2023 Nurses - The Heart of Health Care

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EMILY SHULLAW ILLUSTRATION, LEE ENTERPRISES MAY 2023 NURSES the heart of health care Sunday, May 7, 2023

Congratulations to our MercyOne Top Nurses in the Cedar Valley

Happy National Nurses Week!

Thank you to ALL of our MercyOne nurses for your continued dedication to transforming the health care of the communities we serve.

Passionate about health care? Find your calling and apply today at MercyOne.org.

works here.

More than 20,000 strong, our care providers and staff are the heartbeat of our health system Joining MercyOne means joining a rich history of excellence in health care started more than 100 years ago.

MercyOne packages great benefits with an even greater Mission offering competitive pay, ample opportunities for growth, a culture of caring, and living in one of the best states for safety and affordability

Find your calling at MercyOne.org/nursing.

Carol Ratchford Jake Powers Allie Boyle


Luncheon set May 10 to hand out awards

WATERLOO The Courier is celebrating the Cedar Valley’s Top Nurses for the fifth consecutive year.

Nursing is an essential profession that requires skill,knowledge,dedication and commitment to providingexemplaryserviceincaringforpatients.CedarValley nurses are on the front lines each day, providing specialized care and comfort to their patients.

For 2023, 10 nurses have been selected as the Cedar

Valley’s Top Nurses. They were nominated by coworkers, friends and family members. Last year’s winners came from every corner of the nursing field, representing local hospitals, clinicsandmore.Thatistrue again in 2023, as well.

An independent panel of judges selected nine nurses for the annual honor, and readerschosethe10thnurse.

Judges were Dr Shawn Buhrow, MSN, BSN, RN, American Sentinel College of Nursing at Post Univer-

sity; Dana Clasen, DNP,MSN-ED,RN, professor at Allen College of Nursing and director of the Doctor of Nursing Practice Program, Allen College-UnityPoint Health; and Troy A. Moran Sr., Ed.D, dean of Sciences and Health Sciences, Hawkeye Community College

The Courier is grateful for their expertise and professionalism.

The Cedar Valley Top Nurses will be honored at a luncheon May 10.

Sponsors for the 2023 Cedar Valley Top Nurses are NewAldaya Lifescapes, Western Home Communities, MercyOne, UnityPoint Health, Cedar Valley Hospice and the Courier Media Group.



Allie Boyle

MercyOne-Waterloo Medical Center.

Andrea Burgart

Cedar Valley Hospice, Reader’s Choice winner.

Danette Christensen Harmony Waterloo (formerly ProMedica).

Christiara Deese Care Initiatives Inc.

Salem Fauser Black Hawk County Health Department.

Sarah Kutz

UnityPoint-Allen Hospital.

Jake Powers

MercyOne Waterloo Medical Center.

Carol Ratchford

MercyOne Waterloo Medical Center.

Tina Styron

UnityPoint-Allen Hospital.

Amanda Vervaecke

UnityPoint Wound Clinic.

Clasen Buhrow Moran
JOIN OUR TEAM AND MAKE A DIFFERENCE IN YOUR COMMUNITY THANK YOU NURSES! Buchanan County Health Center is committed to not only providing the highest quality care to our patients but also creating a positive, professional and rewarding workplace for all of our employees. Join our team of nursing professionals and make a positive impact on your community!
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READLYN – Ask Allie Boyle to name her dream job and her response is, “I have it — and I’m very happy.”

Boyle, 31, is a labor and delivery nurse at MercyOne Waterloo Medical Center. Her job is to help moms safely deliver healthy babies. “I love the moms. I love all the babies – they fill me with joy, but it’s the moms that keep me in it. I love empowering women,” said Boyle of Readlyn, a registered nurse at MercyOne for the last four years.

Boyle has been named one of the Courier’s Top Cedar Valley Nurses for 2023. She received 19 nominations, with the majority of comments praising her for providing “the best care to her families in the Birth Center at MercyOne. She works with a smile on her face even during the busiest and craziest of times.”

Her supporters describe her as “a

She empowers women, delivers babies as labor and delivery nurse

blessing to patients and colleagues,” and collectively, offered their thanks to Boyle for “being who you are and for being amazing!”

Boyle is humbled by the recognition.

“I work with the best group of nurses in the world at MercyOne. I feel so fortunate to work with these nurses every day. I go to work and get inspired by them,” she said.

Boyle once dreamed about becoming a veterinarian. Then at 18, the WaverlyShell Rock High School graduate decided she wanted to help people. The first step on her journey was training as a certified nursing assistant. Her responsibilities included providing basic patient care and working alongside nurses to gain realworld health care knowledge.

That experience opened her eyes to nursing as a career choice.

“That’s when I realized I had a love for nursing. I wanted to keep learning, and I’d never felt like that before. A light bulb

went on over my head, and I just knew that being a nurse was what I wanted to do.”

