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In the various roles he has undertaken through the years, Val J. Halamandaris has been a singular driving force behind the policy and program initiatives resulting in the recognition of home health care as a viable alternative to institutionalization. His dedication to consumer advocacy, which enhances the quality of life and dignity of those receiving home health care, merits VNA HealthCare Group’s highest recognition and deepest respect. 

VNA HealthCare Group

I have the highest respect for them, especially for the nurses, aides and therapists, who devote their lives to caring for people with disabilities, the infirm and dying Americans.  There are few more noble professions.

President Barack Obama

Home health care agencies do such a wonderful job in this country helping people to be able to remain at home and allowing them to receive services

U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) Chair, Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee

Home care is a combination of compassion and efficiency.  It is less expensive than institutional care...but at the same time it is a more caring, human, intimate experience, and therefore it has a greater human’s a big mistake not to try to maximize it and find ways to give people the home care option over either nursing homes, hospitals or other institutions

Former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Newt Gingrich (R-GA)

Medicaid covers long-term care, but only for low-income families.  And Medicare only pays for care that is connected to a hospital discharge....our health care system must cover these vital services...[and] we should promote home-based care, which most people prefer, instead of the institutional care that we emphasize now.

Former U.S. Senator Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-CD)

We need incentives to...keep people in home health care settings...It’s dramatically less expensive than long term care.

U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ)


Home care is clearly the wave of the future. It’s clearly where patients want to be cared for. I come from an ethnic family and when a member of our family is severely ill, we would never consider taking them to get institutional care. That’s true of many families for both cultural and financial reasons. If patients have a choice of where they want to be cared for, where it’s done the right way, they choose home.

Donna Shalala, former Secretary of Health and Human Services

A couple of years ago, I spent a little bit of time with the National Association for Home Care & Hospice and its president, Val J. Halamandaris, and I was just blown away. What impressed me so much was that they talked about what they do as opposed to just the strategies of how to deal with Washington or Sacramento or Albany or whatever the case may be. Val is a fanatic about care, and it comes through in every way known to mankind. It comes through in the speakers he invites to their events; it comes through in all the stuff he shares.

Tom Peters, author of In Search of Excellence

Val’s home care organization brings thousands of caregivers together into a dynamic organization that provides them with valuable resources and tools to be even better in their important work. He helps them build self-esteem, which leads to self-motivation.

Mike Vance, former Dean of Disney and author of Think Out of the Box

Val is one of the greatest advocates for seniors in America. He goes beyond the call of duty every time.

Arthur S. Flemming, former Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare

Val has brought the problems, the challenges, and the opportunities out in the open for everyone to look at. He is a visionary pointing the direction for us. 

Margaret (Peg) Cushman, Professor of Nursing and former President of the Visiting Nurses Association

Although Val has chosen to stay in the background, he deserves much of the credit for what was accomplished both at the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging, where he was closely associated with me and at the House Select Committee on Aging, where he was Congressman Claude Pepper’s senior counsel and closest advisor. He put together more hearings on the subject of aging, wrote more reports, drafted more bills, and had more influence on the direction of events than anyone before him or since.

Frank E. Moss, former U.S. Senator

Val’s most important contribution is pulling together all elements of home health care and being able to organize and energize the people involved in the industry.

Frank E. Moss, former U.S. Senator

Anyone working on health care issues in Congress knows the name Val J. Halamandaris.

Kathleen Gardner Cravedi, former Staff Director of the House Select Committee on Aging

Without your untiring support and active participation, the voices of people advocating meaningful and compassionate health care reform may not have been heard by national leaders.

Michael Sullivan, Former Executive Director, Indiana Association for Home Care

All of us have been members of many organizations and NAHC is simply the best there is. NAHC aspires to excellence in every respect; its staff has been repeatedly honored as the best in Washington; the organization lives by the highest values and has demonstrated a passionate interest in the well-being of patients and providers.

Elaine Stephens, Director of Home Care of Steward Home Care/Steward Health Systems and former NAHC C

Home care increasingly is one of the basic building blocks in the developing system of long-term care.  On both economic and recuperative bases, home health care will continue to grow as an essential service for individuals, for families and for the community as a whole.

Former U.S. Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME)

NCOA is excited to be part of this great event and honored to have such influential award winners in the field of aging.

National Council of Aging

Health care at home…is something we need more of, not less of.  Let us make a commitment to preventive and long-term care.  Let us encourage home care as an alternative to nursing homes and give folks a little help to have their parents there.

Former President Bill Clinton


Tales from the Nation’s Top Home Care and Hospice Nurses

By Lisa Yarkony, PhD


Nursing is our nation’s most trusted profession, says the latest Gallup poll of Honesty/Ethics in Professions. This finding comes as no surprise since nurses have topped the list for 14 of the past 15 years. “Nurses consistently get these high marks because of their empathy, professionalism, and compassion,” said Val J. Halamandaris, president of the National Association for Home Care & Hospice (NAHC). To honor their achievements, NAHC and its affiliate Home Healthcare Nurses Association (HHNA) have held their third annual Nurse Recognition Program. This year, like previous years, thousands of agencies nationwide sent in their candidates for America’s top home care and hospice nurses.

