse

“Dala’s practice is patient-centered, focusing on keeping the patient safe, but also ensuring that they feel a sense of control during this monumental life experience. When caring for a family that lost their full term baby, Adel engaged them fully with her compassion and empathy so they knew they were not alone.”

Jennifer Cavazos, RN
Seton Medical Center Williamson, Fourth Floor Medical/Surgical Unit Staff Nurse

“Jennifer makes a huge impact on the 4th floor. Because of her determination and dedication to being the best possible nurse and her commitment to evidence-based practices, her patients receive excellent care and have had better outcomes!!

Jessica Garris, BSN, RN, OCN, CN-BN
Medical Park Tower – Seton Network Oncology Services, Clinical Nurse Navigator RN

“A patient recently sent an email to Jessica that read: ‘Thank you for keeping up with me. You are the best thing that happened to me in all of my treatment.’ Jessica offered this patient support and guidance, listened to her worries and fears and educated her about the chemotherapy and its side effects.”

Jessi Ray, RN
Seton Northwest, Emergency Department Staff Nurse

“Jessi seeks out opportunities to educate, inspire and nurture nurses that are new to our department. She goes above and beyond to serve her patients and trains preceptors to do the same. She is a light during dark time for families and patients in severe crisis and a role model for all new nurses.

Jose “Al” Delgado, RN
Seton Topfer Community Clinic, Clinic RN

“Al’s professionalism and genuine concern for the poor and vulnerable inspires everyone around him to grow and deliver Seton’s mission with dignity and respect. He lives the humancare ‘PROMISE’ and is passionate about health care access for all. Al emulates warmth, humility and compassion as he serves others and always expresses appreciation to others for their efforts.”

Katie Berman, BSN, RN
Seton Medical Center Hays, Intensive Care Unit Staff Nurse

“Katie actively looks for ways to overcome obstacles and elicit participation and input from all team members in a most respectful manner. Her proactive engagement has led to a decrease in pressure ulcers among our patients, while her positive attitude and energy permeates the unit and uplifts us all.”

Loree LaChance, MHA, MSN, RN, NCSN
Dell Children’s Medical Center/Austin Independent School District (AISD) Student Health Services, School Nurse

“I am humbled by Loree’s knowledge and zest to improve processes and workflow. She provides excellent nursing care, collaborating with physicians, parents and other health care specialties to ensure the health care needs of AISD students are met. Loree was instrumental in getting the allergy and anaphylaxis protocols developed for the EpiPen® in Schools program.”

Luc Vezina, RN, RNC-NIC
Dell Children’s Medical Center, Specialty Transport Nurse RN Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU)

“Luc takes on all that is asked of a NICU nurse and goes the extra mile by exhibiting true leadership. While using evidence based practice, he maintains a positive and calm demeanor and forms strong relationships with both coworkers and families. Luc defines what it means to practice relationship-based care.”

Martin Lewis, BSN, RN
Seton Northwest, Emergency Department Staff Nurse

“Nurses like Marty serve as God’s conduits for the many blessings and healing miracles in our ED. His careful manner inspires trust and respect from the patients and families he serves. I truly believe he is an amazing person who is a great example of what a nurse, friend, coworker, mentor, father and human being should be.”

Monica Smith, BSN, RN, CCRN
Dell Children’s Medical Center, Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) Staff Nurse

“Monica took on the role of medication safety coach for her clinical ladder project and goes above and beyond in her duties. She submitted an application and presented the data she has collected for safety behaviors and was accepted to present a poster presentation at the Children’s Hospital Association conference in New Orleans.”

Tracy Robison, RN
University Medical Center Brackenridge, Surgical Intensive Care Unit (SICU), Nurse Shift Supervisor

“Tracy’s most significant contributions to the profession is herself. Her role modeling, communication style, compassion, teaching abilities, non-intimidating demeanor, resourcefulness and love of nursing are her most significant contributions to the profession. Tracy also implemented a ‘mobility team’ within the unit, a proven best practice.”

