The Illinois Nurses Foundation recently chose 15 nurses and nursing faculty members at RUSH University Medical Center, RUSH University College of Nursing and RUSH Oak Park Hospital (ROPH) as recipients of the organization's annual 40 Under 40 Emerging Nurse Leaders Award. The award highlights and celebrates young nurse leaders who are making an impact on health care and the nursing profession today and who will shape the future of the profession.
“This extraordinary selection of RUSH nurses provides yet another example of why the nursing profession nationwide looks to RUSH nurses to advance the practice of our profession. I am immensely proud to have so many RUSH nurses on this year’s 40 Under 40 list and congratulate them all,” said Angelique Richard, PhD, RN, CENP, chief nursing officer for RUSH University System for Health and RUSH University Medical Center and senior vice president for hospital operations at the Medical Center.
The following nurses were honored (unless otherwise indicated, each nurse works at RUSH University Medical Center).
Tintu Abraham, RN, Assistant Unit Director, Medical Surgical Unit
Coaching and mentoring the unit’s nurses through the COVID-19 pandemic, Abraham has ensured her team is supported with the resources they need for clinical advancement and professional growth. Her ability to collaborate with the multidisciplinary team has contributed to speedy improvements in overall patient safety and quality on the unit. A native of India, Abraham took part in an international webinar on global perspectives on the scope and standards of practice in nursing held by Pondicherry Institute of Medical Sciences in India, and she is active in the Indian Nurses Association of Illinois. Described as a caring and compassionate nurse and leader, Abraham is quick to provide hands-on support to her nursing team when needed. She similarly is also visible in her patient interactions, often spending the time to meet and greet each patient on the unit, fostering relationships that build trust in the health care team, which ultimately leads to better outcomes.
Justine Alipio, RN, CCRN, Cardiosciences Intensive Care Unit (CVICU)
A seven-year veteran of the CVICU, Alipio recently completed a one-year term as president of the Professional Nursing Staff, serving as a frontline nurse advocate during the continued challenges and complexities of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. She supported and listened to health care team members throughout the Medical Center, partnering with executive leaders to ensure nursing voices were heard. Many successful changes were implemented to support frontline nurses thanks to the support of Alipio and the PNS staff. In addition, Alipio has been instrumental in the growth of a not-for-profit foundation, Nurses Helping Nurses, which assists RUSH nurses who have experienced a tragic event and are in need of financial support. An engaged leader, Alipio understands the importance of caring for her team and leads by example when it comes to team support and helping one another.
Camille Brownlee, MSN, RN, CNL, Education/Quality Coordinator, Perioperative Services and Endoscopy
Brownlee actively participated in the planning, development, and implementation of the clinical nurse specialist (CNS) and clinical nurse leader (CNL) dyad (partnership) model during the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, which the Medical Center continues to use. This innovative approach to patient care has translated into new knowledge in research. Brownlee is actively involved with the American Society of PeriAnesthesia Nurses, participating in the perianesthesia nurse educator specialty group to share her knowledge of the CNS-CNL dyad model with her nurse peers nationwide. The Medical Center recently has implemented a gender-affirming care program which includes gender-affirming surgeries. Brownlee has been instrumental in planning, developing and implementing a robust education and training program for this new patient population in Perioperative Services. She has ensured that the education and training reflects compassion and respect. She also volunteered to be the first to provide care for a patient who elected to receive gender-affirming surgery at the Medical Center.
Quinn Butler, MSN, RN, Assistant Unit Director, Inpatient Adult Psychiatry
Butler began her career working with people with mental illness, first as a case manager and an employment specialist, then as a pediatric psychiatric nurse and an assistant director of emergency services for a psychiatric safety net hospital. In her current role as assistant unit director of the Medical Center’s inpatient, high acuity adult psychiatric unit, Butler has applied her many years of deep experience with mental illness, community partnership and vulnerable groups to translate her knowledge into usable information for new staff. She has advanced a model of care that is interdisciplinary, progressive and effective for the unit’s patients. Butler has worked on programming for patients, mentoring staff through clinical supervision to feel confident in their abilities to lead programs; she has developed new roles for mental health workers to conduct milieu management; and she has leveraged shared governance throughout to underscore the autonomy of her staff.