She carried a heavy course load through the demanding associate degree (RN) program at Hawkeye Community College in Waterloo. Her studies became

even more challenging “because I was pregnant with my second child,” Boyle recalled. She earned her nursing degree in 2017.

“I got a very good foundation in nursing from Hawkeye,” she said.

There have been mentors, too, who have offered Boyle guidance, support and advice on building a successful and fulfilling nursing career. Her goal is to be calm and collected, no matter the situation.

Boyle’s nurse colleague Becca Aronson said, “I’m so proud of her. She always goes above and beyond for her patients and provides the most amazing care. She’s always there when I need her.”

Boyle started in the pediatrics department and when she moved into labor and delivery, Aronson taught her “basically how to be a labor nurse. I think it takes a passion for this. We work weekends,

4 | Sunday, May 7, 2023 CEDAR VALLEY TOP 10 NURSES
Please see BOYLE, Page 6 CedarValleyMedical.com 319-235-5390 4150KimballAve, Waterloo IA50701 Thank You NuRSES! Weareproudtohaveanamazinggroupofnurseswhonotonly careforourpatientsbutalsohelpeachbranchofCVMSthrive! Wesaluteyourcommitmenttocreatingapositiveandcomfortable environmentforallofourpatients. Joinour Wonderful Team!
The Courier’s 2023 Top Cedar Valley nurses recipient allie Boyle of MercyOne Waterloo Medical Center.
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Being a hospice nurse requires empathy, compassion, the ability to build trust with terminally ill patients at the end stage of their lives, and interpersonal communication skills to speak with families going through difficult times.

Andrea Burgart has all of those skills and more in her role as a registered nurse at Cedar Valley Hospice. She is being honored as one of the Courier’s Cedar Valley Top Nurses for 2023 She was the top vote-getter in nominations as the people’s choice winner.

“I found my way into hospice nursing. I had a friend in high school who had leukemia and passed away. I helped care for my grandmother at the end of her life. I knew what hospice care looked like, and I understand what an important choice hospice is for families,” she explained.

Burgart works primarily out of the Cedar Valley Hospice office in Waverly Clinical Services Manager Taylor Kramer, RN, said the staff is excited about Burgart being named a top 10 nurse.“She is so deserving of this award. She focuses on the mission statement of Cedar Valley Hospice. She takes making each moment matter to a new level, providing compassionate care to patients and families,” Kramer said Kramer described Burgart as “selfless and loving while fighting her own health journey, but that hasn’t stopped her from providing top-notch, empathetic and compassionate care to each patient she encounters.”

Making a personal connection and spending quality time with her patients is important. “It’s good to have trust develop,and I want to formulate a good relationship right off the bat with my patients and their families Some patients begin to think of me as family,” said Burgart, 36.

Hospice nurse connects with her patients on deeper level

fusions, and I’m taking pills as well, and considering what my next options are,” Burgart said.

“My experience has given me a deeper level of understanding and connection with my patients We share similar anxieties and fears about the future.”

In the face of her own health challenges, “she is a warrior,” wrote nominators.

Burgart originally studied finance before realizing she wanted to connect with people,not balance sheets.She graduated from Kaplan University in 2015 with her RN and completed her bachelor’s degree in nursing in 2017. Her first nursing job was at Covenant Hospital in Waterloo in 2015 (now MercyOne Waterloo Medical Center).

“I had always had the goal of working at Mayo with oncology patients and started working inpatient medical oncology in 2017. I worked inpatient until COVID in 2020. I started working remotely for Mayo in a Remote Monitoring Program for COVID+ patients recovering at home to triage calls and provide guidance.”

Burgart has worked at Cedar Valley Hospice since April 2021.

long hours, always away from our families, so you have to love what you do to show up everyday and provide great care You never know what to expect,” Aronson explained.

Boyle said, “Labor and delivery nurses

In her nominations,supporters describe Burgart as the “most selfless, compassionate person and nurse you could ever know.She gives 100% to all of her patients and has a heart of pure gold.She genuinely cares about people and is committed to giving the best care she can to all patients she cares for.”

She also can relate to their illnesses on a personal level.

Burgart was diagnosed with a primary

brain tumor in 2010. “So I’ve had similar thoughts and faced thoughts about the end of life and what that would look like,” she explained. In recent months, the wife and mother of two daughters ages 2 and 5 suffered a relapse. “It’s discouraging and stressful, and I’m currently involved in clinical trials in Philadelphia.”

Cedar Valley Hospice staff and colleagues have been supportive, she said “I go once a month to Philadelphia for in-

In her free time, she and her husband Gerry enjoy spending time outdoors with their daughters, Isla and Ruby, and their Australian shepherd “We’ve always been 50-50 with everything, but now he’s taking on more responsibilities, and I have a big family pitching in to help. They’re enjoying time with the girls”

As a hospice nurse, “I feel like I’ve really found where I need to be. I’m where I need to be in my own personal journey. More than anything, I realize the future is unknowable. I’ve found I’m more accepting of mortality, and I’ve been able to connect with my patients on a deeper level In a way, it’s therapy for me,” Burgart added.

see women at one of the most challenging and exciting times in their lives, when they are ready to give birth and bring a new little person into the world.