The Distinguished Dozen

Adel Austin, RN
University Medical Center Brackenridge (UMCB), Case Manager RN

Adel Austin, RN

When did you know you wanted to be a nurse? Where in the world did your nursing passion begin?
My mother is a nurse. I couldn’t wait for her to come home so I could quiz her about her day. I was fascinated by her stories about the busy hospital where she worked.

How long have you been a nurse? How long have you been with Seton?
I have been a nurse for 34 years. I have worked for Seton for 14 years and at UMCB for 9 years.

Why is your heart in this work?
I love getting up knowing I can make difference each day. I am proud to be a nurse.

What has being a nurse taught you?
Patience. Each day is a gift. Be grateful

Please tell us about your most rewarding or proudest moment as a nurse since you joined Seton.
It is most rewarding to be part of the Brack family. I am in awe of the work I see being done there every day!

What do you do to flourish or thrive?
Disconnect from technology, garden, yoga, spend time with family, friends and my dog are a few.

What is your nursing SUPERPOWER?
Humor : )

Dala Thomas, BSN, RN
Seton Medical Center Austin (SMCA), Labor and Delivery Nurse Staff Nurse

Dala Thomas, BSN, RN

When did you know you wanted to be a nurse? Where in the world did your nursing passion begin?
My passion for nursing began growing up as the oldest of seven kids. In my role as a psuedo-second mother, I quickly discovered the importance of making others feel cared for, protected, safe and respected. Then at age 16, I attended a High School Summer Session at Stanford University where I took Introduction to Biology and Introduction to Human Physiology. My exposure to medicine and the magic of the human body through those courses got me HOOKED and my passion thrived.

How long have you been a nurse? How long have you been with Seton?
I have been a nurse for 2 years and 2 months and started here at Seton.

Why is your heart in this work?
My heart is in nursing because nothing I have ever done in my life has given back to me as much or fulfilled my mind, spirit and soul to the same degree. Going home at the end of a shift knowing that you have made a difference in someone’s life is so revitalizing and empowering. Particularly with disadvantaged and indigent populations, we as nurses have the ability to protect and serve in ways that make them feel dignified and equal to all others.

What has being a nurse taught you?
Being a nurse has taught me the power of human connection. In a society where money, status and belongings are given so much importance, nursing is a helpful reminder that care, kindness and respect are intangible. Nursing has taught me how to conduct myself in such a way that I can earn the trust of patients and their families

Please tell us about your most rewarding or proudest moment as a nurse since you joined Seton.
Shortly after completing orientation, for the first time, I had a patient who presented with decreased fetal movement and was diagnosed with an intrauterine fetal demise. Supporting this mother and her significant other throughout her labor, the delivery, and the creation of memory boxes/mementos/photographs afterwards was one of the most challenging and emotionally trying experience of my life. At the end of my shift when I went to say goodbye to this sweet family, the mother grabbed my hand, looked me in the eye, and said ‘Thank you. Thank you, Dala’. I knew instantly that no one had ever meant those words more than she did in that moment and when she said those words I realized that I was truly a nurse, had been a good nurse to her and could grow to be a good nurse to anyone I met in years to come.

What do you do to flourish or thrive?
I act as an online fitness coach, providing meal plans and workout regimens to help people create healthier lives, develop healthier eating habits and lose weight. This gives me so much joy because I’m a firm believer in preventative health care and empowering people to become advocates of their own health. Playing piano is also a big part of my life and helps indulge in my more creative side!

What is your nursing SUPERPOWER?
My superpower is making each and every patient I take care of feel special, important to me, protected and respected. Even though as nurses we care for many patients a day, many days per week, I strive to continuously combat complacency and give every patient, every day my 100 percent.

Jennifer Cavazos, RN
Seton Medical Center Williamson (SMCW), 4th Floor Medical/Surgical Unit Staff Nurse

Jennifer Cavazos, RN

When did you know you wanted to be a nurse? Where in the world did your nursing passion begin?
I knew sometime in middle school that I wanted to be a nurse. My passion for nursing began in and around my hometown of McAllen, Texas.

How long have you been a nurse? How long have you been with Seton?
I have been a nurse for 3 years and 10 months and worked at Seton for 3 years and 6 months.