Colleen Chierici, DNP, FNP-BC, Telemetry Unit, Rush Oak Park Hospital
As president of the Nursing Professional Governance Organization at ROPH for three years, Chierici deepened mechanisms for communication and advocacy from bedside to boardroom, and she widened the understanding of nurses’ value and role with the medical staff and other disciplines. Chierici participated in the Public Voices Fellow program, a collaboration between Brown University and the RUSH University College of Nursing, and published op-eds in publications including The Hill, Pacific Standard Magazine and Scientific American. Her articles addressed environmental sustainability in health care, care of dying patients, the imperative for organ transplantation and the role of nurses in political action. She also published an article with colleagues about shared governance engagement and leadership during the pandemic in the Journal of Nursing Administration, which reflected her leadership in engaging shared governance in oversight of changes pandemic leadership was making to nursing practice.
Katie Dato DNP, APRN, FNP-BC, Family Nurse Practitioner, RUSH Community-Based Practices, Office of Community Health Equity and Engagement
Dato is the sole provider at a health center located inside a Chicago Public School that exclusively serves pregnant and parenting youth. She leads the team at the health center in providing preventive and primary care for these young parents and their children, serving students from more than 10 neighborhood schools. In surveys, 100% of those Dato has cared for report they received respectful, quality care in a supportive setting, and 100% said their lives are better because of the care they received. Dato also recently has taken the lead to train and support the team of nurse practitioners working in RUSH school-based health centers (SBHCs) on quality improvement processes. She has presented on best practices at numerous national conferences, including a May convening hosted by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the national School-Based Health Alliance.
Erin Dowding MSN, APRN, ACNS-BC, OCN, Clinical Nurse Specialist, Inpatient Hematology/Oncology/Stem Cell Transplant
Dowding co-led an organizational committee to determine improvement for central line bloodstream infections (CLABSI) over more than 20 inpatient units, resulting in a 49% decrease in CLABSI. The committee implemented a widespread culture change that required every unit with a patient that had a central line to submit an audit, in real time, of the adherence to the CLABSI bundle. Dowding has provided guidance to many other organizations about this best practice and presented this work at the Oncology Nursing Society congress and published about it in the Journal of Nursing Care Quality. She also has published on the role of the CNS in CONNECT: The World of Critical Care Nursing, highlighting the role of the clinical nurse specialist during the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, Dowding is a preceptor for CNS students and a master’s entry preceptor for the College of Nursing, and she is a guide and mentor to the nurses in oncology across the RUSH system.
Kateri Evans, RN, MPH, RN Program Coordinator, Rush School-Based Health Centers, Office of Community Health Equity and Engagement)
Evans leads quality improvement initiatives at RUSH’s five school-based health centers, drives grant-funded directives, and maintains dashboards to demonstrate achievement of programmatic and clinical goals and objectives. In addition, she currently guides and oversees all College of Nursing Generalist Entry Master's and Doctor of Nursing student learning at the SBHCs, guiding them through the development and implementation of innovative scholarly projects. Her data-driven skills have resulted in the ability to show the impact of SBHC services and demonstrate a return on investment for funders, RUSH leadership and key stakeholders, which has helped to sustain the funding for SBHC services to uninsured and under-resourced youth. Evans recently was recruited to serve as a member of the Illinois School-Based Health Alliance steering committee, which is supported by the Illinois Department of Public Health and drives policy and regulation aimed at improving and sustaining SBHC services.
Jasmyn Hernandez, RN, Community Health Nurse, College of Nursing Office of Faculty Practice
In her time as a Chicago Public School teacher, Hernandez developed an affinity for working in the community and became particularly interested in the health disparities affecting youth and the Latino community. She began her nursing career as the lead RN for Connect Chicago — a community initiative in partnership between RUSH, Esperanza Health Services and the Chicago Department of Public Health to provide COVID-19 testing, education, and connection to care in the West Side of Chicago. Hernandez’s work is now focused on developing inclusive and culturally sensitive community health and wellness programming, particularly for residents of Little Village, a predominantly Latino community near the Medical Center. She continues to serve as a mentor to nursing students in her alma mater, Loyola University, and remains an active member of the National Association of Hispanic Nurses, where she strongly advocates for diversity in nursing and higher education.
Will Jones, DNP, RN, CNL, CNML, Assistant Unit Director, Medical Oncology
Jones mentors, coaches and provides support that has stabilized the medical oncology unit during the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic. While serving as the assistant unit director, Jones also earned, with honors, his Doctorate in Nursing Practice from Rush University. His doctoral research project focused on improving discharge efficiency, specifically discharge order-to-exit times during COVID-19. His doctoral research was accepted for publication in the journal Professional Case Management (July, 2022), and will be offered as continuing education credit for nurses subscribing to the journal. Jones also served as interim unit director of the acute medical unit at ROPH to increase capacity during the omicron-driven surge in COVID-19 cases in late 2021. He worked with a broad interdisciplinary medical and administrative team to rapidly stand up the unit in order to ensure that patients received the optimum referral for their current medical status.