“Women have a lot expected of them, too. I know what they’re going through because I’ve been there And sometimes, after the baby is born,moms are forgotten. Everyone comes to see the baby, and they forget about mom. That’s who I like being

there for, too.”

Boyle needs to be on her toes.“It’s never a dull moment and things can quickly change. So I try to be the calm in the storm for moms. I want to provide them with support and knowledge. It can be especially scary for first-time moms, but it’s also wonderful.

“And not everything is happy. When it’s bad, it’s the worst, and I have to be strong

and support these moms through everything,” Boyle explained. “I’m very happy where I’m at in my career, but it can be an intense job.”

Having the time to recharge her energy is important, Boyle said. She enjoys reading and walks, but especially loves hanging out with her husband, Lucas, and their daughters, Evelynn, 10, and Brielle, 8.

Boyle From 4
The Courier’s 2023 Top Cedar Valley Nurses recipient Andrea Burgart of Cedar Valley Hospice.


Teamwork and patient support builds bonds beyond nursing

WATERLOO – Danette Christensen never really had any other career paths in mind – she was always going to be nurse.

“It’s funny because my mom would always ask, what do you want to do when you grow up?’ And I would always tell her I wanted to be a nurse,” Christensen said.

“I’ve always been wanting to take care of people, I guess,” she added. “And my grandmother and my aunt, they were nurse’s aides, so it kind of runs in the family.”

She started her career in Benton County as a nurse’s aide in Keystone and Vinton, before eventually finding her way to working as a licensed practical nurse in the intermediate care facility (ICF) at Harmony Waterloo (previously ProMedica Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation), where she’s been for six years, taking a year off in be-


In ICF,it’s Christensen’s job to set goals with her residents, getting them back to walking and being active after illness or injury.Most of her patients are long-term, giving them plenty of time to build a bond that goes beyond nurse and patient. In fact, Christensen says she’s sometimes with them more than she is at home.

“They are like my second family. They get used to the same nurse because I work a lot of hours – sometimes 80 hours a pay period – or maybe even more,” Christensen said. “So having the same nurse, they get used to me and my ways and they do have that bond with me also.”

However, Christensen added that her family has been understanding of her workload and why the job matters to her Many holidays have been re-planned and rearranged, but she has been able to rely on them to stand by her.


Treating patients with kindness grew out of personal loss, COVID-19

WATERLOO – Christiara Deese had multiple opportunities to not follow through with her nursing career, but the setbacks made her an even better care provider

Deese, 30, is a nurse for Care Initiatives, Inc. She’s been a registered nurse for two years. She received 53 nominations for the Courier’s Cedar Valley Top Nurses for 2023

“(She’s) a phenomenal nurse, passionate about her career and more importantly passionate about her patients,” a nomination read.“Christiara will always be a guiding light for the community she serves Whether it’s her lovable, cheerful, bubbly personality or fiery persistence,a person will know they are in great hands.”

Deese said she was excited and happy to receive so many nominations.

“In nursing,you’d be so overwhelmed because of the staff and it’s just complex to take care of humans, so sometimes you’ll just be so overwhelmed,” she said, saying a lot of recognition goes unmet because people

CHRIS ZOELLER COURIER STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER The Courier’s 2023 Top Cedar Valley Nurses recipient Danette Christensen of Harmony of Waterloo CHRIS ZOELLER COURIER STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER The Courier’s 2023 Top Cedar Valley Nurses recipient Christiara Deese of Care Initiatives Inc. Please see CHRISTENSEN, Page 9 Please see DEESE, Page 9


From Page 8

Meanwhile, Christensen also has the support of her colleagues at Harmony Waterloo. Over six years, they’ve had plenty of time to become close and rely on each other. This bond was put to the test during the pandemic, as shortages in staff extended their hours and loads, and higher stress on them and on the residents

“We all work together as a team,” she said. “That’s one thing I have to say about this facility is we all have teamwork and we all support each other.”

That time together has also given her colleagues and supervisors plenty of time to see her at work and has let them get a good look at her resiliency, compassion, medical knowledge and skill. It was enough to for them to recommend her as one of the top 10

nurses in the Cedar Valley.

“Danette shows her commitment to the ICF unit. She helps her residents feel comfortable no matter what condition they are in,” her recommendation read. “She is friendly, dedicated to her residents and knowledgeable in clinical skills. She follows through to help her residents reach their goals.”

Christensen has been in the nursing field for 26 years, long after declaring her intentions as a child. Two-and-a half decades later, she’s still going. The rapport she’s built with patients and colleagues has travelled with her to every job. Her patients and those who get to know her appreciate the effort she puts in and results she gets – and it may fuel her for years to come.

“It is and I love it,” she laughed, referencing the long time she’s been in health care. “I wouldn’t want to do anything else.”


