Madison’s Favorite Nurses 2012

Meet seven local health care pros who go beyond the call of duty

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How do you find the best nurses in Madison, the ones who go above and beyond the duties of their profession every single day? You ask their patients, colleagues, families and friends who can never say enough about the successful, smart and, of course, compassionate nurses in their lives. After Madison Magazine and WISC-TV3 asked the community to help us find and recognize their favorite nurses in all areas of health care, seven winners emerged from a pool of more than a hundred remarkable and qualified candidates practicing in a wide variety of health care environments and in a diversity of roles within the profession. To be chosen for this honor, Madison’s Favorite Nurses must have been trained in a formal nursing program, and all were vetted by the state Department of Regulation & Licensing. This year, we asked our nurses to tell us, in their own words, what it’s like to work on the frontlines of health care in Madison, Wisconsin. Here are their stories.

Portraits by Narayan Mahon

Denise Cheramy

Nurse Clinician, American Family Children’s Hospital

(pictured above)

What’s the best day you’ve ever had?
There have been many good days that run smoothly and where patients have good outcomes with their procedures. Working side by side with my daughters, who also became surgical nurses, in the operating room stands out as one of the most memorable days in my career.

What I love most about my job ...
I work with doctors who tirelessly strive to improve their care for the precious lives of their patients. The surgeons, anesthesiologists and other professionals inspire me to do the best job I can. Every day presents itself as an opportunity to learn something. My most important role is to care for and support each patient with compassion, as though they were a member of my family.

Nurses are often described as especially compassionate, even angelic. Do you agree?
Patients have a natural fear of surgery, fear of the unknown, or fear of possible disfigurement or even death. And having an anesthetic places a patient in a position of vulnerability. Supporting and connecting with a patient at this vulnerable time is so rewarding, and having a patient tell you that you were their angel is humbling.

Are there common misperceptions about your work?
Some may think operating room nurses are not registered nurses, but we simply have chosen a career path where we care for the patient during surgery. We act as a patient advocate during this scary part of their treatment. We see the whole picture, assisting our team members. And, of course, we communicate with family members as they anxiously await news and updates.

Would you recommend a career in nursing to others?
I would encourage anyone interested in becoming a nurse to spend some time talking to one. Talk to a mentor. Nursing is not just a job; it is a passion. It is a part of who you are. It is a career to be proud of.

Why Denise?

“Denise makes the operating room run smoothly, and on a constant basis. During emergent situations, she is calm, thinks logically and is able to perform her duties under extreme pressure. She is able to adapt quickly to changing circumstances. She performs her duties with skill and grace.”   

Claude Rochon

Assistant Professor, Edgewood College & Nurse Clinician, American Family Children’s Hospital

Describe your path to nursing. 
I am master plumber in the state of Wisconsin and have held the license for thirty years. While a plumber and volunteer EMT in a small northern Wisconsin community, I started taking high school students to South America on medical projects. From this I fell in love with nursing. At the age of forty-five I went to college for the first time in my life. 

What’s the best day you’ve ever had?
I believe that my best days are when I am walking out to my car and I marvel at what I have learned through the action of a child. When many of these children face what seem like insurmountable odds, they smile. Their attitude and courage to find the best in everything and to set such an important example for a nurse to follow are the small things in my job that mean so much.

How do you decompress from a hard day’s work?
I ride my Harley-Davidson motorcycle. The freedom of the road and the wind in my hair allow me to put the daily stress in proper prospective.

Who are your mentors?
In nursing I have two mentors that I value very much. One is a nurse educator; I can ask her anything about work and I value her opinion. She has guided my professional development and advancement. The other I met after hearing her lecture and describe her service-learning trips and it turned into a life of volunteering and coordinating health care missions to Cambodia for me.

Why Claude?

“Claude’s ability to connect with children is unique. He communicates with endless compassion, poise and patience, and he strives to deliver the best care to all his patients. Claude cares for the sickest of the sick. The families under his care need constant communication, reassurance and trust in Claude to do everything in his power to help pull their child through whatever health challenge they may be facing. Claude exceeds these expectations.”