Chase Lodico, MBA, RN, CEN, Unit Director, Emergency Department
Lodico has applied the knowledge and skills he gained earning his MBA to innovations to improve efficiency in the Emergency Department. He developed, proposed and initiated the clinical decision unit, an entire new unit separate from the ED, which subsequently improved the time it took to get patients out of the ED to the next level of care, in turn improving more timely access for all ED patients. This achievement required a new model of care build with the entire interdisciplinary team. Concurrently, Lodico developed and piloted a course in the ED on ultrasound peripheral intravenous access, leveraging and successfully acquiring new technology. This initiative improved patient IV access, comfort and satisfaction, while increasing nurse confidence with IV insertion. This course and its curriculum then was adopted throughout the organization. In addition, Lodico is a mentor for high school and college students seeking a career in health care through the RUSH Education and Career Hub.
Jenna Maloney, RN, MSN, CNL, Clinical Nurse Leader, Adult Observation Unit
Maloney has represented her unit as a Magnet champion, Unit Advisory Committee member, Education Committee co-chair and at the department advisory committee for all of medicine. She led an initiative through some of these activities to revise a welcome letter that went in all patient education aimed at improving patient experience. Maloney became a clinical nurse leader just a few years into her career and immediately started to revamp onboarding, mentorship, education and coaching programs for nurses on her unit. She assisted in revising the hyperkalemia protocol after noticing a safety concern. Additionally, she submitted a proposal for a revised Situation-Background-Assessment-Recommendation for the Emergency Department to better promote RNs verifying medications administered while in the ED in order to increase patient safety. She also guided staff through the creation of a new care model on her unit during the omicron surge, helping them shift from an observation unit model to that of a geriatric general medicine unit model.
Diana Ortega, Staff Nurse, Wound Care Clinic, RUSH Oak Park Hospital
An inspiration and mentor to others both at work and volunteer life, Ortega leads many quality improvement committees, including falls, TIPS education and safety for impatient units. An enthusiastic member of the National Association of Hispanic Nurses (NAHN)-Illinois, she has led many Hispanics in Nursing presentations for high school and pre-college students interested nursing as a career. She is a past NAHN Role Model and has been featured in national Hispanics in Nursing videos. She currently co-chairs the Pre-Nursing Engagement Committee. She has provided services to the American Heart Association, food drives, free clinical care, and community health fairs.
Norah Vo, RN, PMH-BC, Interim Clinical Consulting Specialist/ Psychiatric Liaison and Interim Staff Educator, Department of Psychiatry
After becoming the first interim educator for all four inpatient psychiatric units in 2015, Vo became aware of the Professional Assault Crisis Training (Pro-ACT) standards and scope and obtained funding through The Woman's Board of Rush University Medical Center to bring this vital staff safety and patient de-escalation training to not only psychiatry but also all other areas of the organization. Because of her deep knowledge, she is included in all risk assessments campuswide, and she is involved as the expert in psychiatric policy and guides ongoing development of interdisciplinary team knowledge in the care of the psychiatric populations. She advocated successfully for panic badges to be installed throughout the organization in 2020 and now leads a team of certified Pro-ACT trainers to offer classes across campus. This year, she was asked to take on an additional role, that of psychiatric liaison nurse, creating an additional resource for the care of patients in the organization as a whole.
Colleen Wallek, MSN, RN, CNL, CMSRN, Clinical Nurse Leader, Medical Surgical Oncology
In 2019, Wallek became part of a steering committee to introduce the role of the clinical nurse leader to the Medical Center and helped develop the job description, care model, value statement and education for CNLs. Additionally, quality metrics were chosen for sustainability of the role, tying it to quality, retention and care coordination metrics. As she has continued in the CNL role, Wallek has dramatically improved all applicable nurse-sensitive indicators on her unit, sharing educational resources, policies and processes with other units in the organization. She created from scratch an entire new nurse onboarding process, weaving in real-time mentorship for the first year of practice that runs parallel to the content covered in the Medical Center’s residency program. Wallek has been a pillar of stability for new nursing staff during a time of tremendous change and upheaval and has created monthly meetings with the new nurses to assess their coping and comfort with their new role.