ore than 300 nurses work at Schneck Medical Center in Seymour.

They slip into rooms quietly to check on patients, they assist doctors in surgical procedures, and they help each other do their jobs better.

A nurse’s work often can go unnoticed and unappreciated; but sometimes, a nurse goes above and beyond the call of duty, leaving an impression on those they are caring for along with their co-workers.

Schneck honored four such nurses this past Wednesday, presenting them with nursing leadership awards as part of its annual celebration of National Nurses Week, which runs through today. Today also is the anniversary of the birth of Florence Nightingale, who is credited with founding nursing as a profession.

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Those receiving awards were Rachel Bullard, Nurse of the Year; Amy Pettit, Nurse Leader of the Year; Katie Thomas, Licensed Practical Nurse of the Year; and Velvet Schmidt, Advanced Practice Nurse of the Year.

The hospital created the awards to recognize the performance of its nurses and to distinguish and reward those who exemplify excellence in nursing care, hospital President and CEO Warren Forgey said.

“Advocating, leading and caring is the motto of the National Nurses Association, and it certainly captures the key ideals of our nurses,” he said.

Last year at Schneck, nurses were involved in nearly 6,000 in-patient admissions, 5,600 surgical procedures, more than 30,000 emergency room visits and nearly 800 births, Forgey said.

Because of its level of nursing excellence, the hospital ranks in the top 7 percent of the 414 hospitals in the country with magnet nursing hospital designation.

Nominations for Schneck’s nursing awards were sought from hospital staff and patients, and the recipients were selected based on their demonstrated knowledge and skill; quality outcomes; education and research; and the ability to teach and mentor peers and be influential in bringing positive change to the hospital, said Vicki Johnson-Poynter, vice president of nursing services.

Nurse of the Year

Rachel Bullard has spent nine years in the emergency department and was selected for the top award for her excellent customer service, willingness to go above and beyond her normal duties as a nurse and her positive attitude, said Cathy Wichman, director of emergency services.

“The emergency department is a fast-paced, high-energy department that sees patients from birth to death, in their greatest and saddest of moments,” Wichman said. “This nurse wears her profession on her person. It is who she is. Her peers look at her for leadership. She is thought of as a resource for any patient population.”

Bullard said she enjoys working in the emergency department because of the quickly changing environment.

“I enjoy the flexibility and the ability to make a difference quickly in someone’s life,” she said.

Wichman said other nurses and doctors appreciate Bullard’s work.

“They say things like ‘I can always count on her to help me, no questions asked.’ Or another said, ‘She is the calm during the eye of a storm,’” Wichman said. “She gives direction and advocates for her patients regardless of how busy the department is. I can go on and on about the positive things I hear about this nurse.”

Bullard is a member of the employee development committee and the stroke certification team. She also serves as a mentor for new staff.

“I’ve seen her give her cellphone number out and tell a new nurse it’s OK if you need me in the middle of the night. Just call,” Wichman said. “She’s always seeking ways to improve care for her patients and demonstrates kindness and compassion in her interactions. I am honored to work with her every day as are her peers.”

Bullard said she was humbled by the recognition.

“The ER truly is a team; not one person can do it all, especially when it gets very busy,” she said. “This is a tribute to the hard work that the emergency department does.”

Licensed Practical Nurse of the Year

Venetia Green, director of medical/surgical nursing, presented the LPN of the Year award to Katie Thomas, who has spent just more than a year working on the post-surgical unit.

“Licensed practical nurses complement the health care team by providing routine, constant care within their scope of practice under the direction of an RN or a physician in a variety of settings,” Green said. “This LPN exemplifies compassion, trustworthiness, accountability, integrity, ethics and is very much a team player.”

Thomas’ peers say she is always willing to help in any situation, Green said.

“She helps with all aspects of patient care, and her skill is highly valued on her unit,” Green said. “She’s always smiling. She’s willing to go above and beyond to help out the patients and the RNs. She takes on whatever is thrown at her during her shift and makes the unit function. She’s always here early, and she’s willing to stay to get the next shift settled before she leaves.”

Thomas said she decided to go into nursing because her brother is a nurse.

“And I’ve always been someone who wants to help people in any way,” she said. “Before I was even in the health care field, I liked helping people. So it just seemed like a good profession for me.”

