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  1. Thomas, M.G. RN

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It is with great pleasure that I introduce Dawn M. Bennett, BSN, RN, CEN, as the Nursing2013 Nurse of the Year.

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Imagine, if you will, a community bereft of most of life's pleasures. It's a community of some of the finest people on the planet. Yet that community has a 15% unemployment rate and a 28% functional illiteracy rate. Nearly half of the community's residents receive Medicaid or other government subsidies. Into this mix throw a regional hospital that's underfunded, understaffed, and overutilized by a mind-staggering factor.


In this community, a nurse grew up. Dawn wasn't familiar with hospitals that had equipment and staff. She was unaware of how residents and interns changed the dynamic of a department. She never worked a shift with 20 coworkers because in her world there was no such thing as depth in staffing. But because she grew up in the community, she knew that her calling must be there.


This multitalented nurse has grown to become the consummate professional. Dawn's interests in the craft are eclectic and wide-ranging. Interest in many things is common in the profession, but mastery of all of them is very rare. This nurse displays that mastery daily.


Dawn is an emergency nurse first and foremost. All of the nuances of her practice have been studied and learned with a sense of excitement and wonder. This bachelor's-prepared nurse is a certified emergency nurse (CEN) and an active member of the regional Emergency Nurses Association. She maintains provider status in advanced cardiovascular life support (ACLS) and pediatric advanced life support (PALS), and has successfully completed advanced stroke life support (ASLS) training.


Dawn is an active working member of the ED's triage and registration committee, spending many long hours helping to develop procedures and systems that aid and empower nurses and patients alike as they move through the system. She's also a contributing member of the charge nurse committee.


This nurse spends many hours working to develop, skillfully write, and implement staff educational materials and programs. She sees things that need doing and then, through resourcefulness and tenacity, finds ways to get them done.


An experienced charge nurse in the ED, Dawn is a vivacious and dynamic leader. She's looked to by staff and patients alike for answers to difficult problems. She provides the answers using available resources and personnel in a fair-minded and empathetic way. She's meticulous in her search for answers, drawing on various resources as needed. In short, she goes the extra mile to find answers to all questions. Through her leadership, the staff functions at a higher level and patients flourish in the process.


Her leadership is sweeping in its scope. Many charge nurses do a good job, but Dawn goes way beyond shift leadership to meet the needs of her staff, patients, and community. For example, she was a charter member of a stroke protocol investigation committee that eventually grew to become a multiple-county stroke collaborative. From those beginnings, she rose to lead that stroke program, providing national participation in data collections through the North Carolina Stroke Collaboration. Once her hospital had no stroke protocol. Now its dynamic program has helped to dramatically reduce stroke injury throughout the region.


Her commitment to this stroke program is apparent in her dedication to staff and community education. She spends many hours working on educational programs and presenting them through local community groups. Largely through her efforts, stroke awareness in this region has grown by huge multiples.


Due to budget restraints, equipment for the ED can be hard to get. It's obtained largely due to this nurse's efforts to write equipment proposals for donations by the hospital foundation and volunteers. Many of the facility's capital needs have been met over the years through these efforts.


Another gift of this resourceful nurse is her ability to get staff excited about unexciting programs. She calls on a large and varied group of colleagues to help accomplish goals benefiting the department and the hospital. She's truly gifted in seeing others' strengths and helping them develop those strengths. Employees who may be reluctant to tackle some aspect of a project are encouraged and empowered to do new things to help them grow. Dawn's gentle persuasion and innovative leadership inspire staff and patients alike.


After all is said and done, the ED, hospital, and community have hugely benefited from Dawn's excellence and high ideals. No wonder she was selected as one of the top 100 nurses in North Carolina in 2012 by The Great 100, Inc., a grassroots peer recognition organization.


It's been said that "many are called, but few are chosen." It's rare to find a nurse that has been both. Dawn M. Bennett, RN, is such a nurse.