Nurse wins multiple awards at regional conference

A local nurse was recognized with two major awards and a scholarship at the Southeast Region Wound, Ostomy and Continence Nurses Society 2015 Conference last month in Orlando, Florida.

Jamie Parker, who is employed by advanced wound healing services provider Healogics and works within the Advanced Wound Healing Center at Cartersville Medical Center, was recognized as the 2015 SER WOCN Nurse of the Year, won first place in a research competition and was awarded a scholarship worth $1,200. She wasn’t quite expecting any of it, though.

“I was completely shocked,” she said, describing moment immediately after she was named Nurse of the Year. “I even asked, probably two or three times, ‘Are you sure?’”

Parker, who has been a nurse for about five years and earned her master’s degree in April from the University of West Georgia, attended the conference largely to participate in the research competition, to which she submitted two large posters. The rest of the field featured professionals from top research universities.

“When I went in with my posters, I did not have a lot of confidence in them at first, especially compared to the ones that were already hanging from Emory [University] and John[s] Hopkins [University], UAB [University of Alabama at Birmingham] ... top names that everyone in our area know[s],” said Parker.

The poster that would win the award featured Parker’s homemade ostomy molds. As a wound, ostomy and continence nurse, Parker tends to patients who have surgically created openings known as stomas, which allow waste to exit their bodies safely. According to Parker’s poster, anatomical models of the equipment used in ostomy practices are created in order to help educate patients and nurses as to what the actual processes will look like and feel like. This way, when a patient must use a stoma, he/she is already well-acquainted with how to do so. Typical ostomy molds can cost anywhere from $250 to $2,500.

But Parker had a better idea.

Using Play-Doh, silicone and liquid rubber latex, she made her own molds and photographed the process. She then laid the photos out on her research poster with step-by-step instructions for creating the molds. Though she wasn’t sure she had a chance, Parker’s innovative idea was enough to impress the judges.

“They embraced the idea,” she said. “They embraced that I made my own molds to make sure that not only patients but nurses could be thoroughly educated on ostomy care and ostomy management, which is a great need in the community.”

Parker also presented research from her master’s thesis investigating nurses’ self-confidence and the role it plays in their work abilities. That poster did not place. But Parker noted that, awards aside, she enjoys using her creativity to educate others.

“I just always have ideas that come to mind and I try to apply them,” she explained. “And especially if it’s going to make a patient better, then I want to do it. I love to teach and educate because I want all nurses to be better nurses.”

In regard to her Nurse of the Year award, Parker said she was humbled and recognized the hard work of many others in her field.

“You have challenging patients. You have challenging disease processes,” she said of the other nurses’ work. “But they have a passion unlike anyone else that I’ve ever met. And I did think about several of the nurses in that room that I know deserve it. ... So that made it even more humbling, that they were wanting to give it to me.”

Perhaps what makes Parker unique is her refusal to accept commonplace practices into her personal standards.

“I never use the words ‘Well, we’ve always done it that way,’” she said. “That’s like the worst sentence I could ever hear in my life. Because there’s always better ways. There’s always something that you can do or research to make it better."

SER WOCN President Martha Davidson had high praise for Parker.

“Jamie’s application stood out among several other contenders for this award given to the most outstanding member of our region,” said Davidson via email, referring to Parker’s Nurse of the Year win. “Many of her peers were so impressed with her poster, they were overheard suggesting she write up her poster for publication or even submit it for a presentation topic in a future conference. ... The Southeast Region is very proud of Jamie and all her wonderful accomplishments. She is truly a passionate, caring and talented individual who is devoted to her patients and fellow WOC nurses.”

The scholarship was won through an application process and awarded separately from the other accolades Parker received at the conference. It is intended to be used toward expensess incurred while pursuing higher education.

Parker’s research will be displayed again at the Georgia Association for Nursing Education Annual Conference in Jekyll Island in February 2016. She has also been asked to present her research at the international WOCN Society Conference in June 2016 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

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