The 50 winners we feature stand out for their clinical skills — and their compassion. In the pages to the come, you’ll meet a Georgia nurse who sang with her patient to gain his trust. You’ll hear from a New York nurse who gave a frightened young mom the confidence to finish school. You’ll meet a Kansas nurse whose teenage patient is thrilled that she always gets the IV in on the first poke. You’ll meet an Arizona nurse who holds ice cream parties for a patient with Down syndrome and dementia. You’ll meet an Iowa nurse who turned a patient’s home into an ICU so he could end life in the place he loved most. And you’ll hear from a Delaware nurse who made a diagnosis that escaped several docs.

The expertise of nurses like these has led to repeated calls to expand nurses’ scope of practice. Recognition of nurses’ skills inspired the Home Health Improvement Act, which would let nurse practitioners order home health care — and highlighting what nurses can do is the goal of our recognition program. Our winners met a number of strict criteria established by a selection committee made up of members from the HHNA advisory board, NAHC’s board of directors and its Forum of State Associations.

The selection committee asked all agencies to submit an essay about their nurse and answer a variety of questions: Does the nurse’s story paint a positive picture of home care and hospice? Does the story show that the nurse provided exceptional care? Does the applicant demonstrate excellence in nursing through credentials, awards, and honors? Did the applicant make a difference in their patients’ lives? And do they inspire us to be our best?

The home care and hospice nurses who appear here are among the finest, as the committee determined by vote. The committee also voted for the top 10 contenders for Home Care & Hospice Nurse of the Year. Now it’s your chance to decide which of them will make the cut. From Friday, July 11, to Monday, September 30, NAHC members and the public can go to and cast the final vote from this select group of nurses.

The celebration of their achievements begins when you read their stories. It continues in October when NAHC invites the 50 nurses to its Annual Meeting & Exposition in Phoenix, Arizona. NAHC will waive their registration fees for the meeting and honor them at a reception. The top 10 nurses will receive a $70 gift certificate from Hopkins Medical Products, now marking 70 years in business. Hopkins will also give a $140 gift certificate to the Nurse of the Year, and NAHC is taking added steps to recognize the top nurse by paying their travel and hotel expenses in addition to giving them a new Apple iPad.

This very special nurse will appear on stage at the Annual Meeting. “It’s a unique chance to put a face on our industry,” said Andrea L. Devoti, RN, chairman of the NAHC board. “Our focus is to highlight the impact that nurses make day in and day out in homes across the country,” despite the challenges they face. “It’s time for the public to honor nurses and thank them for all they contribute,” said Elaine Stephens, RN, NAHC executive VP and HHNA’sHH current chairman. “This is our chance to remind everyone how hard it is for nurses to do their vital work while facing senseless cuts in reimbursement.”

What inspires nurses to carry on in the face of shrinking resources, growing regulations, and patient loads that get heavier each year? You’ll get the answers from some of the country’s best nurses who all know home is the best place for patients to heal. The stories to come bring home this point as our 50 nurses express love for their patients and their work. Which of them deserves to be Home Care & Hospice Nurse of the Year? We trust you to decide.



I'm Stephanie Paige Elkins, and I'm a nurse at Gentiva Home Health in Moulton, AL. My 75-year-old patient, Burles Jeffreys, has congestive heart failure, diabetes, and kidney disease. After multiple hospital stays he came home, where a Milrinone intravenous drip was started. This only relieved his symptoms for a while, and soon his heart was so out of control that he was rehospitalized. Fortunately, he returned home much improved with a continuous Dobutamine intravenous drip per PICC line, which helps him be more independent. I taught his wife to manage the IV pump, handle the medications, and cope with any emergencies. Through it all, Mrs. Jeffreys has managed to keep her job, which requires her to leave home on occasion. And now Mr. Jeffreys has the independence he wants.



I’m Jen MacDonald, and I’m a nurse at PeaceHealth Ketchikan Medical Center Home Health Agency in Ketchikan, AK. My 91-year-old patient, Marian Doyle, has diabetes and neuropathy in her lower extremities. I worked hard to help her purchase an anodyne machine that she uses to ease the pain in her legs. Mrs. Doyle was so grateful she called me “the ideal nurse.” While I don’t know if I fit that description, I do try to be open to my patients’ concerns and goals. If home health patients feel you’re not listening to them, they will be scared, defensive, and noncompliant. So I let patients take control and hope they’ll take my advice as time goes on. This builds trust and leads to a win-win relationship.



My name is Kathleen Lewis, and I’m a nurse at Hospice of the Valley in Phoenix, AZ. My 59-year-old patient, Roberta Harris, has Down syndrome, dementia, respiratory failure, and epilepsy. We have served her needs as her condition changes, and we have done so in her home. Keeping her there has maintained her quality of life and reduced secondary health issues like falls. But caring for Roberta requires more than knowledge of her illnesses and challenges. It also requires knowing what makes her tick. While some patients want in-depth talks about their care plans, Roberta responds to reassuring hugs, smiles, gentle interventions — and the impromptu ice cream party. She also likes to have her friends close by, so her favorite stuffed animal, Lamby, sometimes helps me out with exams. Seeing her childlike sense of wonder at the world reminds me of the sacredness of my work.



My name is Kelly Chism, and I’m a nurse at Home Care Association of Arkansas in Little Rock, AR. My 75-year-old patient, William Mahoney, has heart failure, which had robbed him of an exciting life managing a racetrack with his son. When I met him five years ago, he was confined to his home and could barely walk due to shortness of breath and edema. He was so sad that I longed to help him learn the skills that would let him manage his condition. By giving him education and one-on-one support, I have helped Mr. Mahoney return to doing many of the activities he thought he would never enjoy again. In fact, he has defeated the odds by having no hospital readmissions at all. He’s now thrilled to say, “I can do anything I want to do.”



