As she watched five nurses from the University of Mississippi Medical Center receive awards during the 10th annual Nightingale Awards Gala March 2, Terri Gillespie, UMMC chief nursing executive and chief nursing officer of University Hospital, couldn't help but feel honored herself.
"I am humbled to have the opportunity to work with the exceptional nurses we have at UMMC," Gillespie said after the event at the Marriott in downtown Jackson. "The pride only continues to grow."
That night, Gillespie joined more than 500 nursing professionals who witnessed officials from the Mississippi Nurses Association and the Mississippi Nurses Foundation present top awards to the state's best nurses.
Three of the recipients work in the Emergency Department of Batson Children's Hospital: Denise Adams, who won the ceremony's top honor, the Nurse of Distinction Award (formerly the Nurse of the Year Award); Adyn Dancy, who won the Nurse Rookie of the Year Award; and Dennis Demesa, who won the Inpatient Clinical Practice Nurse of the Year Award. Joy Akanji, nurse educator in University Hospital, received the Nurse in a Non-traditional Setting of the Year Award, and Dr. James R. Polson, director of clinical CT surgery, pediatric and congenital heart surgery, received the Advanced Practice Nurse of the Year Award.
"The honors that many of our nurses received validate that I am not alone in believing that our nurses are among the best," Gillespie said. "The fact that we had winners in five different categories, including the top category, is phenomenal and indicative of the impact and impression we are making statewide."
Hearing her name announced as the nurse of distinction was a "humbling experience" for Adams.
"I am so blessed to work with such a great team of nurses who make me strive to better myself every day," Adams said following the ceremony. "I feel that UMMC has a wealth of very deserving nurses with many talents. We all have our individual strengths and each of us can learn from the other to make ourselves the best we can be.
"I feel the awards represent this fact."
Named in honor of Florence Nightingale, the celebrated English social reformer and statistician considered the founder of modern nursing, the Nightingale Awards recognize nurses statewide who demonstrate excellence in the profession and in the health-care organizations that support them. Recipients are selected by the MNA and the MNF.
Adams attributed part of her success to occupational consistency.
"I have always been a pediatric clinical care nurse, and enjoy caring for the children," she said. "It is so rewarding when a little child looks up at you and smiles after you have drawn blood or performed some other procedure on them and they say 'thank you for making me better.'"