Gulf Coast Veterans Health Care System
GCVHCS Announces 2021 Nursing Awards
BILOXI, Miss. – The Gulf Coast Veterans Health Care System (GCVHCS) announced its 2021 organization-wide nursing awards during a virtual presentation May 12 in Biloxi, Mississippi.
Coming at the end of National Nurses Week, celebrated annually May 6 through 12, GCVHCS nursing service leadership recognized Linda Hixon, a registered nurse (RN) at the Joint Ambulatory Care Center (JACC) in Pensacola, Florida, as the GCVHCS 2021 Registered Nurse of the Year; Sheila Bressert, a licensed practical nurse (LPN) at the Biloxi Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Center, as the GCVHCS 2021 Licensed Practical Nurse of the Year; and Megan Davy-Smith, a nursing assistant (NA) at the Biloxi VA Medical Center Community Living Center (CLC) as the GCVHCS 2021 Nursing Assistant of the Year.
Additionally, GCVHCS Medical Administrative Program Specialist Dominic Duplichien was named the GCVHCS 2021 Honorary Nurse of the Year.
“The GCVHCS nursing staff are some of the best medical professionals with whom I’ve had the privilege to work,” said Dr. M. Christopher Saslo, a 26-year VA employee and 36-year nurse serving as the GCVHCS associate director of patient care services and organization nurse executive. “Singling out just a few of them is always difficult as they set the bar for nursing care in so many different areas.”
The virtual awards ceremony, the culmination of a series of weeklong in-house celebrations and observances culminating with the May 12 birthday of Florence Nightingale, an English nurse credited with establishing the first nursing school in 1860, generally includes a series of conferences, appreciation events and luncheons. This year, however, as the ongoing global health crisis continues impacting health care facilities and practices around the world, celebrations and in-person gatherings are limited. GCVHCS nurses at the Biloxi VA Medical Center in Biloxi, Mississippi; the Mobile Community-based Outpatient Clinic (CBOC) in Mobile, Alabama; the Joint Ambulatory Care Center (JACC) in Pensacola, Florida; the Eglin CBOC at Eglin Air Force Base in Crestview, Florida; and at the Panama City Beach CBOC in Panama City Beach, Florida, were able to participate in a virtual Blessing of the Hands ceremony performed b GCVHCS Chaplain Gary Morris May 6. The brief, non-denominational act was designed to recognize and unite healthcare workers and consists of pouring warm water scented with essential oil over hands as a symbol to refresh and renew the spirit.
Hixon, the GCVHCS 2021 RN of the Year, has been a registered nurse for more than 40 years, and has been instrumental in the ongoing success of JACC COVID-19 vaccination clinics, ensuring these high-volume events were well-organized, overseeing the delivery of thousands of vaccinations to Veterans and caregivers. Additionally, Hixon was also instrumental in implementing telehealth coverage for a VA health care team faced with a provider shortage, ensuring the uninterrupted care for nearly 1,500 Veterans.
Bressert, the GCVHCS 2021 LPN of the Year, is a telehealth clinical technician, and was cited for numerous improvements to the GCVHCS tele-dermatology department, tracking hundreds of tele-dermatology consults while keeping lines of communication open with the dermatologists and primary care providers, advocating for the Veteran while maintaining continuity of care.
Davy-Smith, the GCVHCS 2021 NA of the Year, has been a mainstay of the Biloxi VA Medical Center’s CLC, supporting residents by escorting them to appointments, providing an unrivalled willingness to alter her schedule to support organization efforts and has been instrumental in enforcing GCVHCS entrance screening protocols to ensure the timely delivery of COVID-19 testing. Additionally, her willingness to support other areas of the GCVHCS CLC has resulted in her recognition by both staff and residents as crucial to the organization’s ongoing success.
Duplichien, the GCVHCS 2021 Honorary Nurse of the Year, has been actively engaged with both nursing staff and GCVHCS leadership during all phases of the ongoing global health crisis. Duplichien was instrumental in the planning and opening of all GCVHCS COVID-19 vaccination clinics, volunteering to be present at each of these while offering assistance and support to clinicians at each site. Duplichien was also instrumental in developing and implementing tracking methodology for GCVHCS COVID-19 vaccinations, as well as ensuring GCVHCS participation in VA 4th Mission activities was seamlessly executed.
“Our entire GCVHCS Nursing department is exceptional, and the teamwork, compassion and integrity they bring to the job furthers the care we’re able to provide to our Gulf Coast Veterans,” Saslo said. “Each and every day, these heroes come to work and demonstrate to those we care for that we truly earn the role of one of the most trusted professions in the world.”
Saslo added that even though GCVHCS staff experienced significant disruptions to everyday routines, the organization’s nurses – many of them Veterans themselves – maintained both organizational and nursing standards, overcoming obstacles to ensure continuity of care for the Veterans they have volunteered to serve.
“During what has been an extremely challenging year, the GCVHCS nursing staff has persevered,” Saslo said. “The ongoing global health crisis, hurricanes and other unplanned events presented numerous obstacles for our nurses, but they leapt at the opportunity to ensure we were able to provide vaccinations to Veterans who wanted them, deployed to local communities to assist with medical care during the height of the crisis and continued providing virtual care when Veterans Affairs guidelines and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations limited in-person visits. They have continued the VA’s promise to the Veteran, and I couldn’t be more proud of the men and women who have chosen a career in nursing and caring for our nation’s heroes.”
The Biloxi Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Center, along with the Mobile, Pensacola, Eglin and Panama City VA Clinics are all part of the GCVHCS, which is headquartered in Biloxi, Mississippi, and provides a variety of medical outpatient services to more than 77,000 Veterans.