Why is your heart in this work?
Because I know that nursing is my God-given purpose.

What has being a nurse taught you?
Resilience, perseverance, compassion and determination.

Please tell us about your most rewarding or proudest moment as a nurse since you joined Seton.
Receiving the DAISY Award.

What do you do to flourish or thrive?
I pray.

What is your nursing SUPERPOWER?
My superpower is Hourly Rounding.

Jessica Garris, BSN, RN, OCN, CN-BN
Medical Park Tower – Seton Network Oncology Services, Clinical Nurse Navigator RN

Jessica Garris, BSN, RN, OCN, CN-BN

When did you know you wanted to be a nurse? Where in the world did your nursing passion begin?
I decided on winter break my freshman year of college after doing part-time clerical work in a family practice clinic during high school.

How long have you been a nurse? How long have you been with Seton?
I have been a nurse for 20 years and worked at Seton for 2.5 years.

Why is your heart in this work?
Because I know that I would want an experienced and compassionate oncology nurse navigator helping me if I was diagnosed with cancer.

What has being a nurse taught you?
To not take my health for granted, that a positive attitude and hope are not to be underestimated, and that being on a team of dedicated professionals is so gratifying.

Please tell us about your most rewarding or proudest moment as a nurse since you joined Seton.
I cannot single out one moment, but hearing a patient’s sincere thanks for what Seton provides to the community is so rewarding. One of my patients sent me this message: “Just wanted to tell you Thank you for all the help you’ve given me. You were heaven sent. God Bless you and Seton for extending me the help and for the program they have implemented for women with breast cancer”

What do you do to flourish or thrive?
I keep a healthy work-life balance by having good boundaries and by intentionally taking time to laugh.

What is your nursing SUPERPOWER?
Listening very hard and allowing silence.

Jessi Ray, RN
Seton Northwest Hospital (SNW), Emergency Department Staff Nurse

Jessi Ray, RN

When did you know you wanted to be a nurse? Where in the world did your nursing passion begin?
I was in college pursuing a pharmacy degree. When I was following a pharmacist in the hospital, I asked, “When do you get to explain to the patients about their medications?” The pharmacist told me that the nurses do that. So I changed careers because I wanted to be more involved in patient care.

How long have you been a nurse? How long have you been with Seton?
I have been a nurse for 8.5 years and have worked at Seton for 7.5 years. I started my nursing career in Lubbock, Texas.

Why is your heart in this work?
I enjoy helping others, even when I was little. Being a nurse is not just my career, it is part of who I am.

What has being a nurse taught you?
Being a nurse has taught be to be patient and that I can make a difference in someone’s life.

Please tell us about your most rewarding or proudest moment as a nurse since you joined Seton.
Every day I experience a proud/rewarding moment when a patient or family member says thank you.

What do you do to flourish or thrive?
I attend festivals, spend time with my family, paint, volunteer, help take care of my husband’s family, watch movies, cook, travel and go for long walks.

What is your nursing SUPERPOWER?
My compassion.

Jose “Al” Delgado, RN
Seton Topfer Community Clinic, Clinic Nurse

Jose “Al” Delgado, RN

When did you know you wanted to be a nurse? Where in the world did your nursing passion begin?
I knew I wanted to be a nurse since I was a little kid. My passion started here in Austin, back in 1999.

How long have you been a nurse? How long have you been with Seton?
I have been a nurse for 9 years and worked at Seton for 4 years.

Why is your heart in this work?
The fact that I have a way to help people fulfill my spirit.

What has being a nurse taught you?
Being a nurse has taught me compassion for every single human being.

Please tell us about your most rewarding or proudest moment as a nurse since you joined Seton.
My most rewarding and proudest event is when parents recognize me outside of clinic and come to me to thank me about the care I give to their children and family.

What do you do to flourish or thrive?
I love bike riding and running 5Ks around Austin, Traveling is my passion and I love experiencing different cultures.

What is your nursing SUPERPOWER?
Keeping a positive attitude during stressful situations.

