By Ken Iglehart
Photography by David Colwell

Health & Wellness

Top Nurses 2017

Our third annual Excellence in Nursing awards honor some of Baltimore’s best RNs.

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But maybe comparing today’s modern nurses to the fabulous Florence of 19th-century fame gives them short shrift. Though Nightingale, for instance, founded the first nursing school in the world after caring for sick and wounded British troops in the Crimean War, 21st-century nurses do a whole lot more than the triage and the hygiene control that Nightingale learned in the 1850s. They are often highly specialized in fields ranging from neonatal intensive care to cardiology, oncology, management, the emergency room, and teaching other nurses. And some have the advanced training to pretty much act as doctors. Which is why, in this annual survey, we’re recognizing nurses in 19 specialties. To arrive at the results, the unveiling of which coincides with National Nurses Week in May, we solicited nominations from peers, supervisors, and patients of registered nurses—both in and out of hospitals—and received an overwhelming response. And in our accompanying story, “Tiny Charges,” we look at the critical and often stressful work of a neonatal intensive-care nurse, who’s everyone’s first—and sometimes last—chance to get a fair shot at life. After receiving hundreds of nominations, the hard part began: picking the finalists. For that, we relied on our panel of highly experienced RN advisers, who divvied up the specialties and pored over the nominations to arrive at our winners. Congratulations to all 50 of them.


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Winners

Acute Care/Family Practice/
General Medicine

Joseph Diloy
University of Maryland Medical Center

Jennifer Martin
MedStar Harbor Hospital

Teresa Withers
LifeBridge Health

Cardiovascular

Aileen Kho
Johns Hopkins Hospital

Jamie-Lee Thompson Hammer
University of Maryland Harford Memorial Hospital

Phyllis Tutin
MedStar Health

Community Care/Ambulatory Care

Sophie Pemberton
Johns Hopkins

Marian Currens
University of Maryland Medical Center - Midtown Campus

Molly Greenberg
Healthcare for the Homeless

Case Management

Dara James
University of Maryland Upper Chesapeake Medical Center

Jenine Jordan
Johns Hopkins

Sandra Toon
Saint Agnes Hospital

Educator

Chelsea Woodell
Greater Baltimore Medical Center

Ann Johnson
Mercy Medical Center

Denise Angelo Prudencio
Sinai Hospital of Baltimore

Regina Volz
University of Maryland Shore Regional Health

Emergency Department

Zachary Arciaga
Johns Hopkins Hospital

Alma Ta-Asan
Sinai Hospital of Baltimore

Hillary Becker
Mercy Medical Center

Hospice/Home Health/Palliative Care

Ellen Metzger
Gilchrist Services

Intensive care

Brian Bardelman
Greater Baltimore Medical Center

Constance Golding
The Johns Hopkins Hospital

Amanda Gdula
Greater Baltimore Medical Center

Management/Nurse Executives

Karen Davis
Howard County General Hospital

Jeannie Lee
The Johns Hopkins Hospital

Teresa Taylorson
Sinai Hospital of Baltimore

Medical-Surgical Nursing

Julie Funk
Northwest Hospital

Suzette Subido
Sinai Hospital of Baltimore

Jiang Xiao
MedStar Good Samaritan Hospital

Neurology/Psychology/
Behavioral Health

Troy Modisette
Sinai Hospital of Baltimore

Nancy Waldhaus
Sheppard Pratt

Joseph McCray
The Johns Hopkins Hospital

Oncology

Mary Rutter
University of Maryland Medical Center

Karen Ulmer
Greater Baltimore Medical Center

Cortney Carnaggio
Maryland Proton Treatment Center / University of Maryland Medical Systems

Orthopedics

Ashley Shelter
MedStar Union Memorial Hospital

Pediatrics: Neonatal

Hollie Krout
Greater Baltimore Medical Center

Elizabeth Russell
Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center

Emily Retz
Mt. Washington Pediatric Hospital

Nancy Sumpter
St. Joseph Medical Center and The Johns Hopkins Hospital

Amy McArdle
MedStar Franklin Square Medical Center

Pediatrics: Non-Neonatal

Michele Cootauco
Mt. Washington Pediatric Hospital

Barbara Case
The Johns Hopkins Hospital

Jennifer Demetrakis
University of Maryland

Rehabilitation

Victoria Proctor
University of Maryland Rehabilitation and Orthopedic Institute

School

Barbara Obst
Kennedy Krieger Institute

Elizabeth Brown
The Hearing and Speech Agency

Senior Services

Rachel McDaniels
Levindale Geriatric Hospital and Nursing

Women’s Health

Evelyn Kim
Greater Baltimore Medical Center

Jennifer Breads
Mercy Hospital and Jhpiego

Tap to Meet Our Survey Advisers

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Emily Retz

Nurse Team Leader, Mt. Washington Pediatric Hospital, Center of Neonatal Transitional Care

Baby Boss: Holding both a bachelor’s degree in nursing and a master’s degree in nursing from Notre Dame of Maryland, Retz has been a nursing team leader at Mt. Washington Pediatric Hospital since 2011. She provides nursing to pediatric patients in a rehabilitation setting, specializing in the care of infants and toddlers with gastrointestinal, cardiac, neurological, and developmental needs. She’s also responsible for the oversight, clinical education, performance evaluation, and direction of the clinical nursing staff. 
Retz is “a great clinical nurse who has stepped up to help with important administrative duties,” her nominator wrote. “She works positively with people in all functions across the organization.”