I’m Karen Schulkin, and I’m a nurse at Professional Healthcare at Home, an affiliate of Kindred at Home in Pleasant Hill, CA. My 65-year-old patient, Brian Hanson, has PVD, kidney disease, and CHF which makes him O2 dependent. When I began giving him wound care and pain management, he smoked heavily, took lots of pain medication, and ate poorly. He was living in a hotel room with no kitchen in a crime-infested neighborhood. I was moved by his difficult circumstances, and his stories of childhood tragedies, drugs, and prison. With my encouragement, he quit smoking and began managing his medications. I also arranged for Meals on Wheels, helped him get his power chair working, found donated cooking appliances, and helped him adopt a rescue dog, Mandy. Now he gets fresh vegetables and is learning to cook. He takes Mandy everywhere, and both are thriving. Today, he is a different man.



My name is Julie Giannangelo, and I’m a nurse at Home Care of the Grand Valley in Grand Junction, CO. I have previously worked in hospitals and nursing homes, but I prefer home care because it gives me the chance to teach patients how to manage their own care with help from family members. My 43-year-old patient, Timothy Johnson, needs a fair amount of help because he is an epileptic with diabetes, atrial fibrillation, and chronic UTIs which require considerable monitoring and management. I provide him with IV and PICC line care, antibiotic therapy, dressing and catheter changes, INR checks, and weekly assessments. I enjoy the challenges of meeting his needs and helping him remain in his home.



My name is Deborah Welch and I am a nurse at VNA Northwest in Bantam, CT. I had the honor of working with 84-year-old Sally and 85-year-old Arthur Smith, as Arthur faced terminal cancer and Sally struggled with cardiac disease. They had been married for 62 years, and my role as their nurse launched me on a unique journey with the entire family, including Harley, their dog. As case manager, I worked together with a team of professionals to meet the couple’s needs and goals. Though I focused on Arthur’s hospice care, I also ensured that Sally cared for herself. Education on cardiac symptoms, medication management, and telehealth monitoring allowed Sally to manage her symptoms. She was able to say goodbye to Arthur in their loving home.


DE_Lawrence_Bayada_Home_Health_Care_Newark_DEMy name is Bonnie Lawrence. I’ve been a nurse for 39 years, the last 15 of them at BAYADA Home Health Care in Newark, DE. My 64-year-old patient, Dennis Dolan, has heart failure, atrial fibrillation, COPD, sleep apnea, and backache. While I was caring for him he also had shingles but they weren’t the cause of his severe back pain, as I came to see. So I suggested he be worked up for vertebral compression fractures based on the signs and symptoms he was showing. My diagnosis was correct, and after surgery his back felt much better. By looking at symptoms, instead of just focusing on a given diagnosis, I can help my clients have more rewarding lives. That’s also rewarding for me.



I’m Tracy Robbins, and I’m a nurse at Gentiva Hospice in Fort Walton Beach, FL. My 86-year-old patient, Theodore Sumrall, has Alzheimer’s disease, and he asked his daughter to make sure he was cared for in his own home until he went to heaven. She agreed, and I helped her keep her promise to her dad. My care has allowed Mr. Sumrall to maintain his dignity throughout the course of his disease, which wasn’t always easy since death’s approach can lead to difficult situations. But I do my best to maintain calm in the storm by being organized and well informed about my field. One of my goals is to have those hard conversations about death and dying in a way that helps my patients and their family members. I want them to get the answers and closure they need.




I’m Cari Ormsbee, and I’m a nurse at THA Group in Washington, GA. My 57-year-old patient, Darrell J. O’Neal, has been a paraplegic since he had a work-related accident 20 years ago. He suffers from numerous chronic conditions, lives in an apartment, and receives little or no help from family and friends. He had been moved from one nursing home to the next, and he resisted my efforts to assist him when we met four years ago. But over time I’ve gained his trust and been able to help him self-manage his wound care and diabetes despite his physical limitations. The breakthrough came one day when I was dressing his wounds and he began to sing. I joined him and we discovered that we share a love of music. Now we sing together every time I come to visit.



I’m Lenora Stone, and I’m a nurse at Prime Care Services in Honolulu, HI. My patient, 76-year-old Bob Lum, had a cardiac condition and had just undergone a below-the-knee amputation. The time after his surgery was stressful for his family, especially his wife, Liz, who cared for him 24/7. She needed help so I provided IV and wound care. When I treated his wound we sang together, though singing is not my strong suit. I remembered the sound of his voice when his wife called to tell me he had passed away. At his funeral, I was touched to see our company acknowledged in the program. I was also moved to receive a thoughtful message from Mrs. Lum. It made me realize that the time spent with caregivers is just as important as the time spent with patients.



I’m Pat Shippy, and I’m a nurse at First Choice Home Health & Hospice in Boise, ID. I have filled many different roles since becoming a nurse in 1960, and my favorite has been in home health. I have also seen many different patients in my 40 years in home health and 60-year-old Connie Beyer is among the most challenging. Connie is a diabetic who had emergency surgery on a ventral hernia rupture and then multiple follow-up surgeries related to sepsis. She required in-depth wound care, and I spent many hours teaching her to care for her wound. Along the way we shared life stories, and I have never met a more motivated, knowledgeable patient. Despite the severe challenges she faced, she was always cheerful — which made her a joy to know.