From Page 8

above her are also overwhelmed. “It’s hard for them, and you’ve got patients going through a lot healthwise, so it’s hard for them to appreciate what you’re doing, so to get to be appreciated for being a nurse and people seeing your hard work that is amazing.”

She learned she wanted to be a nurse from the other women in her life – her mother and sisters.

“I really like to care for people, you know, so that’s what I like about being a nurse,” Deese said, saying that she got the trait from her mom. “She cared for people so much she would do anything for anybody. She should have been a nurse.”

She also said growing up her sisters were certified nursing assistants, and they would take care of her dad. Her dad died by the time Deese received her CNA certification.

Another major death happened in her family while she was study-

ing to be a registered nurse. Her sister died in December 2020 from COVID-19.

Deese said her sister was flown into the University of Iowa to get an emergency C-section for her baby and then, two weeks later, she was on a ventilator.

Her sister’s funeral was a week before nursing school finals –which Deese passed.

The COVID-19 pandemic and the loss of her sister made her reevaluate how she treats her patients.

When the first case hit in March 2020, Deese was one of the few nurses at her facility to not fear the virus.

“(People) would refuse to go in COVID-positive people’s rooms, and I’m like ‘I’m not going to do that, it’s not their fault that they have it’,” she said. “And we got our first COVID-positive resident at the nursing home. It was like nobody wanted to go in. Everybody was scared.”

She said her and two CNAs –Heidi and Stacia – went in to help the first affected patient.

“I think about my sister,” she said. “What if the paramedics didn’t want to come get her because she was COVID-positive? Or what if they didn’t want to go in there and help her because she was COVID-positive?”

“I treat other people how I want somebody to do me. I don’t refuse to do a certain care because the person got a certain disease or a certain something,” she continued. “I try to treat people as if it were my grandma, my sister, laying there.”

Her perseverance also has inspired many of her friends to attend nursing school. She said she had three kids by the time she finished up her RN certification, her father was a drug addict in her childhood, and she had to pay her tuition out of pocket.

“I tell my friends, like, there’s no excuse if I can do it,” she said. “I literally feel like anybody could do it because it was so hard.”

When not at work, Deese lives with her boyfriend, DJ, and four children – Kamyah, Caylee, Dameer and Jaceer – in Cedar Falls.

CEDAR VALLEY TOP 10 NURSES Sunday, May 7, 2023 | 9


Salem Fauser has worked in a lot of fields and worn a lot of hats in her 20year career as a nurse, but it’s made her the caregiver she is today.

Growing up, Fauser was fascinated while reading the medical books her mother kept in the house and nursing was recommended to her after taking her career placement test. Then, her greatgrandfather passed and she saw the hospice nurses caring for him at work. This may have been the final factor in deciding her career path.

“When they would be able to help people through a really difficult time in their lives and their family member’s life and so that just kind of further indicated to me that maybe that’s something that I wanted to look into going to school for when I graduated high school,” Fauser said.

Starting as an ER nurse at Waverly Health Center, she then got into home

health, before working at the student health clinic at the University of Northern Iowa. Now, she’s with the Black Hawk County Department of Public Health providing case management for tuberculosis infections and latent TB This often involves going into the patient’s home to collect samples and administer medications.

During the pandemic, Fauser and her team were also tasked with contract tracing and other work to battle COVID-19, adding onto the workload as TB never took a break in that time.

It’s a diverse array of work, but all of it has readied her for the job she does today. The TB nurses have to operate with a lot of autonomy, but working in ER built up her assessment skills, helping her to be comfortable by herself in an urgent situation or an emergency Meanwhile, working in home health trained her in how to work in someone else’s home environment, pro-


WATERLOO – Sarah Kutz sees and helps dozens of patients every day and has wanted to do so since she was a child.

Kutz is an ambulatory nurse at UnityPoint Health-Allen Hospital. Her responsibility as a registered nurse is to get patients prepared for surgery in the hospital’s 13-bed unit.

Kutz has been named one of the Courier’s Top Cedar Valley Nurses for 2023. She received five nominations

“(She’s) one of the best around, hard working, caring and always putting patients first,” a supporter wrote in a recommendation. “(She’s) able to greet every patient with an upbeat attitude and a smile on her face. Always willing to fill in anywhere needed and be the first one in and last one out.”

She said she was honored to receive the nominations.

“I’m super-excited and honored that it’s

me, but I feel like it may be because of my coworkers and my leaders I feel like a lot of them could get the same thing,” Kutz said. “It’s one of those things you feel like you’re just doing your job, you know, that’s what I’m supposed to do. I’m supposed to be caring and giving and all the things,you know,so I feel like I’m just getting recognized for doing what I do every day.”

Understanding needs is important nursing skill
patients first is second nature for hard-working nurse
CHRIS ZOELLER PHOTOS COURIER STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER The Courier’s 2023 Top Cedar Valley Nurses recipient Salem Fauser of the Black Hawk County Health Department.
Please see FAUSER, Page 11 Please
KUTZ, Page
The Courier’s 2023 Top Cedar Valley Nurses recipient Sara Kutz of UnityPoint Allen Hospital.
To see them leave finally in the end, healed, is always a super cooland rewarding thing.
“ “

viding the necessary care to accommodate their needs and provide them with comfort.

