Seeking extraordinary bedside nurse leaders: One model for chapter growth

Cynthia D. Sweeney |

A chapter and a hospital collaborate.

DAISY Award recipients were first inducted into Sigma's Pi Chapter in 2016.

Pi Chapter wanted to recruit nurse leaders making a difference at the bedside. Chapter member Cynthia Sweeney, executive director of The DAISY Foundation, had an idea.

Cynthia SweeneyThe Greek letters in Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing (Sigma) represent three Greek words—storgé, tharsos, and timé—which translate to love, courage, and honor. What better way to describe the attributes of a nurse leader? Nurses inducted into Sigma epitomize these words.

In search of love, courage, and honor
In 2016, in the interest of inducting additional members who exemplify love, courage, and honor, Sigma’s Pi Chapter—then led by Rebecca Wiseman, PhD, RN—decided to look beyond academia, a source of many Sigma members, to find nurse leaders making a difference in their clinical environments. (Pi Chapter is affiliated with the University of Maryland in Baltimore.) At that time, I was chair of the chapter’s Leadership Succession Committee and was trying to think of ways to engage the community and support leadership succession—not just for elections. 

As executive director of The DAISY Foundation, I know the quality of DAISY Award recipients and felt we were missing an opportunity to recognize their solid leadership in delivering compassionate and extraordinary clinical care at the bedside. I also know there are very strong leaders within the clinical community who, although they had not been tapped for Sigma membership when they were in school, had evolved into phenomenal role models and leaders.

With these thoughts in mind, I contacted Barbara Jacobs, MSN, RN-NEA, RN-BC, CCRN-K, chief nursing officer of Anne Arundel Medical Center (AAMC), a DAISY hospital in Annapolis, Maryland, USA, to determine if there was interest in a pilot program to induct recipients of The DAISY Award or other nurses who had demonstrated leadership in the hospital setting. DAISY is an acronym for Diseases Attacking the Immune System.

Gold standard
The DAISY Award—created by the Barnes family to honor their son Patrick, who died of idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura, an autoimmune disease—is presented by the hospital to nurses who provide compassionate and extraordinary nursing care. Although Pat passed away during his hospitalization, the family wanted to say thank you to his nurses for the compassionate care they provided. That was 18 years ago, and there are now more than 3,300 healthcare facilities and schools of nursing in all 50 U.S. states and 18 other countries where nurses are honored with The DAISY Award. Indeed, it has become a global standard for recognition of excellence in nursing care.

When I asked Chief Nursing Officer Jacobs, a member of Sigma, about recognizing exceptional nurse leaders at the medical center with Sigma membership, she was quick to say yes.

When I was approached about the possibility of inducting some of our nurse leaders into Pi Chapter, I thought this would be received very positively. We all recognize that working in nursing leadership is a hard job, and it was a wonderful way to recognize our nurse leaders. We sent information out to nurses in leadership positions, and I was very pleasantly surprised about the number of leaders who really appreciated the opportunity to join Sigma. … We decided as a group that anyone who received a DAISY Award also met the definition of a leader in bedside nursing.

The hospital also embraces the collaboration, its senior leadership reasoning that a DAISY Nurse is a clinical leader at the bedside and should be duly recognized as such. Thus far, they have hosted two inductions, and a third is planned for later this year. To date, 26 nurse leaders have been inducted. In addition to providing a guest speaker, meeting space, and dinner reception, the hospital pays the first year of Sigma membership for DAISY Award recipients.

Nurses who make a difference
Past President Wiseman observes: “The DAISY and Sigma criteria complement each other well with a focus on leadership and making a difference in people’s lives. DAISY awardees and Sigma members epitomize excellence in caring.”

Karen McCamant, MSN, RN, ACNS-BC, NEA-BC, oversees recognition and award programs for the nursing staff. She comments:

As director of professional nursing practice and Magnet, I am thrilled that AAMC recognizes nursing excellence through our relationship with The DAISY Foundation. The story of Patrick Barnes and his family touches the very core of who we are here as a patient- and family-centered health system, where the touch of nurses elevates the experience of care to something special every single day.

Gena Kosmides, MSN, RN-BC, coordinator of the DAISY program at the hospital and one of those inducted in the first ceremony, is very happy to see DAISY Award recipients recognized with induction into Sigma. She shares:

Our nurses do the right thing for their patients every day. The care that the patients receive at AAMC is phenomenal. This care is not driven by yearly bonuses or other rewards—rather by pure passion for the profession. I am honored to be the DAISY coordinator for AAMC because I get to witness firsthand the sheer compassion and dedication our nurses provide to our patients.

Nomination accolades for one DAISY Nurse
How do you describe a bedside leader? What do leadership and excellence look like in the profession of nursing? Arianna Graziadei, a recipient of The DAISY Award, was inducted into Pi Chapter in 2017. Below are excerpts from nominations supporting her receipt of The DAISY Award.

When thinking of nominating Arianna for a DAISY Award, the hardest thing to do is know where to start. She is the most caring, compassionate, selfless nurse I have ever had the honor to work with. What makes this wonderful person more impressive is that she only has a few years of experience. But her passion and desire to truly care for patients and families are apparent every shift. Not just take care of these people, but care for them.

Arianna is the kind of nurse I would want to care for my family member. She is not just clinically strong. She connects with the patient and the family to treat the whole person.

She inspires me every day—to be a team member, a caring nurse, a better person.

Recently, an elderly woman with multiple medical issues including acute pancreatitis was admitted. She was on total parenteral nutrition awaiting improvement of her labs for surgery. She developed pneumonia, and chronic comorbidities were causing her to decline. Her daughter was having a difficult time with goals of care. Arianna spent the day counseling the family, who ultimately made the difficult decision to provide comfort care. She started a morphine drip and ensured the patient was comfortable and could spend the end of her life in peace and dignity.

Every day she makes connections with patients and families and has an unbelievable memory for not only what they need but also what they want.

Another exemplary quality is her team focus and concern for what is best for the patient and unit. We received a patient that we were unaware was confused and impulsive. The patient was placed in an available room, far from the nurses’ station, that is not conducive to that type of patient. Arianna saw the patient going into the room and recalled her from previously taking care of her. She immediately said the room was not appropriate for the patient’s safety and said she had just discharged a patient from a much better located room and called the charge nurse and asked to have the patient moved. Not many nurses willingly request to have a confused impulsive patient assigned to them. She truly wants to provide every patient and family with extraordinary care. 

After reading these comments that exemplify the compassionate and extraordinary care provided by Arianna, a DAISY Nurse, it is not hard to see that the attributes of love, courage and honor truly characterize this clinical bedside leader. And there are others who are eligible for recognition by Sigma. They can be found at the bedside, where they lead. RNL

Cynthia D. Sweeney, MSN, RN, CNOR, NEA-BC, is executive director, The DAISY Foundation.

  • vol44-3
  • RNL Feature
  • Seeking extraordinary bedside nurse leaders: One model for chapter growth