Jane Nelson Worel

Internal Medicine Nurse Practitioner, Meriter Medical Group

Average day on the job for me:
As an adult nurse practitioner I treat patients from age eighteen and up and enjoy the variety. No two days are the same. I see and treat patients with acute concerns, such as a cough, sore throat or breathing problem, but also manage chronic health problems such as high blood pressure, diabetes or heart disease. I see, on average, ten patients a day. 

People would be surprised to know:
I wish I did not have to prescribe medications. Most chronic illnesses can be prevented or managed with healthy lifestyles—regular exercise, plant-based diets, maintaining a healthy weight and stress management.   

How has nursing changed over the years?
Nursing opportunities continue to expand well beyond the walls of hospitals and clinics and into non-traditional nursing roles such as entrepreneurs, consultants and business owners, informatics specialists, scientists and researchers, and health and wellness coaches. I think this is a very exciting time to be a nurse.

What kind of people do you look up to at work? Who are your mentors?
I appreciate the scientists, researchers and clinicians who have created the evidence upon which I can soundly base my practice—how best to treat diabetes or high blood pressure or help someone quit smoking. But I also learn from my patients, especially the elders, who have so much to teach about the value of a life well lived.

What kind of professional development have you had and what impact has this had on your work and career?
Serving on the board of the Preventive Cardiovascular Nursing Association has been an incredible opportunity for me to work with nursing leaders from around the country to help advance a personal goal: helping nurses become leaders in the prevention of cardiovascular disease. I’ve met with members of Congress to advocate for legislation promoting healthy school lunches, which eventually passed and is being implemented in schools. I also participated in an Office of Women’s Health public service campaign to raise awareness of heart attack symptoms and the importance of calling 9-1-1.

What’s unique about practicing nursing in Madison?
We are lucky to have some of the best health care systems in the country here in Madison together with great academic institutions that allow nurses to continue to learn and grow—whether pursuing degree advancement or simply learning to be a better clinician. 

Why Jane?

“Jane develops respectful and honest communication with her patients as she believes that it is the patient who, more often than not, has the best insight about what’s going on and what needs to be done.”

Mim Jacobson

Owner, Country Comforts Assisted Livingsisted Living

What’s the best day you’ve ever had?
With end-of-life care, the best day is a day when someone has passed peacefully and comfortably from this world, and the family of the person has been allowed to be part of the process in ways that are meaningful and helpful for them. My role is simply to be a knowledgeable, helpful and caring presence.  

What I love most about my job …
With older people, I love learning about their life experience, influences, and who and what is important to them. With someone who has dementia, this is not always an easy task to figure out. One of my favorite stories is about a wonderful woman who had Alzheimer’s. Though I cared for her for more than three years, she never learned my name. One day when I went to pick her up from a respite day care center, as soon as she saw me, she said to her volunteer, “There’s my owner. She’s come to take me home.” That told me she felt safe and “at home” with me.   

Nurses are often described as especially or unusually compassionate, even angelic. Would you agree?
It depends on the person. I think if someone feels a real calling to go into nursing, there is likely to be a sense of compassion. If it is just a job, I’m not sure that there is as much compassion or empathy. I have always said you can pay someone to do a job, but you can’t pay someone to be kind—that comes from the heart.

If I weren’t a nurse, I would be …
A pastor. I have always been drawn to the mystery and spiritual dimension of life. When I was in college, my church did not ordain women as pastors. If they had, I may have gone to seminary and been drawn to hospital chaplaincy. Addressing the spiritual and emotional needs of patients in addition to their physical needs has always been a concern of mine.

How do you decompress from a hard day’s work?
Taking a long walk with my dog and reading are my two favorite ways to relax. I also have a partner and several friends who are good listeners if I just need to talk.

Are there common misperceptions about your work?
Some people think that caring for two people shouldn’t be enough to keep me busy. However, typically, the residents who come to Country Comforts have caregiving needs that are very intense and complex. That is especially true for residents who have come for end-of-life care. There have been several people who have chosen to leave nursing homes to come and live with me—two of them were already in hospice. I know that if I had more than two residents, I wouldn’t be able to give them and their families the level of care I’m committed to providing.

Why Mim?

“Mim’s goal is to help residents live the best life possible for however many years, months or days they have left. She has said that her mission in life is to nurture, advocate for and provide hospitality to those who are vulnerable. She is truly living out her mission.”



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