Along the way,Fauser said she also had excellent mentors to show her how to work under pressure and in the home environment, shaping her into the nurse she is today

“I think all of those aspects of those different areas that I’ve been in kind of have helped me to hone those skills because that is really something that you need to do public health nursing is understanding others and the desire to learn about them as a whole person,” Fauser said “So that you can really understand what their needs are.”

Tuberculosis is often overlooked as a disease, but infections still happen and exposure is still a real possibility for many people.For those people who are exposed and infected, the prospects can be frightening and it can completely interrupt their lives for some time. According to Fauser,

part of her job is learning about the person entirely, helping them to find the best way to cut through the fear and frustration and get their lives back on track.

“I try my best to listen to the whole person,” Fauser said. “It’s really important for me to understand their perspective because it helps me understand their needs and the best way to help them get through this interruption in their life.”

Her hard work and professionalism also caught the attention of her peers, who recommended her as one of the Top 10 Nurses in the Cedar Valley. In particular, they noted her willingness to work outside of regular hours and provide treats to pediatric patients – purchased out of her own pocket.

“Salem doesn’t let the ‘bad’ days get the best of her and makes sure they don’t get the best of her coworkerseither,”herrecommendationread. “She always has a well-thought-out opinion or plan and often reminds us that we are doing what we love and making a difference.And sometimes, that’s all a nurse needs.”

As a child,she knew she wanted to do something within the medical field,although no one in her family was in health care.

She originally wanted to work in physical therapy, but that changed her mind after graduating and having her first child, Cayden. She wanted to be a nurse in obstetrics, which cares for women and their babies during pregnancy and childbirth.

“I loved all the staff that came in and helped me,” she said. “It seemed like they loved their job It just seemed like it was exciting and fun and something cool.It just sparked my interest by how good of care I got.”

She received a biology degree from the University of Northern Iowa around the same time as she had her first child in 2006. Then she went on to Allen College where she received her degree in nursing, as well as becoming a registered nurse through the program.

She’s been at UnityPoint Health-Allen Hospital since 2009 and on her current surgical floor since 2011.

Throughout school and a portion of her nursing career, Kutz waitressed at the Brown Bottle for 10 years. Although different profes-

sions, she sees some similarities.

“I love being around people,”she said.“People might think my personality just works, but waiting tables is totally different than being a nurse. But I just think that helping people is part of your personality.”

She enjoys getting to know her patients, but she especially likes to see them leave.

“It’s a lot of patients that we get, some of them have a chronic condition, or you know, they come back and they have these multiple things,” she said. “To see them leave finally in the end, healed, is always a super cool and rewarding thing.”

But the most important to her is having her patients leave after having a positive experience.

“I want them to be able to go out and tell other people in the community how great their experience was at UnityPoint because word of mouth is the biggest thing,” she said. “We love to have our patients come back and say they had an awesome experience. I like to be a part of that – to know that last time they were here they had a great experience and we are who took care of them.”

Kutz stays busy with her family,husband Ben and sons Cayden and Kellen, when she is not at work, as well. She goes to her sons’ sports activities,as well as volunteers with the events.

Sunday, May 7, 2023 | 11
Page 10 Kutz
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Fauser From


Jake Powers of Waterloo has gone from not always knowing what path to take in life, and admittedly not wanting to be “helpless” in certain scenarios, to making a significant difference as a medicalsurgical nurse on a regular basis.

Powers, 32, works at MercyOne Waterloo Medical Center and has dedicated his time in the medical profession to helping people. He works close to 13-hour shifts overnight three to four days per week.

Every day is different, and Powers admits that a lot of the time, it’s a “balancing act” as he goes about figuring out how best to manage his time.

His day-to-day consists of anything relating to the handling of medication schedules for patients in and out of surgery, to assessing their side effects, checking for vital signs and talking with family members, doctors and others to learn more about what’s best for the patient.

One day will be a 20-year-old patient who has appendicitis, and another day may be a 100-year-old patient suffering from pneumonia. Sometimes, the patients are only there for hours, and sometimes for days, weeks or months.

“It’s time management, it’s critical thinking, it’s the skills of actually doing IVs, placing Foleys (catheters), answering phone calls and dealing with doctors and dealing with families,” Powers said. “There’s a lot of different hats you’re going to wear, and it can be tough at first, for sure.”

He is being recognized as one of the Courier’s Cedar Valley Top Nurses in 2023. In the midst of a crazy work schedule, he still finds time to be a loving husband and father to his wife Hailey, son Sean, 1, and dog Leo, with another baby on the way.

Family is very important to him, and one of the reasons he got into the nursing profession in the first place. He comes from a family tree of many public servants, most notably his mother Lisa Monson, a MercyOne nurse for close to four decades, and his father Tim Powers who was a firefighter for a 30 years.