My name is Mary Maxson, and I’m a nurse at Visiting Nurses Association in Rockford, IL. I serve as the primary preceptor for our agency, so I am responsible for coaching new staff and helping them sharpen their skills. I also make time to see patients like 68-year-old David Brown. He has been an incomplete quadriplegic since he was in a motor vehicle accident over 50 years back. Until a year ago he was fairly independent, but then he developed a urinary obstruction that requires monthly catheter changes and services from home health. Besides me, David has caregivers two hours in the morning plus two hours in the evening. But if there’s ever problem they know they can contact me because I’m there for my patients 24/7.




My name is Johanne Janke, and I am a nurse with Community Home Health Services in Munster, IN. My passion is pediatric nursing and I have cared for many children from preemies to teens. One of my smaller patients is eight-month-old Dennis Lee Winn, who was diagnosed with Down syndrome and pulmonary artery COA. I took care of him after he had open-heart surgery and went home with a nasogastric feeding tube. Naturally, his parents were worried about him, so I supported them in every way I could and reassured them that Dennis was getting the best of care. I also helped them learn to care for their baby boy by teaching them about NG feedings and heart medications. Now Dennis is doing great, as are his mom and dad.



My name is Monique Reese, and I’m a nurse at UnityPoint at Home in Des Moines, IA. My patient, 68-year-old Joe Maples, was a paraplegic with coronary artery disease, hypertension, diabetes, and COPD. Both his legs were amputated and he was hospitalized for 11 months. I visited him when he finally came home and worked with a medical team to turn his home into an intensive care unit with everything he needed. By collaborating with the team and Joe’s family, I was able to help Joe avoid another long hospital stay. Joe received the right care at the right time in the right place, and that was important to him, his family, and me.



My name is Debbie Ahlert-Caffey, and I’m a hospice manager and pediatric nurse for Douglas County VNA in Lawrence, KS. Fifteen-year-old Michael Douglas has been my patient for more than eight years. Michael has interstitial lung disease which requires routine IV infusions, and the VNA was the only agency that was willing to provide treatment in Michael’s home. Receiving medical care in a familiar place has been critical to Michael’s compliance. I try to make it even easier for him by scheduling visits around his school day, which lets him to feel like a regular kid and meet his academic workload. And there’s another plus to receiving infusions at home because it allows Michael to watch his favorite sports team on TV. Even when they lose, Michael thinks I’m a winner because I “always get the IV in on the first poke.”



My name is Karen Smith and I am a nurse with ResCare HomeCare in Louisville, KY. My 52-year-old patient, Doris O'Bannon, suffers from chronic debilitating back pain, heart disease, Lupus exacerbations, and hypertension. Doris told me she couldn't get comfortable at night, making sleep impossible, so I gave her a semi-electric hospital bed and linens I kept after my mom passed away. She has also fallen several times in her home, so I helped set up a monitoring system with Skype that provides face-to-face contact with a nurse in our office when needed. Throughout the trials of her illnesses, my patient’s Christian faith has been her greatest source of strength and comfort. Each day brings new challenges, but together we will meet them. Making her life more comfortable and safe is what home health is all about.



My name is Ella Knight, and I’m a nurse at Pointe Coupee Homebound Health and Hospice in New Road, LA. I’ve worked there for 30 years, the last 15 of them in hospice as clinical nurse manager and assistant director of nurses. This allows me the privilege of consulting daily with my nurses to ensure all our patients’ needs are met. Wherever I go in our rural community, I seem to encounter family members of my patients. Their kind, grateful words inspire me to continue fulfilling my mission to patients like Thelma Bondy, an 83-year-old with end-stage COPD and asthma, which make her O2 dependent. I’m so glad I can make her smile and give her a dignified death at home with the family she loves.



I’m Greg Burns, and I’m a nurse at HomeHealth Visiting Nurses of Southern Maine in Saco, ME. For the past 24 years, my focus has been pediatrics and I’m a strong advocate for children like Sophie Lam, a long-term Maternal and Child Health Grant patient born to first-time parents. I saw her for the first four months of her life after she developed mild reflux and difficulties feeding. During my visits I assessed her nutrition and gave her parents education and support. Sophie’s mom and dad always had many good questions, and together we managed to avoid many visits to the doctor and ER. I’m glad I was able to give Sophie’s parents the guidance they needed to keep their baby girl at home.



My name is Brenda Hensley, and I’m a nurse at the Johns Hopkins Home Care Group in Dundalk, MD. My patient, Tyrone, had radiation for prostate cancer, leading to the removal of his prostate, bladder, and part of his colon. He was left with one ostomy for elimination of both urine and stool. It was an unusual pouching challenge, but I worked with Tyrone and his wife, Deb, to find an appliance that worked. Afterward, Tyrone wanted to return to work, but he couldn’t bring himself to change his pouch on his own. So I helped Tyrone deal with some of the lifestyle changes he faced and learn to care for himself. Now he’s “good to go” as Deb says, and back to work driving his truck.



