The 7 individuals chosen as the recipients of the 2022 Kaiser Permanente National Nursing Excellence Awards exhibit the core values of Kaiser Permanente nursing. This group of leaders, clinicians, researchers, innovators, and scientists delivering extraordinary, compassionate care for our members.
“Our award-winning nurses are shining examples of how maintaining a strong commitment to the tenets of our professional practice of nursing allows us to sustain a culture of excellence, even through the adversities and challenges presented by the global pandemic,” said Phyllis Doulaveris, senior vice president and chief nursing executive for Kaiser Permanente. “Our nurse leaders deserve special praise for cultivating an environment of strength and compassion, integrity, trust, and open communication that have helped our teams do their best work in difficult times.”
Extraordinary Nurse Award
Catherina “Karen” Manalo, RN, Relief Nurse, Oncology Unit, Kaiser Permanente Anaheim Medical Center
Karen Manalo’s special way of bringing calm, empathetic, and extraordinary care to her patients was key to improving nurse communication at the Kaiser Permanente Anaheim Medical Center. Patient satisfaction with nurse communications increased from a baseline of 60% to 84% in one year after Manalo and her team members focused on improving communication.
The new strategies, which involve patient conversations to help uncover individual preferences so people can be treated as individuals, are now used throughout Kaiser Permanente in Southern California.
“Even if I’m busy, I will listen to my patients’ concerns,” Manalo said. “I’m also sensitive to their nonverbal signs and make suggestions about how they could feel better. I think of ways to help them feel better even when their medications can’t.”
Excellence in Quality and Safety Award
Hai Ta, RN, Professional Development Consultant, Kaiser Permanente in the Northwest
Turning data into actionable information is a talent that Hai Ta uses to improve patient care and increase employee safety.
In the early days of the pandemic, Ta used the trends she saw in employee COVID-19 infections to keep her colleagues safe. Later, she used similar methods to improve quality and safety for patients in the Northwest Region. For example, she improved the management of medications by decreasing excess inventory and waste and eliminating outdated medications.
Emerging Nurse Leader Award
Gigi Tejada, RN, Assistant Department Administrator, Complete Care Management, Kaiser Permanente San Diego Medical Center
Creating an environment where people feel included and heard is a passion for Gigi Tejada.
“I encouraged my team to think like the experts they are, so the team is actively engaged with providing the ideas about how the work should be done,” Tejada said. “They already have the answers. My role is to remove barriers and help our clinicians shine.”
Tejada also advanced her department in the area of culturally competent care. She helped one of her team members get certified as a qualified bilingual speaker in Tagalog.
“Research shows that cultural competency drives the quality of care higher,” Tejada said. “As a patient, if I see that my health care provider speaks the same language and understands my culture, it fosters a sense of trust.”
Excellence in Nursing Leadership Award
Mervin Francisco, RN, Clinical Director, Adult Inpatient Services, Kaiser Permanente Irvine Medical Center
Quality of care and patient safety have outperformed national benchmarks under Mervin Francisco’s leadership. One of his hospital units is closing in on a year without a single patient fall. Four of his units have had zero hospital-acquired pressure injuries since January 2022.
Francisco believes the keys to his success are partnering with patient-facing staff, sharing information transparently, and providing real-time employee feedback.
Excellence in Professional Development Award
Jose J. Dy Bunpin III, RN, Professional Development Director, Kaiser Permanente Antioch Medical Center
Jose Dy Bunpin is proud to be a nurse. He exhibits that pride through ongoing learning and by encouraging other nurses to keep increasing their knowledge.
Dy Bunpin created a series of seminars to educate nurses on leading projects designed to improve patient outcomes. One group of nurses who attended his seminar outlined a way to ensure the timely completion of a particular patient assessment that must be completed prior to patient discharge.
The project team initially set a goal of completing 50% of the required assessments within one hour of receiving the order. However, by the 90-day check-in 75% of the required assessments had been completed within one hour.
Excellence in Research and Evidence-Based Practice Award
Patricia Zrelak, RN, Clinical Practice Consultant, Stroke, Kaiser Permanente in Northern California
By the end of 2022, Patricia Zrelak will have given 90 presentations to an international audience and will have published over 40 research papers in peer-reviewed journals, 3 clinical guidelines, and several book chapters and white papers. She is most proud of the research in one of her latest papers, published in December 2021, which changed the way hospitals are required to measure patient harm.
Zrelak has earned 3 national awards from the American Association of Neuroscience Nurses for innovation, clinical practice, and mentorship. She also recently launched a new journal for the World Federation of Critical Care Nurses. The International Journal of Critical Care is now the organization’s official journal and will help make research visible around the world.
Friend of Nursing Award
Avi Zaraya, Medical Center and Area Administrator, Support Services, Kaiser Permanente Woodland Hills Medical Center
At the Kaiser Permanente Woodland Hills Medical Center, Avi Zaraya leads the Support Services Division, which has proven itself to be a true friend of nursing. Interdisciplinary councils of managers and patient-facing staff collaborate to solve problems. The councils troubleshoot issues and come up with solutions.
Staff from both teams partner to visit patient rooms daily. They offer resolutions to patients’ issues, such as with food services. The collaboration has resulted in more satisfied nurses with more time to care for patients, and a better experience for patients.