Since 1989, Dr. Frank Billingsley, retired chair of obstetrics and gynecology at Sibley Memorial Hospital, has conferred the annual Heart Award on a nurse whose patient care exemplifies the sensitivity, compassion, thoughtfulness, and understanding that his daughter, Rebecca Lee Billingsley, received from the hospital’s nursing staff before she died. “Frank’s love and respect for nurses prompted Becky to go into nursing before being diagnosed with cancer,” said his wife, Leslie Billingsley. “Their caretaking only reinforced his goodwill.”
The award carries a $500 prize. This year’s recipient is Carolyn McQuighan, BSN, RN, a staff nurse in the endoscopy unit. In nominating her, Hettie Mercer, MSN, RN, nurse manager of the outpatient procedures suite and McQuighan’s supervisor for more than a decade, said: “When you think of a nurse deserving of the Heart Award, what comes to mind is someone whose passion for nursing is exhibited on a daily basis. Carolyn has a soothing way with patients. She is able to calm down the most anxious of them by patiently answering their questions, holding their hands, teaching them as she goes along, and offering assurance that they will receive the best of care.”
Mercer also cited McQuighan’s leadership in nursing education. “Carolyn posts articles, holds in-services, administers competencies, and mentors staff on new technology. She advocates for certification and can be credited for encouraging four of the endoscopy nurses to become certified over the past several years.”
McQuighan’s efforts have also been recognized outside the hospital. In 2010 the Society of Gastroenterology Nurses and Associates named her “Outstanding Regional Member of the Year” for her four-year stint as education chair of the Chesapeake Society of Gastroenterology Nurses and Associates.
The Heart Award winner has worked in gastroenterology since 1980. The most satisfying part of her job, McQuighan says, is the opportunity to establish a one-on-one relationship with patients, making them feel comfortable, even when they are being treated for incontinence or similar conditions.
She also likes the technical demands of her job. Five years ago, the endoscopy unit began offering motility testing of the GI tract so that doctors could diagnose and treat pelvic floor disorders. More recently, the unit has added esophageal manometry testing of upper GI disorders. “Carolyn willingly accepted the challenge of learning this technology,” said Mercer. “She wholeheartedly delved into it and through her diligence and hard work has earned the respect of the physicians and made a difference in the lives of her patients.”
This year McQuighan, who began her career as an LPN, celebrates her 40th anniversary as a nurse. “This award is the greatest honor I have ever received,” she said. “My career has meant everything to me. All I ever wanted to be was a good nurse.”