Jiang Xiao

RN, MedStar Good Samaritan Hospital, Vascular Access Team

A Long Road: One of the first nurses to specialize in vascular access, Xiao is skilled at performing a relatively new procedure called peripheral inserted central catheter, and helps to train others. Xiao came to the U.S. from Hunan, China, in 1994 with the dream of becoming a nurse in America. While raising her two young daughters and working at a nursing home for minimum wage, she learned English, studied for her nursing qualification exams, and earned her RN license. Says Xiao, “My experience reflects the determination and hard work that minority and immigrant nurses all over the region and the nation must put in to overcome barriers and get where they are.”

Jiang Xiao

RN, MedStar Good Samaritan Hospital, Vascular Access Team

A Long Road: One of the first nurses to specialize in vascular access, Xiao is skilled at performing a relatively new procedure called peripheral inserted central catheter, and helps to train others. Xiao came to the U.S. from Hunan, China, in 1994 with the dream of becoming a nurse in America. While raising her two young daughters and working at a nursing home for minimum wage, she learned English, studied for her nursing qualification exams, and earned her RN license. Says Xiao, “My experience reflects the determination and hard work that minority and immigrant nurses all over the region and the nation must put in to overcome barriers and get where they are.”

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Zachary Arciaga

Registered Nurse, Johns Hopkins Hospital, Department of Emergency Medicine

Crowd Favorite: Nominated by three colleagues, Arciaga is “always early for his shift and known as someone who looks for ways to help all his co-workers,” says one nominator. Though fairly new to the Hopkins unit, he has “jumped up the ladder of leadership within the department,” says another, and currently is involved in several committees within the Department of Emergency Medicine at The Johns Hopkins Hospital, including serving as co-chair of the trauma committee. Arciaga is “committed to making our critical care better.”

Teresa Withers

Registered Nurse, Supervisor, LifeBridge Health Organization

Backgrounder: Withers—who obtained her bachelor of science in nursing in 2014 from Coppin State University at the age of 50—was nominated by a LifeBridge Health manager who recounts a story about how Withers may have saved the life of a patient. An asthma sufferer herself, Withers realized that the wheezing of a 90-year-old patient who had come to the doctor’s office where she works signaled that he was on the verge of cardiac arrest. “She escorted him right away to the exam room, called for the doctor, and started him on a nebulizer treatment immediately, as well as administering a shot of Medrol and Terbutaline, ensuring that the patient’s airways would open instantly,” says the manager.

Teresa Withers

Registered Nurse, Supervisor, LifeBridge Health Organization

Backgrounder: Withers—who obtained her bachelor of science in nursing in 2014 from Coppin State University at the age of 50—was nominated by a LifeBridge Health manager who recounts a story about how Withers may have saved the life of a patient. An asthma sufferer herself, Withers realized that the wheezing of a 90-year-old patient who had come to the doctor’s office where she works signaled that he was on the verge of cardiac arrest. “She escorted him right away to the exam room, called for the doctor, and started him on a nebulizer treatment immediately, as well as administering a shot of Medrol and Terbutaline, ensuring that the patient’s airways would open instantly,” says the manager.


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Babies Who Beat the Odds

These Partygoers really have something to celebrate

By Larry Perl

Nurse Holly Murray plays with Xavier, whose family she first met when Murray and Xavier’s mother were both giving birth.

As anxious mothers of preemies born seven days apart in May 2015, Mia Armstead and Holly Murray quickly bonded in the neonatal intensive care unit of the University of Maryland St. Joseph Medical Center.

But the two families lost track of each other after Murray’s son, Jameson, born at 33 weeks, was discharged after two weeks. Armstead’s son, Xavier, however, was born weighing just 1.5 pounds at 26 weeks, and struggled to survive for four months at St. Joe’s, then spent another two months at the University of Maryland Medical Center.

In November 2015, Xavier was finally well enough to begin rehab after three surgeries for complications such as reflux, and was transferred again. This time he was sent to the 50-bed Center for Neonatal Transitional Care at Mt. Washington Pediatric Hospital—where Murray coincidentally was a registered nurse and team leader.

While making rounds, Murray stopped into Room 202 and saw a familiar face: Armstead, who had no idea Murray was a nurse.

“Hey, I know you,” Murray said.

Since then, the families have reconnected and become good friends. Jameson attended Xavier’s first birthday party in May of last year at The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore. And they met again at another party—a reunion cookout hosted by Mt. Washington Pediatric in August for more than 50 families of children who were treated at its neonatal transitional care center.