“Helping people and being in the medical field has always been in my blood and my family,” Powers said. “I was raised with a lot of empathy and humility and sense of community and sense of service.”

When he graduated from high school, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy. He worked on an aircraft carrier and through three deployments. After his military service, he was still uncertain about a career. A few traumatic situations in his past proved years later to be one factor that lead him to become a nurse.

In those instances, he described himself as “helpless” when hearing about or in the middle of different emergencies. Those experiences led him to a point where he just didn’t want to feel ever like there was absolutely nothing he could do to help someone.

“As cliché as it sounds, I just wanted to help people,” Powers said. “I want to try to avoid these negative things and don’t want to feel helpless whenever these kinds of things arise.”

Powers, too, always loved to read about science and noted how his first opportunity to apply what he knows in an emergency room was simply “really cool.”

Combine that with a drive to find a “job where he could give back,” a suggestion about getting his certified nursing assistant certification stood out. In 2015, he became an emergency room technician at MercyOne, falling in love with the profession to the point where he got his bachelor of science degree in nursing. He became a registered nurse in 2019.

“He cares. Point blank he cares,” wrote colleague Kristen Laird. “He would go out of his way to see if there is just one more thing the patient needs or if we need to check another test or get another opinion just to ensure the best was getting done for his patient. You don’t often see that consistent level of care and concern especially from a newer nurse.”

Another spark that led him to become a medical-surgical nurse happened early in his tenure as an emergency room technician when he saw a nurse administer Narcan to a patient who had overdosed and wasn’t breathing.

“The patient popped right back to life right like that,” he said. “Witnessing that and witnessing that the nurse was the one that did that, it was inspiring to be honest.

I just watched this nurse save this young woman’s life because she knew exactly what to do when that time came, did it exactly right and got that patient back, and it was like nothing had ever happened.”

Nowadays, he’s always working to become the best nurse he can be and be prepared for every situation.

“That’s why they call it nursing practice, because you’re never perfect at it. There are always more things to learn,” Powers said. “And the medical field is constantly changing too. Research about different kind of diseases and different kind of treatments and medications is changing. I’m doing my best to stay on top of that and to continue to get better at my skills and my clinical decision making.

“It helped give my life and my path selfworth. And it still does,” he said.

12 | Sunday, May 7, 2023 CEDAR VALLEY TOP 10 NURSES
Finding his purpose as medical-surgery nurse caring for patients
ANDY MILONE andy.milone@wcfcourier.com
CHRIS ZOELLER COURIER STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER The Courier’s 2023 Top Cedar Valley nurses recipient Jake Power of MercyOne Waterloo.
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WATERLOO—No one is alone in nursing, and for years Carol Ratchford has been inspiring young people new to the profession

“I don’t know if I’d be a nurse today if it wasn’t for her,” said Jake Powers.

Ratchford hired Powers as a certified nurses aide in the MercyOne Waterloo emergency room, his first step in what has become a rewarding career for him.

“She was always really good at sharing her knowledge and believing in her people. She was a good boss,” said Powers, who later went on become a registered nurse and earn a bachelor of science in nursing degree.

“She is a great teacher and comes with a lot of knowledge,” said Heather Bartlett, the manager of inpatient physical rehab at MercyOne who has known Ratchford for 30 years.

Ratchford was nominated as a Cedar Valley Top 10 nurse because she handles critical situations with grace and because of her firm, yet compassionate, approach to her work.

Her demeanor sets the tone in environments that can be stressful and chaotic.

“She’s always calm and very confident, and makes everything more calm,” Bartlett said.

Ratchford is also known for being available to consult with the rest of her team, even when she’s away from the hospital after hours.

“I like to help mentor new people. I really think we need the new nurses. I really want to strongly encourage people to be in the community of nurses so we have a group we can rely on,” she said.

The profession is team driven, and receiving the award is reflective on her entire team, she said.

“Nursing is not an individual sport,” she said.

She is currently semi-retired, working part time as an intensive care nurse.

“We have a lot of very sick patients and a lot of very worried family members. We try to return them to health as much as we can and then being a resource for the family, a shoulder for them to lean on in what they are going through,” Ratchford said.

Ratchford began her journey into nursing about 45 years ago. She said she be-

came interested in the field because her sister was a nurse.

“She made it sound like so much fun. I decided I wanted in on some of that fun,” she said.

She received a diploma from Allen School of Nursing and started working in the intensive care unit at what was then Schoitz Hospital. After 10 years, she became a flight nurse, treating patients while being flown by helicopter.

She also began working in the emergency room during her off time and eventually worked her way up to managing the emergency department. After five years as manager, she decided to return to the intensive care unit.

CareInitiativeswouldliketotakethisopportunitytorecognize thehardworkanddedicationChrissyhasprovided.


“It’snottheenvironmentthatdeterminesanurse,it’sanurse whodeterminesanurse.”Sheisincrediblyhelpfuland knowledgeableandisagreatmentorforothersnurses.

