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Shining a spotlight on Hopkins' star nurses

Grateful patients endow two awards that recognize and inspire exemplary nurses
Posted September 8, 2016
(l-r) Peter Rosenwald, Grace Nayden, Cynthia Rosenwald, School of Nursing Dean Patricia Davidson (l-r) Peter Rosenwald, Grace Nayden, Cynthia Rosenwald, School of Nursing Dean Patricia Davidson

Telling the story of your colonoscopy to a ballroom full of strangers might seem like a nightmare to most people.

But for Peter Rosenwald, it was the best way to explain why he and his wife, Cynthia, made a gift to the School of Nursing to recognize outstanding Hopkins nurses. The $100,000 gift is an endowment that will provide $5,000 each year in perpetuity for the Rosenwald Star Nurse Award, which is given at the school's annual gala, An Evening with the Stars.

"If you've ever had a colonoscopy, you know what I'm talking about — the embarrassment, the exposure, the discomfort," Peter Rosenwald says. "But the Hopkins nurses were so skilled and so kind, I requested another colonoscopy for the next day!"

That punchline brought down the house at An Evening with the Stars, Rosenwald recalls, but its underlying sentiments couldn't have been more genuine.

Both Rosenwalds have been treated at the Johns Hopkins Hospital over the years, and at every turn, they've noted the exemplary work of the nurses who managed their care. But they also noticed that work didn't always get recognized by other grateful patients.

"You hear a lot about money going to doctors and their research, buildings, that sort of thing. But to my knowledge, there hadn't been much to recognize the nurses. We wanted to change that," he says. The Rosenwald Star Nurse Award is a step in that direction — as well as an incentive for nurses to aspire to even higher levels of excellence in patient care.

Three nurses have received the award, including Grace Nayden, RN, in 2015. A member of the critical care-cardiac care unit for more than two decades, Nayden discovered her calling early in life when she had to take care of an ill relative.

"It's not easy being sick, and it's not easy being a family member watching a loved one suffer," she says. "I am there to be an advocate, to support them, and to provide them the best care I possibly can."

Along with her bedside responsibilities, Nayden serves on a number of committees that oversee various aspects of the unit. Among them: a safety committee that assesses nurses' skills to ensure they're up to the latest standards, and a committee that reviews patients' comments to make recommendations for improvements.

"She's a tremendous resource and a clinical and leadership role model. She's always available to lend a colleague a hand or provide guidance in a nonjudgmental, non-threatening manner," wrote Joy Rothwell, RN, MSN, the critical care-cardiac care nurse manager, in Nayden's nomination for the award.

"It's so inspiring that the Rosenwalds want to provide this kind of endowment for nurses, just because of the positive experience he had in the hospital," Nayden says.

The Rosenwalds, too, have been so inspired by the first three recipients of the Star Award that they've decided to make another $100,000 gift to endow a Rosenwald Nursing Innovation Award. The $5,000 annual prize will recognize a nurse who develops an initiative that improves the quality of patient care, benefits hospitals across the Johns Hopkins Health System, and is implemented by the hospitals.

The Rosenwalds are hopeful that these two awards will inspire a third group — other patients who can follow their lead in supporting outstanding nurses through philanthropy.

"We've been Hopkins benefactors for a long time, giving to various medical departments," Rosenwald says. "But nothing has given us more pleasure than endowing these two awards for outstanding nurses."

To learn more about how you can support Hopkins nurses and nursing students, please contact Tammy Berwanger, associate dean of development for the School of Nursing.