She said the best part of her job is helping people get better.

Her advice to young nurses is not to make it a career for the wrong reasons.

“Do it because you love people,” she said.

Advanced Practice Nurse of the Year

Shery Tiemeyer, director of patient/volunteer services, presented the Advanced Practice Nurse award to Velvet Schmidt, who has worked with elderly patients at the hospital and in nursing homes since 2008.

“Some of the things people said about her in nominations is that ‘she loves what she’s doing and enjoys educating as she goes, even educating people who are not her patients,’” Tiemeyer said. “She looks at more than just the patients, she treats them with care and compassion. She’s always pleasant to be around and has a great bedside manner.”

Tiemeyer said many people make comments about Schmidt’s smile.

“She has an infectious smile that makes you want to be a better nurse,” Tiemeyer said. “Velvet is nursing at its finest.”

Schmidt said she went into nursing because she was a “Riley kid.”

“I had a burn injury as a child, so I grew up at Riley Hospital (for Children in Indianapolis),” she said. “It just encouraged me to be a nurse because I wanted to give back what was given to me.”

She chose to work with elderly patients because they are like adopted grandparents, she said.

“I have a passion for that population,” she said. “They’ve contributed a lot in their lifetimes, and they deserve to be treated very well toward the end of it.”

To be a nurse requires compassion and a passion for taking care of people, Schmidt said.

“Nursing is considered a good-paying job, but it’s about taking care of people at their best and their worst,” she said. “It’s so much more than a paycheck.”

Nurse Leader of the Year

Johnson-Poynter presented the Nurse Leader of the Year award to Amy Pettit, who recently earned her doctor of nursing practice degree. She is the first nurse at Schneck to reach the DNP level.

“This is an awesome nurse leader,” Johnson-Poynter said of Pettit. “She has been very versatile and has worked in many areas of the hospital. Whichever area she works in, she sets a great example and is a great role model for nurses.”

Pettit is passionate about the hospital and its nursing services, Johnson-Poynter added.

“She gives honest advice and is very knowledgeable. I can’t say enough great things about her.”

Time and time again, Pettit has been placed in roles where change needed to happen, Johnson-Poynter added.

“She is a leader that gets results; and tremendous, positive outcomes are demonstrated wherever she leads,” Johnson-Poynter said. “She has proven to be able to take units through both planned and unplanned change successfully.

“She is a transformational leader that has a vision of excellence and enlists both her professional and personal life to becoming the best that she can be helping others where they need to go,” Johnson-Poynter said.

Pettit said she was excited to receive both the Nurse Leader of the Year award and her DNP degree.

“Even though it’s my degree, they were such a huge part of it,” she said of her fellow nurses at Schneck. “I couldn’t have done it without them.”

Having worked at Schneck since she graduated from college in 1995, Pettit said she has taken on a lot of different roles at the hospital.

“Now I’m in nursing leadership, and it’s my job to make the nurses jobs easier so that they can care for patients and that’s what I want to do,” she said. “If I can do something that makes their jobs easier, then I’m successful every day.”

Pettit said nursing is about focusing everything you do on helping others.

“I don’t know a nurse in this hospital who wouldn’t give up their shirt to help someone, and that’s why it’s great to be part of this profession,” she added.

But the career is also demanding and always changing, she said.

“With nursing, you never stop learning. It doesn’t matter what field or department you’re in,” she said.

Johnson-Poynter said she is proud of this year’s award winners and thanked all nurses for their service.

“To be a nurse is to dedicate your life to caring for the health of others. These nurses have made extraordinary contributions to their patients, their colleagues and their nursing profession,” she said. “Our nurses are hardworking and dedicated to their patients; and we know, without their compassion, Schneck Medical Center would not be as successful as we are.”

At a glance

Schneck Medical Center’s Nursing Excellence Awards

Nurse of the Year — Rachel Bullard

Nurse Leader of the Year — Amy Pettit

Licensed Practical Nurse of the Year — Katie Thomas

Advanced Practice Nurse of the Year — Velvet Schmidt

Author photo
January Rutherford is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. She can be reached at jrutherford@tribtown.com or 812-523-7069.