14 | Sunday, May 7, 2023 CEDAR VALLEY TOP 10 NURSES
Nursing is a team approach, not an ‘individual sport’
CHRIS ZOELLER COURIER STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER The Courier’s 2023 Top Cedar Valley nurses recipient Carol Ratchford of MercyOne.



When disasters strike or wars break out, nurses are very quickly on the scene. They are key contributors to global health and international aid efforts.

However, as crucial as their first responder role is, the contributions nurses make to international aid and humanitarian efforts go beyond the immediate, palliative needs.

Providing direct patient care

Wherever people are being injured or disease is spreading due to an epidemic, nurses are critical care givers. They are often on the front lines providing care to patients in underserved areas, regions hit by natural or manmade disasters and war zones. They treat injuries, provide medication and manage acute and chronic conditions. They may also provide psychological support to those affected by the crisis,

including patients, family members and other health care workers.

Nurses who perform this kind of work are often called humanitarian nurses. According to Doctors without Borders, nurses deliver 80 to 90% of health care worldwide. These nurses often work with humanitarian organizations such as the Red Cross, Doctors without Borders, the United Nations or the International Medical Corps that dispatch them as teams in places where they are needed.

Coordinating care

In a humanitarian crisis, nurses are often the ones who play key roles in coordinating medical care and resources. They are part of a team that has to work quickly and often without any prior structure to make sure patients receive the care they need.

Nurses are able to create the organization and structure needed to do such things as organize medical supplies, plan

transportation and provide logistical support.

Training and policy development

Nurses play key roles in training and educating those affected by a crisis.

For example, VOICE Amplified is a nonprofit that employs nurses to help women experiencing violence in conflict, crisis or disaster settings. In the past year, they worked with Ukrainian refugees in Poland, providing them with at-home kits that contain emergency contraceptives, cleansers and other items because so many of them experience sexual violence in the region.

The education nurses provide help prevent the spread of disease and help people to care for themselves.

Because nurses spend so much time on the front line, they can also contribute to policy development at local, national and international levels. Their input and testimony are crucial to lawmakers and other

government officials who are creating the policies that govern healthcare access, resources and other factors.

Research and advocacy

Nurses can play proactive roles in making sure there is better health care options when the next disaster or military action takes place.

At research hospitals and universities, nurses can participate in research on what sort of care is needed during these emergencies and how practices can be improved or adapted.

Nurses are also advocates for improved health care access in emergency situations. By telling their stories, they can raise awareness about global health issues, advocate for policy changes and support initiatives that improve health outcomes. Every day, nurses are making important contributions to international aid efforts through their expertise, compassion and skills.

CEDAR VALLEY TOP 10 NURSES Sunday, May 7, 2023 | 15
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People sometimes overgeneralize the responsibilities of different jobs.

“Nursing” may be on that list. But Tina Styron of Waverly wants people to know that one of the reasons she’s ended up spending her entire professional career as a nurse is because of the variety in the roles.

A registered nurse since 1997, Styron may be the epitome of why there isn’t just one box for nurses. She’s been the coordinator of employee health and wellness at UnityPoint Health-Allen Hospital in Waterloo the last 10 years.

“My role is a little bit different because my patient is the employee and so my work is keeping the employees safe and healthy so that they can go off and do their role within the hospital setting,” she said.

Styron, part of a “small but mighty” team of three, manages and handles workers’ compensation cases for ill and injured employees, as well as are in charge of onboarding employees and their records, facilitating physicals and making sure they have the equipment, vaccines, and training they need to do their jobs in a safe and health manner.

For her work involving 2000 UnityPoint employees, The Courier has named her one of the Cedar Valley’s Top Nurses in 2023.

Styron credits her employer UnityPoint and her past and present colleagues, but constantly tells people that the COVID-19 pandemic seemingly put more of a spotlight on her team’s work that had been more behind the scenes.

“Our roles drastically changed to the point where we were on the forefront,” Styron said. “We were testing employees who had symptoms of COVID, taking them off work, returning them to work, determining when they were safe per the CDC guidelines, and doing a lot of education on proper PPE (personal protective equipment), so that when they were caring for COVID patients they were safe and protected.”

Her team’s work made her extremely proud because of the surge in employee cases they were handling and the work to keep as many employees on the job as possible. COVID-19 also had them always on their toes, sifting through and learning

about constant changes to guidelines and protocols, transitioning the hospital when the vaccine was introduced and keeping track of who was ill or had been exposed.

“She’s a good problem solver. We have an issue and she looks at different ideas and is able to tell which one would best work to solve the issue especially with infection prevention and our work comp cases,” said Angela Broell, who has worked with Styron for 17 years in the hospital and in hospice.

“COVID was another example when she dove right in by getting everything done that needed to get done, whether that be through spreadsheets or through process improvement as time went on.”

Styron has made the most of her role, and often reminisces on the people she’s helped.