Katherine (Katie) Berman, BSN, RN
Seton Medical Center Hays (SMCH), Intensive Care Unit Staff Nurse

Katherine (Katie) Berman, BSN, RN

When did you know you wanted to be a nurse? Where in the world did your nursing passion begin?
I was always drawn to customer service type jobs, primarily because of my love of interacting with and helping people. My biggest complaint to my husband was that I didn’t feel like I was making any real difference. His mom is a nurse and a big part of our lives. One day he finally looked at me and asked me why I had never thought of nursing as a career. I honestly didn’t have a good answer and the more I thought on it the more it felt like the perfect fit. Nursing would become my outlet for having a bigger, positive impact on people.

How long have you been a nurse? How long have you been with Seton?
I will have been a nurse for 2 years in June and started my nursing career at Seton.

Why is your heart in this work?
There is something super satisfying about helping people. I like that every day I go to work and I come home and feel so fulfilled, even on the worst days. I feel so appreciated by my patients and their families, but they don’t realize I should be thanking them for all they teach me. I love being a part of a profession that is so revered and respected. Last week I went to a crawfish boil and I met the sweetest 93 year old woman. When she found out I was a nurse, she hooked my arm and literally introduced me to everyone. You would have thought I was a celebrity! Nursing may not be as glamorous at times, but it took that woman to remind me that all nurses are super stars to their patients. How could someone do this job and not have their heart in it?

What has being a nurse taught you?
Perspective, appreciation, interconnection and patience. There is nothing like seeing people go through some of the worst days in their lives, to put what you thought was a monumental issue into perspective for what it really is. Being a nurse makes you appreciate those around you every day and makes you recognize that every day you get with friends and family is truly a limited and cherished gift. Nursing also teaches you the interconnection between all humans, regardless of race, religion, backgrounds or income. Finally nursing has taught me and continues to teach me patience. Patience for those that aren’t feeling well and may take it out on those around them even if they don’t mean it. Patience for those that simply need time to mentally grasp their situation. Patience for those that may move a little slower getting out of bed each time. Most of all, patience to let time run its course in the healing process.

Please tell us about your most rewarding or proudest moment as a nurse since you joined Seton.
For me, my most rewarding moment to date happened just a little over a month ago when I became a primary preceptor to a new nurse in the Seton Residency Program. It’s shocking to me that almost 2 years have passed since I started the program and I am now able to turn around and repay the time and knowledge that was poured into me. I’m proud of how far I’ve come and it is exciting to be able to see my preceptee starting the same journey. A very close second proudest moment was when I passed my CCRN exam in January as part of my clinical ladder. That was a very long test!

What do you do to flourish or thrive?
For me I’ve found I flourish when I give back. Shortly after becoming a nurse I started volunteering weekly as a nurse at a free healthcare clinic for the under or uninsured population in Travis County. While I also occasionally volunteer for other things, I love volunteering most as a nurse. Aside from that I recharge by hanging out reading or watching movies with my husband and our two rescue dogs. However, I neglected to mention that without question the thing that makes me thrive is TACOS! Lots and lots of tacos!

What is your nursing SUPERPOWER?
Helping people remember the power of laughter and love, especially in their darkest, saddest and most trying moments.

Loree LaChance, MHA, MSN, RN, NCSN
Dell Children’s Medical Center/Austin Independent School District (AISD) Student Health Services, School Nurse

Loree LaChance, MHA, MSN, RN, NCSN

When did you know you wanted to be a nurse? Where in the world did your nursing passion begin?
Initially I chose to be a nurse because my husband was in the Air Force and I viewed it as a portable career. My initial college degree is in nutrition and my family has long been in the medical field. But after I begin practicing, I grew to love nursing and it became my passion. I distinctly remember a time when the doctor, my nurse preceptor and a patient gathered together, weeping at the loss of a pregnancy. That ability to help others grieve, instead of just leaving them to manage on their own, is really what fueled my desire to continue on with my nursing career.

How long have you been a nurse? How long have you been with Seton?
I have been a nurse for 27 years and have worked at Seton for 4.5 years.

