Written by Nancy Sokoler Steiner | Photographed by Vincent Rios
When Elaine Hume-Dawson, RN, started to open the door of the OR education room, she caught a glimpse of a yellow and green banner. Then she ran out of the room.
“I bolted. I was shocked,” says the manager of the perianesthesia units. “I was completely speechless, which is not my norm.”
Hume-Dawson recognized the banner signifying the Daisy Award and was overcome with emotion. She regained her composure and re-entered the room, where she was presented with the Daisy Nurse Leader Award.
Now an international program, the Daisy Award for extraordinary nurses honors “the superhuman work nurses do for patients and families every day,” according to the program’s website. Torrance Memorial Medical Center is among the 5,400+ health care facilities participating in the Daisy Awards.
The family of J. Patrick Barnes founded the program in 1999. They wanted to express gratitude for the exceptional nursing care Barnes received over eight weeks of hospitalization before he passed away.
At Torrance Memorial, one nurse receives the Daisy Award each month. In addition, one nurse leader per year receives the Daisy Nurse Leader Award for nurse leadership. Anyone within the medical center may submit a nomination, including patients, families, other nurses, physicians or staff.
The Nursing Professional Development Council collects the nominations and selects a winner and a runner-up. “We ask so much of our nurses,” says vice president of nursing Shanna Hall, RN. “The Daisy Award helps show them they are heard and valued.”
“We like to surprise the winners and present the award in their unit,” adds senior vice president of patient services and chief nursing officer Mary Wright, RN. “We read the nomination form aloud, and it really touches the recipients.”
Winners receive the Daisy Award banner, proudly displayed in their unit for a month. They take photos with their colleagues and hospital leadership and appear on hospital screen savers and social media. Daisy Award recipients also receive a statue called Healer’s Touch, a pin and other goodies from the Barnes Foundation. (A replica of the Healer’s Touch statue, symbolizing the relationship between nurses, patients and families, graces Torrance Memorial’s healing garden.) Hall also writes a personalized note to each winner.
An annual Daisy Breakfast in Hoffman Health Conference Center brings together the year’s award winners to celebrate with CEO Craig Leach, Wright, Hall and other hospital leaders. A representative from the Barnes Foundation presents the nurse leadership award.
At last year’s breakfast, Daisy Award cofounders Bonnie and Mark Barnes spoke to the more than 75 attendees. (For two years during COVID-19, nurses received care packages at home and participated in Zoom-based ceremonies.)
“Reading Daisy Award nominations makes you remember what nursing is all about—it’s caring for our patients and giving ourselves to them,” says Wright. “That art is alive and well at Torrance Memorial.”
“We have extraordinary nurses who practice the art of healing and compassion along with science. Altogether it makes the art of nursing,” says Hall. “This is one way we can recognize the art of nursing in a formalized way.”
Hume-Dawson affirms the award’s impact. “For me, it is the highest honor,” she says. “And as a nurse leader, it was extra special to me because [the nomination] came from my team. They recognize I try my best, and they validate what I do.”
Torrance Memorial began participating in the Daisy Awards in 2010. Winners have come from nearly every department, including ICU, Home Health, Wound Care and Hospice. Nine recipients have won the Daisy Award twice, and 7 West nurse Suzanne Tatikian received the award three times. Collectively, over 144 recipients have been honored.
A sampling of recent nomination forms provides a window into the nature of the extraordinary care provided by Torrance Memorial nurses. 4W cardiology nurse Ednalyn Viesca’s patient felt sad and frustrated her hospitalization prevented her from celebrating her 11-year-old son’s birthday with him. She wished her son could at least have cake. Viesca purchased and delivered a birthday cake to the boy.
Home health nurse Hiromi Sako’s colleague nominated her for “embodying everything Torrance Memorial values in a leader,” noting, “I believe her to be the best nurse I have ever worked with. She has made me a stronger nurse and educator.”
A COVID-19 patient nominated Lauren Ayres of 3E ICU for providing extraordinary care and daily updates to her family. “She came in to take care of me on her days off,” says the patient. “She set up nightly computer calls with my children all over the country when I was on the breathing machine. I know Lauren’s care was responsible for saving my life.”
As one of the emergency department’s medical directors and chief medical officer appointee, Zachary Gray, MD, works closely with nursing and nursing leadership. He considers the Daisy Award among the most important and meaningful types of recognition at Torrance Memorial.
“Nursing care is at the very core of how the hospital operates. Without nurses, the medical center would not function,” he says. “When the rubber meets the road, medicine happens person-to-person at the individual level, over and over again. The Daisy Award really captures that.”
That’s the case for Hume-Dawson. Seeing and hearing about the year’s winners at the Daisy Award breakfast, she says, “You feel the joy, gratitude, professionalism and camaraderie, and you think, ‘Let’s keep this flame going.’” •