Methodist nurse wins Circle of Excellence Award

Jessica Jones is being welcomed into an esteemed club next month.

Jones, manager of clinical operations for the cardiovascular critical care unit at IU Health Methodist Hospital, is receiving the Circle of Excellence Award, a national honor given annually to only 15-20 nurses in the nation by the American Association of Critical Care Nurses.

It’s an award she neither sought nor expected, but her colleagues in critical care thought she was deserving, so they nominated her without her knowledge.

“They conspired while I was on vacation,” she laughed, “and pulled together the application.”

The Circle of Excellence Award recognizes excellence in addressing the needs of acutely and critically ill patients and their families.

And that is something Jones excels at as a nurse and as a leader, her team said. Patient outcomes have improved, staff satisfaction has increased, and turnover has decreased in the four years since she assumed the management role.

Jones has spent her entire 15-year career on the CVCC unit at Methodist. She started while in nursing school and continued as a bedside nurse and shift coordinator over the next 11 years.

“I love that unit, and I love the people on it,” she said, “and at the end of the day I hope that’s what comes through.”

Apparently it does, or her team wouldn’t have nominated her.

When registered nurse Emily Meister read about the call for nominations to the Circle of Excellence, she knew she had to nominate her unit manager, she said. She asked others, including unit educator Jenny Baker and clinical nurse specialist Dawn Horvath, for help.

Meister said Jones is not only an expert nurse but one who consistently displays authentic leadership, deftly challenging the status quo.

“In three years, she transformed the unit to a top performer, demonstrating excellence in patient outcomes and staff satisfaction,” Meister said. “Her enthusiasm for patient care and her humbling yet executional management style and presence on the unit certainly never go unnoticed.”

Jones is passionate about patient care and ensures that her nurses are not only heard but are given the appropriate tools and education to deliver the best care among the diverse, acute patient populations the unit serves, Meister said.

“She absolutely deserves national recognition for her outstanding contributions toward nursing excellence,” Meister said.

The loyalty her team feels for her is no doubt inspired by her support for them.

Dr. David Roe, medical director of the CVCC, said he’s never seen a nurse manager more dedicated to and supportive of her staff, whether in training opportunities, patient care responsibilities or collaborative approaches to problem-solving.

“Jessica has shifted the culture of the cardiovascular critical care unit into one of constant vigilance for reduction of adverse patient events while maintaining consistent and exemplary levels of care for patients,” he said. “She has consistently demanded more educational opportunities from physicians for her nursing staff as well as advanced practitioners in the unit.”

Jones, who honed her leadership skills in high school as a camp counselor, president of student council and captain of her soccer team, believes in a team-led approach.

“I’ve always loved coaching,” she said, “and I try not to ever dictate things. If the team makes the decision, it’s going to mean a stronger implementation.”

She gives credit to excellent mentors she’s had along the way, as well as “good peers that give honest feedback.”

Though humbled by the award, she will accept it – as well as a Beacon Award – in Orlando next month on behalf of her entire team.

“I don’t think I do anything differently than anybody else, but the fact that they took the time to do this is pretty cool. That’s the most special part of it.”

The conference, which attracts about 7,000 critical care nurses from around the country, is like going to the playoffs, Jones said. It’s that same kind of super-charged energy.

“It reminds you why you do what you do. You get to see cutting-edge technology, you get to hear about the latest and greatest evidence-based practice,” she said. “The cool thing about being with IU Health is that a lot of times we are leading the way.”

One more thing about Jones. She has spearheaded a revamped approach to competency testing for the 120 nurses on the unit that puts the focus on learning in a fun yet competitive environment. The annual safety fair has a theme each year, complete with costumes, games and prizes. One year, it was a Las Vegas theme, last year it was based on the game Clue. This year’s fair, slated for the end of July, will have a Harry Potter theme.

– By Maureen Gilmer, IU Health senior journalist


Photo by Mike Dickbernd, IU Health visual journalist