My name is Adeline Asante, and I am a nurse at Gentiva Hospice in Boston, MA. My patient, 65-year-old Susan Wyllie, has cardiomyopathy and is bed bound. By the time I met Susan, she had already been evaluated by five other hospices that would not admit her to service because they believed her home situation was “not fit for anyone to live in.” Yet the only place she knew was home, and she wanted to spend her final days there. Susan was so disappointed that she could not trust anyone to help her die peacefully at home that I quickly made some phone calls to my managers. Together, we created a plan to make her dream come true, and I was there when the ambulance brought her home the following day. She looked at me, smiled, and said, “Thank you. May God bless every part of you.”



My name is Pat McLatcher, and I’m a nurse at Pediatric Special Care, in Southfield, MI. My two-year-old client Bethany Callhan, has pulmonary hypertension and bronchopulmonary dysplasia. She was born prematurely at 28 weeks. At five months she contracted RSV, which led to a tracheotomy with ventilator support. Fortunately, she’s made remarkable progress since then. She is now off the vent and capped all day, preparing to be decannulated. She’s a success story like her six-year-old brother who was also born a preemie with respiratory issues. I cared for him, too, and now he’s vent and trach free! I attribute their progress to all the technology we have today, but Bethany’s mom thinks I’ve played an important role. “Pat has cared for both of my children over the past five years,” she says, “and is one of our favorites. She’s always on top of things, and my children love her.”



My name is Gina Michelson and I’m a nurse at Caring and Compassionate Health Care Agency in Worthington, MN. My 90-year-old patient, Leonard Hansen, has Parkinson’s and dementia so he has trouble performing the activities of daily living. But he is more than the sum of his conditions. He also served his country in the Navy, worked hard as a school janitor, and provided for a family. Now he needs help, so I take care of his medication set up and Foley catheter management. I also shop for his favorite foods once a week, and it is a pleasure. He appreciates what our agency does and gently pats the shoulder of any staff member who assists him. Caring for Mr. Hansen has helped me realize that we should all appreciate one another.




I am Robin Stahlman, and I am the transition liaison nurse for Deaconess HomeCare in Natchez, MS. My 79-year-old patient, Leon Clayton, has Alzheimer’s CAD, and diabetes. I met Mr. Clayton after he was hospitalized for pneumonia. Once he was home, our telehealth system showed a slow heart rate, so we rushed him to the physician’s office. The physician immediately sent him to the hospital, where he had a pacemaker inserted. We saved Leon’s life, according to his wife of 58 years. She told us she wouldn’t have known anything was wrong without our transitional care and telehealth program. “Please thank everyone at your office for everything they do every day, not just for my husband, but for all of your patients,” she gratefully said. Hearing her words lets me know I make an impact on others’ lives.



My name is Dawne Eickhoff and I am a nurse at BJC Home Care Services in St. Louis, MO. My patient, Eleanora Markus, is a wonderful person who has been part of our home pulmonary program since July 2012. She is 85 years old, lives alone, and suffers from COPD and hypertension. Working with her pulmonologist, I have successfully gotten her through five COPD exacerbations in the comfort of her own home. I feel really good and proud about what I do each day when I hear Mrs. Markus say, "Dawne is extraordinary. She goes above and beyond to help me with anything and everything. I am so very lucky and grateful that she is my nurse.”



My name is Kristine Cave and I’m a home health nurse at Benefis Spectrum Medical in Great Falls, MT. My 45-year-old patient, Jill Leonard, was diagnosed with rectal cancer and underwent chemotherapy and radiation treatment, which resulted in paralysis from the waist down. Shortly after completing treatment, she learned that the cancer had spread to her lungs, requiring a lung empyema. Once she returned home, we worked on healing the surgical site and other pressure wounds so she could get back to normal. She’s still at home, now completely healed and spending time with her grandkids. They light up her life and watching her enjoy her time with them lights up my life, too.



I'm Mary Rose Taylor, and I'm a nurse at Good Samaritan Society Hastings Village Home Health in Hastings, NE. My 86-year-old patient, Dale Schroeder, has emphysema, severe rheumatoid arthritis, and cardiovascular disease. He was recovering from a recent pacemaker repair when we began providing him with skilled nursing and therapy. His skilled nursing is now finished, but I still visit him regularly to set up his medications. One time he didn’t answer the door because he had an adverse reaction to his medications. Another time, I called to remind him I was coming and he told me he’d had a bad fall. In both cases I called both the doctor and his son, who came to check on his dad. Mr. Schroeder’s son trusts me and I feel good knowing that I’m helping his father to remain safe at home.



I’m Bonnie Schmidt, and I’m a nurse at St. Rose Dominican Hospital's Home Health Services in Las Vegas, NV. My 51-year-old patient, Karla Ward, is a quadriplegic and has been bed bound for eight years. When she was admitted to home care, she suffered from frequent UTIs and bed sores. To cut down on her many hospitalizations, I gave her wound care, skin care, and Foley catheter care. I also tried to improve her nutrition and uplift her spirits. She calls me her “sporty nurse” because I tell her about my bicycling and hiking adventures. Sometimes I also bring my baby desert tortoise to see her. And I’m glad to report she is making far fewer hospital visits. The good news for her is she hasn’t been there in 20 months. And that’s good news for me because we laugh and share many things, including our belief in nursing.