Why is your heart in this work?
I feel like I can make a difference in someone else’s life, whether it is performing an act (e.g., first aid) or clarifying treatment plans or helping parents navigate an often user-unfriendly system.

What has being a nurse taught you?
Compassion. That my own point of view is not the only script.

Please tell us about your most rewarding or proudest moment as a nurse since you joined Seton.
I think that they are a series of moment. I work at two schools, an elementary and a middle. What really makes an impact on me is when a student that has made that transition seeks me out to say hello. That tells me that I offered them something positive during my interactions with them in a different setting.

What do you do to flourish or thrive?
I enjoy macro photography, especially flowers. It is my centering activity when I am a little off! My husband and I enjoy traveling the wine country. My family is my grounding force: my husband, my parents, my sisters, my sons and my grandson.

What is your nursing SUPERPOWER?
Teaching and learning. Never stop at either.

Luc Vezina, RN, RNC-NIC
Dell Children’s Medical Center, Specialty Transport Nurse Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU)

Luc Vezina, RN, RNC-NIC

When did you know you wanted to be a nurse? Where in the world did your nursing passion begin?
I knew I wanted to be a nurse since I was a kid because I witnessed my older brother go through the difficult trials of juvenile diabetes (this was pre-insulin pumps). He suffered many severe complications. My nursing passion began in Canada, however, I moved to Texas after graduating.

How long have you been a nurse? How long have you been with Seton?
I have been a nurse for 24 years and have worked at Seton for 15 years.

Why is your heart in this work?
I know that my actions can directly impact whether or not a family is able to take their baby home with them. As a parent I recognize that there is no greater gift.

What has being a nurse taught you?
Good health is an incredible gift.

Please tell us about your most rewarding or proudest moment as a nurse since you joined Seton.
It’s hard to choose just one moment. But, the thank you cards and pictures from patients at an older age, thanking me for having been involved in their care gets me every time.

What do you do to flourish or thrive?
I run and move rocks. I recently completed my 17th Marathon and a large Zen ‘Karesansui’ rock garden. The garden required for me to shovel 16 yards of stone.

What is your nursing SUPERPOWER?
I am calm in very stressful situations and able to recognize the fears that parents experience when their baby is being transported to another hospital. I am able to put their minds at ease and reassure them that their precious baby will receive excellent care.

Martin Lewis, BSN, RN
Seton Northwest Hospital (SNW), Emergency Department Staff Nurse

Martin Lewis, BSN, RN

When did you know you wanted to be a nurse? Where in the world did your nursing passion begin?
I was 15 years old and a patient in a California hospital. I recall saying to myself, I will never be a bad nurse.

How long have you been a nurse? How long have you been with Seton?
I have been a nurse for 15 years and have worked at Seton for 9 years.

Why is your heart in this work?
I love those moments when the light bulb goes click when speaking with patients. Staying by the bedside, listening and attempting to help in the healing process.

What has being a nurse taught you?
Oh my goodness, way too much. Humility and gratitude are two of the things that really stand out.

Please tell us about your most rewarding or proudest moment as a nurse since you joined Seton.
Being considered to be a leader and someone my peers feel comfortable approaching is very rewarding and keeps me coming back.

What do you do to flourish or thrive?
I believe in the holistic aspect of being a human. I take care of myself physically by being athletic, spiritually by practicing faith, emotionally by staying connected to those I love and love me. I love reading, writing and being most importantly with my two daughters Lucca and Clementine! They are my true joy and loves.

What is your nursing SUPERPOWER?
I have been told that I have a very calming effect on people.

Monica Smith, BSN, RN, CCRN
Dell Children’s Medical Center, Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) Staff Nurse

Monica Smith, BSN, RN, CCRN

When did you know you wanted to be a nurse? Where in the world did your nursing passion begin?
I got my first degree in finance with a focus in healthcare. My first job was as a hospital analyst. I recognized in everything I did in those years that direct patient care was the most sacred of hospital work. I knew at that point I wanted to go to nursing school.

How long have you been a nurse? How long have you been with Seton?
I have been a nurse for 8 years and worked at Seton for 4 years.

