2020 Excellence in Nursing Awards

In this, our sixth Excellence in Nursing Awards, we applaud thirteen incredible nursing professionals who stand on the frontlines of the coronavirus pandemic.

Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist of the Year

Michelle Hanlon

Michelle M. Hanlon, CRNA, MSN, BSN
Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist; Clinical Coordinator for SRNA Program at Rhode Island Hospital and Hasbro Children’s Hospital

How did you get into nursing?
My mother is a nurse and I thought about being a nurse starting in high school because I really loved math and science. I also wanted to take care of people.

Tell us about your nursing mentor.
My mother worked in different specialties as a young nurse. After having a family, she returned to nursing after many years and changes in the nursing field and became very versatile caring for pediatric and adult patients in her clinical setting. Even though she is now retired, she listens to me when I need to share experiences or frustrations. She shares her stories and we realize how far the nursing role has expanded and become more complicated with increased technology. We agree that caring is still a very important part and she continues to be my mentor.

What’s your favorite part about being a nurse anesthetist?
Taking care of one patient at a time and really focusing on their care. I also love to teach, and as clinical coordinator for our student nurse anesthetist clinical rotations, I am able to guide SRNAs through their clinical learning experiences.

What’s the most challenging part of being a nurse?
Caring for others includes always being in tune to others and always giving of ourselves. What is challenging is remembering that we need to take care of ourselves and our colleagues. Recharging myself is important through exercise, massage and relaxation time with my family. Being there for my colleagues, listening and providing kind words are also part of recharging myself. Also, practicing a grateful mindset every day is important to help overcome our challenges.

What effect has COVID-19 had on you as a nurse?
COVID-19 brought changes to our daily practice in that masks had to be worn all day and additional PPE was issued to all staff. We had to learn how to put on and remove PPE properly. We cared for COVID patients having emergency surgeries and were prepared to help out in the ICUs if needed. In this unusual time, meeting patients who are all wearing masks, limiting physical contact and maintaining social distancing can feel like barriers to providing quality care. Nurses in all roles continue to work hard caring for all patients during this pandemic. What I wish people to know is that nurses are at risk every day and wearing masks and social distancing will help keep us healthy to continue our work caring for others when they need us.

Nominator buzz: “Michelle is actively involved with not only patient care but promoting education in our field of expertise. She has always held education near and dear to her heart. It is rare to find a person that not only gives 100 percent to her patients, but who also has more to give for the future nurse anesthetists in our profession.” ­— Lynn A. Curran, Women and Infants Hospital

Nurse Researcher of the Year

Maria Mederiosr

Maria H. Medeiros, RN, BSN
Research Nurse for the Lifespan Cancer Institute at Rhode Island Hospital

How did you get into nursing?
My aunt had epilepsy and as a child I was taught to take care of her if she had a seizure when no one else was home. So, I guess taking care of people is something I grew up with and is something that comes naturally to me.

What’s your favorite part about being a nurse researcher?
I work on the phase one clinical trial team, which involves new drugs that are being given to humans for the first time. I work with an amazing group of people and, of course, I love my patients. I have been doing this for some time and have seen drugs become FDA-approved based on data from studies I have worked on. It is satisfying knowing I was a part of that.

What do you wish more people knew about your role as a nurse researcher?
While I’m involved in research, I’m still a real nurse, just in a different capacity. There are so many things we do behind the scenes to get patients onto a clinical trial. It’s a very complicated job; you aren’t dealing with only one research protocol or sponsor, you’re juggling many at the same time that have different eligibility criteria, medications and procedures. We triage our patients, manage their medications and side effects, schedule appointments for treatment, bloodwork and doctor’s visits — everything required of patients while on a study, all while following the strict guidelines that govern research patients or patients in general. It is not an easy job, but it can be very satisfying.