New Hampshire


My name is Dena Breault and I work for North Country Home Health & Hospice in Littleton, NH. I love community nursing because you get a different view of nursing when you visit the homes of patients like 69-year-old Roger Bedor. Mr. Bedor is a former trucker and construction worker with several chronic conditions, including COPD. During my visits, I listen to his concerns and provide teaching along with reassurance. I also call to check on him after he visits the doctor. He’s using our telehealth program to manage his conditions, and he’s grateful to know that I’m only a phone call away. “If it wasn’t for Dena,” he says, “I would be in a facility. I don’t want to go into one. I want to stay in my own home with my own things. I know she will get me through this, and I’ll be better.”

New Jersey


I’m Gail Bechtold, and I’m a nurse at Visiting Nurse Association of Somerset Hills in Basking Ridge, NJ. My 83-year-old patient, Irwin Kimmelman is a dignified, affable man who had once been a state attorney general. Now confined to a wheelchair, he needed help with all the activities of daily living as he dealt with lateral sclerosis, urinary retention, pressure ulcers, and a venous stasis ulcer. Yet his medical status did not define him as a person, and dignity once earned must not be disregarded. So I showed him all due respect as I helped his support system to manage all his care at home. He has only been hospitalized twice in the past three years, and he continues to live at home with the dignity he deserves.

New Mexico


My name is Susan Lopez. I am a nurse with Heritage Hospice in Albuquerque, NM, and I love helping patients maximize their functionality. My patient, Alice Mason, is 92 years old and has end-stage cardiac disease. She is a veteran, lives alone, and cherishes her independence. As Alice’s case manager, I work to meld her individual goals with the hospice care plan so she can maintain as active a lifestyle as possible and also remain safe at home. My weekly visits have fostered a relationship based on mutual respect and led Alice to trust my advice on energy conservation, symptom management, and home safety. Because of our rapport, Alice recognizes I am walking this path with her and supporting her all the way. The benefit for me is enjoying her independent spirit and great sense of humor!

New York


I’m Vickie Oliver-Rivera, and I’m a nurse at Visiting Nurse Service of New York in New York City, NY. Through VNSNY’s Nurse Family Partnership, I’ve worked with over 100 girls, including 23-year-old Eyana Smith who grew up in a drug-addicted environment. Now she found herself pregnant and feared she would have to give up her dream of becoming a doctor. I wanted to help her, but first I had to gain her trust. Over time we bonded as I talked to her about finding and recognizing her strengths. Eyana had begun viewing herself in a new light by the time her son, Aizen, was born on Christmas. With my support, Eyana gained the confidence to give Aizen the nurturing he needed and finish community college. She now works as an emergency medical technician and plans to return to school so she can revive her dream of becoming a doctor.

North Carolina


I’m Mary Ellis, and I’m a nurse with Gentiva Home Health in Gastonia, NC. My 80-year-old patient, Mary Cagle, suffers from hypertension, depression, schizophrenia, gait dysfunction, and skin disorders. Over the course of six years, I’ve seen her struggle as her health declines. She has gone from ambulating independently to being in a wheelchair. And she’s suffered other losses, too, because her husband and children are dead. Yet Mrs. Cagle makes the most of her life. With our help, she has been able to stay out of the hospital and remain safely at home. She’s one of many patients that I help through rehab so they can have the best possible quality of life.


North Dakota


My name is Cheryl Anderson, and I’m a nurse at Sanford Home Care in Fargo, ND. My 93-year-old patient, Jerry Palmer, has osteoarthrosis, coronary artery disease, and macular degeneration. While caring for Jerry, I realized macular degeneration was a particular issue for him. Medication set up was time consuming and sometimes left him wondering if he did it correctly. So I made a few phone calls after learning that Jerry is a veteran but wasn’t using VA services. Soon he was screened and approved for benefits that allow me to visit every two weeks and organize his medications in his medisets. Now Jerry is also connected with the VA pharmacy where he has no co-pays. And my payment is the knowledge that I am helping to keep him safe and healthy at home.



I’m Karen Marshall and I am an RN case manager for Hospice of Visiting Nurse Service in Akron, OH. I have been working in home health and hospice since 1988. I am currently caring for a loving couple who have been married 72 years, 95-year-old Howard and 89-year-old Esther Jones. They are spending this season of their lives together in the comfort of their home. Mr. Jones is a proud World War II veteran who loves to tell about his service under General Patton and the landing at Omaha Beach. To honor Mr. Jones’ service to his country, I arranged a pinning ceremony on May 25, 2014. This veteran-to-veteran ceremony included providing Mr. Jones with a home-made quilt, a personalized branch certificate, a flag pin, and veteran salutes.



My name is Trameka Darthard and I've been a nurse at Choice Home Health & Hospice, in Oklahoma City, OK, for 12 years. My patient, 59-year-old Melvin Green, suffers from COPD, GI bleed, and atrial fibrillation. He also has a history of frequent rehospitalizations for CHF exacerbations. By forming a close relationship with his cardiologist’s office, I helped him receive prompt service and since then his rehospitalization rate has dropped. I continue teaching him how to manage his symptoms, monitor his lab results, and manage his medications. He lives alone, so I also coordinate his care, keep his medication list accurate, ensure that he is compliant — and assure him that I will come running when he needs me. With my help, his quality of life is improving. And that is my goal for all of my patients.