Why is your heart in this work?
I do a lot of work on my unit for patient safety. Early in nursing, I realized that we are all imperfect humans taking care of humans, and we will necessarily make mistakes. That is a really difficult idea to accept. Honestly, how can any of us work, especially in pediatric critical care and accept the idea that we might do something wrong, and that doing something wrong could harm a patient? My heart is in my safety projects because the only way I could have peace with the inherent risk of our work is to care about reducing that risk. But, I only work on safety in my unit on the side. My primary role is as a PICU bedside nurse. My heart is in bedside nursing because I believe in people who are hard to love. Some babies and kids might be ‘hard to love’ because they are so physically sick that their parents cannot take care of them. They need complex critical medical care and I love being someone skilled to help in that situation. My safety projects make me feel value-added to the unit. But being a PICU nurse? Man. It’s the hardest and best thing I’ll ever do.

What has being a nurse taught you?
When I was on orientation in PICU, my preceptor, who is a friend of mine today, said ‘I love you!’ to a baby she was bathing and then re-swaddling. After working in adult nursing for 6 years the words surprised me because I had never told any patients ‘I love you’ but I immediately understood it. -All babies deserve to be told that they are loved every day. For different reasons a baby in the hospital may not be visited by family every day or even have family at all. I started making it a habit of mine for babies who didn’t have parents with them and I talk about the idea when I precept other nurses. So I guess being a nurse taught me how easy and powerful those words can be.

Please tell us about your most rewarding or proudest moment as a nurse since you joined Seton.
The most rewarding moment has been when we pick up extremely sick babies to weigh them or change sheets. Some babies are so sick and fragile that they may not be held by their parents for weeks at a time, but at a minimum, we will pick them up every morning to weigh them or get an X-ray. In that moment, for the super sick kids, I never forget that holding them, even in a precarious, awkward position is a privilege and I really do feel so special to be their nurse

What do you do to flourish or thrive?
I volunteer with Communities in Schools at an elementary school near my house. This is my third year as a tutor and my second year as a reading buddy. I also love hanging out with my husband and family. My parents, sister, niece and nephew all live in Austin and they are my favorite people on the planet.

What is your nursing SUPERPOWER?
Defender of safety.

Tracy Robison, RN
University Medical Center Brackenridge (UMCB), Surgical Intensive Care Unit (SICU), Nursing Shift Supervisor

Tracy Robison, RN

When did you know you wanted to be a nurse? Where in the world did your nursing passion begin?
I knew I wanted to be a nurse after my mom brought me to work for “Take Your Daughter to Work Day” here at Brackenridge when I was 6 years old. There was a patient who was detoxing from alcohol, in four point restraints. He was very agitated and I told the nurse he needed his nose scratched. After she did that, he slept for the rest of the night. It was at that point that I knew I wanted to be a nurse.

How long have you been a nurse? How long have you been with Seton?
I have been a nurse for 14 years and worked at Seton for 8 years.

Why is your heart in this work?
My passion to be a nurse is easy. I just want to help people. Whether it is curing a patient or being with family as they grieve the loss of a loved one, I want to be there to help. As a supervisor, I want to help grow our new staff into confident and knowledgeable nurses who I would entrust with my own family’s care.

What has being a nurse taught you?
Life is a gift. Don’t take it for granted. Your whole life can change in a blink of an eye. Don’t hold grudges. Say “’I’m sorry” and “I love you” often. Being a nurse in ICU has taught me that my problems are small. I am grateful for everyday that I am given with my family and friends.

Please tell us about your most rewarding or proudest moment as a nurse since you joined Seton.
The most rewarding AND proudest moment would actually be when I had a close friend as patient in my unit. As scared as I was for my friend, I was able to relax and know that my coworkers and nurses I had helped grow and train, were completely capable to take care of him. I was proud to say ‘I helped make her into such a great nurse!’

What do you do to flourish or thrive?
My kids are where I spend most of my time and effort outside of work. They both play music in a band that allow us to experience Austin as the ‘Live Capital of the World.’

What is your nursing SUPERPOWER?
I am good at explaining and teaching things without others feeling ‘talked down to.’