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There are few ways to express the gratitude owed our nurses here at VCU for all the good they do, but last week we tried during the National Week of the Nurse. Seven days of public recognition for the hard work and dedication to excellence that makes nurses the heart and soul of health care.
As anyone who has spent a long night in a hospital can attest, nursing is much more than an occupation. Nursing requires a strong and enduring will, a passion for helping that will not waver even in strenuous circumstances, and perseverance when confronted by the stages of life that are hardest to bear. These shared qualities and experiences create lasting bonds among nurses who make up the front lines of our healthcare system. Such overwhelming character and camaraderie was on full display at the Week of the Nurse Awards Ceremony, held Thursday, May 5th in the Hermes A. Kontos Medical Sciences Building Auditorium.

The event was packed with students, faculty, and staff and while it may have been a ceremony for colleagues and coworkers, the audience behaved more like family and friends. The number of nominations was staggering and as each nurse stood to be recognized their surrounding colleagues erupted in cheers and applause. A musical number filled with inside jokes and endearing slideshows of night shift nurses in candid moments showed that like the best nurses, the event was not without a sense of humor as well. But it was the moments when the laughter subsided that the emotion in the room was suddenly made overwhelmingly clear. The shared experience, passion for healthcare, the tireless and unspoken effort of nurses in all capacities binds them together as more than simply professionals, but brothers and sisters in arms who dedicate their lives to a greater cause: not just to maintain health, but to care for people in their darkest moments, to save lives. This is how character is forged, how good nurses are proven to be great individuals.
It is comforting to know that we have such tried and true nurses and staff to man our hospital, but at VCU School of Nursing we have more to be proud of than nursing alone, for we are home to both practitioners and faculty. It is the teachers of nursing that carry the torch for the next generation of health system workers. The importance of this work cannot be overstated, as many find nursing too lucrative or demanding to serve a second calling and those that teach are far outnumbered by those entering the field. Our faculty, adjuncts, and preceptors are charged with preserving tradition and imparting knowledge, inspiring and shaping young minds to the tremendous task of health service and insuring that our successors will have all the tools they need to carry the practice into the future. Without these acts of altruism the nursing profession simply could not go on.
It is for this reason that the VCU School of Nursing presents the Award for Outstanding Service by Clinical Faculty, Adjunct Faculty and Preceptor. This award goes to individuals who have contributed superior service to the School in one or more of these roles, as evidenced by unique contributions to the school and activities beyond the normal scope of responsibility or a long standing pattern of superior service. This year’s recipients were our very own Denise Thornby and Heather Craven, both of whom also received the VCUHS Lifetime Achievement Award.
Denise Thornby, who has served as Director of Education and Professional Development for the last seven years, was also the National President of the American Association of Critical Care Nurses in 2000 and 2001, and has written twelve publications and been an investigator in three research studies, among many other achievements.
Heather Craven currently serves as Nurse Clinician on Acute Care Medicine, a position she has held for ten years, and is a national speaker on information technology and medical nursing. She co-led the Transforming Care at the Bedside project, edited the Academy of Medical Surgical Nurses Core Curriculum, and has published three articles.
Together they have served VCU for a combined 64 years and held positions from clinical nurse to educator to administrator. Their service speaks for itself, but we speak for VCU when we say thank you. The Outstanding Faculty and Lifetime Achievement Awards may be the best that we can offer, but your achievements and those of all our nurses will last more than a lifetime.

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