I am Donna Erwert and I’m a nurse with Providence Hospice in Portland, OR. My 88-year-old patient, Gilberto Godinez, had dementia. Whenever I came to see him he would be sitting in his recliner with the blankets pulled over his head. His vision was poor and he spoke very little, but he always had a sweet “gracias” for me. He was loved by many, especially his wife of 60 years and their 12 children. At first, it posed challenges to deal his many family members, all with different ideas about how to care for Gilberto. But I opened the lines of communication, and the family all came to trust me. Though they decided to send him to the hospital on his last day, I’m happy knowing I helped him stay in his home as long as he could. Gracias Gilberto!




I’m Amy Neering, and I’m a nurse at the VNA of Greater Philadelphia in Philadelphia, PA. I started out as a dance major, but chose to become a nurse like my grandmother and mother. Since then, my training has given me the chance to help patients like Jack. He had progressive myositis ossificans, a degenerative muscular disease, and his goal was to stay at home. My goal was to help him maintain his dignity while he endured progressive paralysis. Besides providing him with physical care, I addressed his emotional needs. Whether arranging for the neighborhood kids to clean his yard or picking up his favorite pizza, I tried to do something extra from time to time as Jack became more isolated from people and things he enjoyed. To express his appreciation, Jack wrote a poem for me before he died. Reading his grateful words reminded me that nursing was the right choice.

Rhode Island


My name is Darlene Radcliffe-Dumont, and I’m a nurse at BAYADA Home Health Care in Providence, RI. My 31-year-old patient, Jason Januskiewiczy, has quadriplegia and lives with a grandfather whose age and own illness prevent him from providing care. One winter day, they were expecting a CNA but a raging blizzard stood in her way. The weather was so bad that the taxis refused to travel, but I knew Jason is nearly helpless without his nurses. Now he needed help, so I loaded my family’s extra generator into the car and drove to Jason’s home where I hooked it up. The drive was a bit challenging, but I try to put my clients first. My reward was the knowledge that Jason was safe and comfortable at home.

South Carolina


My name is Sarah Mclean, and I’m a nurse at BAYADA Home Health Care in Rock Hill, SC. My patient Brian Denny is a 37-year-old quadriplegic who recently had a tracheostomy. He is ventilator dependent, and he has a neurogenic bowel and bladder. Recently he lost his night nurse, and it was hard to find a replacement. I was the only other night nurse who cared for him, so I stepped up to the plate. I worked closely with my agency to work out a schedule that would most benefit Brian. Sometimes this meant doing double shifts, flipping days and nights, and training multiple nurses on multiple shifts. I do it because I want to make sure Brian gets the care he needs.

South Dakota


My name is Mary Pistulka, and I’ve been a nurse for 26 years at Avera Hospice in Yankton, SD. My most memorable moments there involve patients, and a particularly memorable patient was 74-year-old Glen Folkestad, a seasoned truck driver with end stage COPD. Glen always knew exactly what he wanted, whether it was driving a riding motor or smoking. Often it was not something the hospice team thought would be best, but we did support his wish to avoid going to a nursing home. By respecting Glen, gradually gaining his trust, and mediating several team/patient meetings, I was able to convince my patient to make some compromises. As a result, Glen was able to remain home with his beloved wife, Phyllis, and spend his last days there with the continued support of hospice.



My name is Cindy Branch and I’m a nurse at Meritan in Memphis, TN. My 56-year-old patient, Latrelle Adams, is intellectually delayed, with NIDDM, CHF, and seizure disorder. She had lived at home with her mother for years and spent time in two different nursing homes. She was living with a family member who was unable to take care of her when Meritan received a call for its services. I worked with state agencies to help Latrelle move into medical residential services, where we provide her with 12 hours of services each day. Since then Latrelle has lost 40 pounds and her seizures are under control, as is her CHF. She is proud of her new home and excited that she doesn’t have to worry about someone taking her belongings. I consider her family and try to care for her from my heart.



I’m Doreen Esparza, and I’m a nurse with Gentiva Hospice in Austin, TX. My 83-year-old patient, Barbara Krueger, was a delightful and active woman with ES lung cancer. She had a very sharp decline following chemo and radiation treatments. Afterward she had a pleurX drain, received Lovenox injections, and recognized that she would not recover. Yet her focus was on her family and husband of 63 years. When her son flew in from Alaska, we all had that “difficult conversation.” After more than eight years working in hospice, I knew I had to be compassionate, informative, and honest. After we talked, they chose to stop aggressive treatment and opt for comfort care, allowing Mrs. Krueger to die peacefully with her family at her side. Caring for people like her, as they live the final chapter of their lives is an honor, and I cannot imagine doing anything else.



My name is Debbie Beery, and I am a nurse with Bristol Hospice in Salt Lake City, UT. My patient, Reed Adams, was a 71-year-old veteran with cardiac failure and end-stage cancer. His loved to reminisce about his experiences in the military and his bedroom was full of his medals and medallions. We treated his pain at home as long as we could. But after months it was so severe we had to move him into an SNF. We continued to care for him at the SNF, where I conducted a flag-pinning ceremony on Veterans Day. Mr. Adams sat in the front row in his wheelchair with his eyes closed, but he opened them when I called his name. I walked over, knelt before him, and said, “Thank you for your service, your sacrifice, and our freedom.” When our eyes connected, it was a moment I will never forget.