For example, a maintenance worker sustained a significant injury and he had

doubts about whether he could return to the job he loved. He spent a long time off, but she said her team’s work to coordinate care and services with different surgeons, therapists and others allowed him to return to work.

“He stops in at least weekly and thanks us for our care and coordination and helping him get back to work,” Styron said. She too knows what it’s like to do what one loves. That’s been the case for her since before the turn of the century, largely thanks to inspiration and advice from five aunts who have grazed the nursing field, as well as early exposure in high school and college as a certified nursing assistant.

They’ve had diverse careers, ranging from nursing in the Army to another working on a Native American reservation with patients undergoing kidney dialysis, and others in long term care, as well as in a hospital setting.

Despite the difference in roles, she said there was an overarching sentiment from talking with them — they always felt like they received more than what they gave.

“It is really meaningful work and important work,” Styron said. “To me, I always thought what an honor to be able to be involved in someone’s life when they’re vulnerable and in pain and they need symptom management or whatever they’re situation might be. In short, I wanted to a difference.”

Her 28-year career has seen her work with children with disabilities as part of homecare, as well as in hospice, and as an infection prevention nurse and medicalsurgical nurse.

“It’s been a great profession for me because of the variety,” she said.

Styron has two twin daughters Allison and Emily Hubbard, her husband Steve, and dog Toby.

16 | Sunday, May 7, 2023 CEDAR VALLEY TOP 10 NURSES
She loves her profession because of people she’s impacted
ANDY MILONE andy.milone@wcfcourier.com
CHRIS ZOELLER COURIER STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER The Courier’s 2023 Top Cedar Valley nurses recipient Tina Styron of unityPoint allen Hospital.
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Working in a wound clinic isn’t for the faint of heart – or anyone with a weak stomach.That makes nurse practitioners like Amanda“Mandy” Vervaecke champions for patients and their families.

Vervaecke leads a team of “wound warriors” at UnityPoint Health-Allen Hospital Wound and Hyperbaric Center in Waterloo. She’s considered a superstar among her patients and colleagues, but to her way of thinking, “my patients are the heroes of the story.I’m along for the ride.”

Vervaecke, 53, is being honored as one of the Courier’s Top Cedar Valley Nurses for 2023.

“Her compassion and sense of humor is equally shared with the entire Wound Clinic staff Not only does Mandy orchestrate healing wounds, she is also instrumental in healing hearts,” reads her recommendation for the award.

“You’re working with a patient who is in pain, who doesn’t feel good. I look at wound care like gardening. When you first get there, it looks bad and smells bad. Then you get to work But the end, it’s perfect and healed,” said Vervaecke, of Denver.

Vervaecke is a good listener, as well as compassionate and caring. That personal touch is a strong component in the healing process.

“I believe in leaving no stone unturned in helping someone heal a wound You have to look at the total picture and to have good communication with patients,” she explained. “We see our patients once or twice a week and sometimes as often as daily, if necessary. That means we get to know our patients really well. I care about them, and I want to provide the best care for them. I like hearing their stories. I fall in love every time.

“They become like family, and it gives me great pride when a patient is healed and walks out and rings the bell. That’s my joy,” Vervaecke said.

Vervaecke grew up in Cedar Falls and

graduated from Cedar Falls High School. She earned her bachelor of science degree in nursing from Allen College in 1995,and continued her education, receiving her master’s degree in nursing in 2003

The registered nurse worked the overnight shift in the surgical ward at Allen Hospital (now UnityPoint Health-Allen Hospital), then moved into the recovery room and went back to school to become a nurse practitioner. She also completed a residency at the University of Iowa in Iowa City

“I wanted the next challenge,” she said, smiling.“I love being a nurse practitioner.”

Vervaecke is certified and trained to

provide primary patient care without direct supervision of a physician “As a nurse practitioner, I have more autonomy, and I can write prescriptions,” she explained. NPs can diagnose and treat conditions and determine treatment options for patients’ wounds, as well as educating patients about wound care to reduce infection and promote healing.

She works with wound patients in both clinic and hospital settings.

Her days are spent assessing wounds, determining treatments, cleaning and bandaging wounds, collaborating with other medical professionals about patients and providing treatment.

In her nomination as a Top Cedar Valley Nurse, she was praised for “truly” promoting “the concept of personal and professional teamwork in Allen’s Wound Clinic.”

“I love to work,and I’m dedicated to my patients. You’ve got to trust when somebody is taking care of you. I’m compelled to help when I see someone suffering,” Vervaecke explained.

Vervaecke has two daughters, Julia, 23, and Alice, 21. When she has free time, she likes to spend it relaxing with her two dogs and two cats. “And I love to run –5Ks –and travel. I love to spend my time with my family. That’s my joy.”

Patients are ‘heroes of the story’ for this wound warrior
CHRIS ZOELLER COURIER STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER The Courier’s 2023 Top Cedar Valley Nurses recipient Amanda Vervaecke of UnityPoint Wound Clinic.


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