“There’s your buddy!” Murray tells her son, Jameson, as she points to Xavier, who at that time was 15 months old, though not yet talking. Jameson toddles over to Xavier, who sits in his father Wayne Frazier Jr.’s lap, wearing a breathing tube attached to a portable oxygen machine.

Looking on fondly is big brother Dylan, then 7, who was also a preemie at St. Joe’s. Dylan is now a second grader at Medfield Heights Elementary School.

The annual reunion is an opportunity for the parents of preemies to “show us how much they’ve grown and to celebrate milestones achieved since leaving the hospital,” says Katie Yeager, communications coordinator for Mt. Washington Pediatric Hospital. “It’s really cool for the doctors and nurses to see how well they’re doing.”

One such milestone is Xavier’s weight: In August, he weighed 25 pounds, a pound heavier than Jameson. “He’s huge,” exclaims nurse Rachel Williams at the reunion, while giving Mia Armstead a big hug.

Though Xavier can’t talk yet, and can’t eat without a feeding tube, he can stand for brief stretches, another sign of progress. “He may never crawl,” nurse Murray says. “He may just go straight to walking.” (He’s since started crawling.) But despite continuing rehabilitation, which he attends weekly, Xavier still can’t breathe on his own.

“It’ll take time for his lungs to mature,” says Armstead, 36, who also coincidentally works in health care (she’s a patient billing associate at MedStar Union Memorial Hospital).

Armstead says meeting Murray, first as a fellow preemie mother and later as a nurse, was comforting because “she’s sort of been going through what I’m going through.”

“It’s very nice to be able to bond with someone,” agrees Murray, 30, of White Marsh, adding that as a parent, it was terrifying to leave Jameson at St. Joe’s.

“We often felt helpless,” Mia Armstead confirms. “But the hospital trained us on how to care for Xavier. It changed our world.”

“As a nurse now, I handle it very differently when I talk to parents,” Murray says. “I think I’m a better nurse, now that I’m a mom.”

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Ann Johnson

Nurse Educator, Mercy Medical Center, Center of Clinical Excellence

A Favorite Teacher: As an educator, mainly in the neonatal intensive care unit, Johnson mentors students “beyond the usual requirements,” says her nominator. “She helps them excel in their school work and encourages them to take opportunities for their professional growth. All the NICU staff loves Ann and they always use her as their resource both clinically and nonclinically.” In addition, Johnson was involved in the hospital’s efforts to create an educational program for the city’s unemployed. Along with the chief operating officer, she worked with the city and a Mercy Medical Center team to make this a success, screening 20 participants—90 percent were hired after going through the training program.

Joseph Diloy

Clinical Nurse II, RN, BSN; University of Maryland Medical Center; Surgical Intermediate Care Unit

One Glowing Reference: “Joe exhibits every characteristic of not just a good nurse, but a superstar one,” says a fellow RN whose mother was cared for by Diloy. “He checks all of the boxes of being patient, kind, and competent. What makes him special and truly deserving of an excellence in nursing award is the way he went above and beyond taking care of our family, in addition to my mom. He took extra time to get to know our family by name and really humanized the hospital experience—which, without him and other kind nurses, can be sterile, terrifying, and stressful. It is bedside nurses like him who make all the difference.”

Joseph Diloy

Clinical Nurse II, RN, BSN; University of Maryland Medical Center; Surgical Intermediate Care Unit

One Glowing Reference: “Joe exhibits every characteristic of not just a good nurse, but a superstar one,” says a fellow RN whose mother was cared for by Diloy. “He checks all of the boxes of being patient, kind, and competent. What makes him special and truly deserving of an excellence in nursing award is the way he went above and beyond taking care of our family, in addition to my mom. He took extra time to get to know our family by name and really humanized the hospital experience—which, without him and other kind nurses, can be sterile, terrifying, and stressful. It is bedside nurses like him who make all the difference.”

Amanda Gdula

Registered Nurse, Surgical Intensive Care Unit, Greater Baltimore Medical Center

A Nominator’s Testimonial: A supervisor wrote that Gdula has gone “above and beyond the call of duty while working with patients, students, and colleagues.” When her unit at GBMC was going through a “crisis staffing mode,” Gdula picked up extra shifts on weekends and nights, even serving as supervising RN, and stepped up to the plate when another RN was on maternity leave. Professional at all times, she once corrected a physician in the unit regarding a patient’s end-of-life care, and did so with confidence, “demonstrating that she serves as an advocate for the patient.” She was recently singled out by a patient’s family member who spoke during a nursing recognition dinner about the tremendous care they received at GBMC.

Tiny Charges

NICU nurse Amy McArdle cares for the hospital’s littlest patients.

Read Tiny Charges

Tiny Charges

NICU nurse Amy McArdle cares for the hospital’s littlest patients.

Read Tiny Charges

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