My name is Lynne Caulfield, and I’m a nurse at BAYADA Home Health Care in Brattleboro, VT. My client, Rhonda, was sent home from a hospital one weekend, with a new PEG tube, though she was not taught anything about the tube or how to use a pump. To make matters worse, she was discharged without a pump or food. So I called everywhere in the hospital to get the supplies she needed. Knowing that a pump would not arrive that weekend, I got orders for gravity feeds for immediate nutrition. Yet Rhonda still needed the food so I called every pharmacy in a two-hour radius of her home. Finally, I talked the night supervisor from a local hospital into giving Rhonda a few cans of food so she wouldn’t go to bed hungry. When I returned that day, she thanked me for taking such good care of her.



I'm Joann Plencner, and I'm a nurse at the University of Virginia Health System's Continuum Home Health Care in Charlottesville, VA. My 41-year-old patient Jimmy Fortune, Jr. has spina bifida and has been living with T10 level paresis, an ileal conduit, colostomy, and a lower lib amputation. When I visit Jimmy's home, I work closely with him and his caregivers to address his wound and ostomy needs — finding new types of ostomy bags and wound care products that will work as better options for him. Jimmy has the best attitude I have ever seen, and he is confident that I will support him going ahead. I appreciate the care challenges we see in home health, and I most appreciate working with patients like Jimmy who are true partners in finding their own health care solutions. Jimmy is a strong advocate for himself, and he knows I am, too.




My name is Julie Sander and I’m a nurse at Evergreen Health in Kirkland, WA. My 71-year-old patient, Jacqueline Hancock, has MS and a slow-healing wound. When she saw the doctor, he told her she had to elevate the wound for 16 hours and suggested skipping meals and other activities. Mrs. Hancock was discouraged, so I had her keep a record showing where she could elevate longer and still have a life. On her 50th wedding anniversary, she was able to go out and celebrate with her husband. Devoted as he is, her husband could not change the dressing on her wound, so I showed her granddaughter how to do it. She must have been interested in what I taught her because she is now in nursing school.

West Virginia


My name is Dan Brindo, and I’m a nurse with Roane HomeCare, part of LHC Group, Inc. in Spencer, WV. My patient, Geraldine Garrett, has diabetes, congestive heart failure, COPD, and asthma. In December 2009, she had to have a pacemaker-defibrillator replaced. Fortunately, the care that the Roane HomeCare staff and I provide, along with her family’s support, allows Geraldine to stay in the comfort of her home, surrounded by the mementos and collections that she loves. Geraldine told me, “I’m getting all the care I need to keep me well; they’re really good to me.” And they also provide her with some fun. When the staff comes to visit, “we just have a blast,” she says. “I feel I’m with good people.”



My name is Linda Felix, and I’m a nurse at Horizon Home Care & Hospice in Milwaukee, WI. My patient, 72-year-old Roberta Herman, is a quadriplegic with multiple sclerosis and requires suprapublic catheter care. She has been a patient at Horizon for 14 years, and I have cared for her during 10 of them. During that time, I have seen her health continue to fail, but not her spirit. She is a wonderful woman who has taught me many things and I feel privileged to give her care. She has gone through many health problems and hospital stays, but we always manage to get her home where she wants to be. I hope she can stay there so our friendship can continue to grow.




My name is Kyla Murray and I am a nurse at West Park Hospital Home Health and Spirit Mountain Hospice, in Cody, WY. I have enjoyed the time I have spent caring for 86-year-old Dean Reavis. He has been a paraplegic for over 40 years and I have spent of number of them at his side. I have cared for his wounds and fractures. I have performed routine Foley catheter changes, lab draws, and injections. While I care for him, he shares many stories of his adventures, and sometimes I bring him a cinnamon roll in return. Getting to know Dean has been a highlight of my nursing career. I have learned so much from the many challenges he faces, and as a result I have become a better nurse. Thank you Dean!

NAHC thanks the many home care and hospice agencies, along with the individuals, who submitted nominations for the top home care and hospice nurses in the nation. Our special appreciation goes to the members of the Nurse Recognition Program Selection Committee for 2014:


Sherl Brand, RN, BSN, Chief External Affairs Officer & VP Business Development
VNA Health Group
Red Bank, NJ

Chrissy Buteas, President & CEO
Home Care Association of New Jersey
Iselin, NJ

Andrea L. Devoti, RN, MSN, MBA, CHCE, President & CEO
Neighborhood Health Agencies
West Chester, PA

Mary T. Haynor, BSN, MBA, President & CEO
Horizon Home Care & Hospice, Inc.
Milwaukee, WI

Ann Horton, MS, Executive Director
Maryland National Capital Homecare Association
Silver Spring, MD

Jane Kelly, Executive Director
Kansas Home Care Association
Topeka, KS

Shaun R. Meyer, RN, Perkins County Health Services
Director of Home Health Services
Hi-Line Home Health
Grant, NE

Thomas J. Moreland, BSE, MA, President/CEO
Saint Jude Healthcare
Clive, IA

Nicholas A. Oliver, MPA, CAE, Executive Director
Rhode Island Partnership for Home Care, Inc.
Providence, RI

Maggie Short, RN, Administrator
University of Virginia Health System
Community Services & Continuum Home Health
Charlottesville, VA

Karen R. Thomas, BS, MS, CMA, President
Oxford HealthCare
Springfield, MO

Karen Marshall Thompson, MS, RN, CNS, Director
Southern Ohio Medical Center, Home Health Services
Portsmouth, OH



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