Professional Mentoring Recipient: Jim Kruger, RN, St. Lucie Medical Center, Port St. Lucie, FL

There’s an old saying: “Lead, follow or get out of the way.” Jim Kruger can do all three.

Kruger’s decades-long career at St. Lucie Medical Center has included stints as its emergency department director, where he oversaw a range of initiatives that included: improving patient throughput; improving patient satisfaction scores and rankings; and an emergency department residency program. Along the way, he also has served as a mentor for newly hired emergency department directors across HCA, as well as serving on the St. Lucie County EMS Advisory Board and as chairperson for the county’s branch of the American Cancer Society. But nowhere is his desire to bring out the best in others felt more than in his hospital’s corridors.

“Jim has a true passion for developing others,” says Nancy Hilton, chief nursing officer. “As I look around the hospital, Jim either mentored or hired most of the current nursing directors.”

Kruger now serves as assistant vice president of nursing, and continues to find new and innovative ways to help nurses and other clinicians chart a path to job satisfaction and professional growth, encouraging them all the while.

“I want to give people the ability to step up to the plate and take assignments, and have them do so willingly,” Kruger says. “When people have a desire to grow, to learn, we need to give them that opportunity. If you can identify a strength, put them on a com- mittee or a project that plays into that.”

Those who have bene ted from that approach eagerly testify to the difference Kruger made in their careers — and lives.

“When I first met Jim, I was a traveling nurse and was directionless,” says Tami Speed, director of the hospital’s ortho and spine unit. “Through his instruction and support he guided me to become so much more. He is still watching out for me.”

Kruger still helps with patient triage and assessment when he can, saying that keeping his hand in direct patient care only helps him grow as a mentor.

“I need to know I can work well under pressure, and people need to see me doing that,” he says. “I’ve been doing this for 31 years now, and I feel like you can only earn respect by continually showing that you can do the job.”

Professional Mentoring Finalist: Denise Dixon, RN, West Valley Medical Center, Caldwell, ID

denisedixonexcellenceinnursingpmfinalist-sqIf there’s any doubt as to Denise Dixon’s organizational skills, consider that she finished getting her RN degree (as well as her master’s degree in nursing) while also working full time and raising a family.

But ask her colleagues at West Valley Medical Center, and they have much more to say. From her work in the community with pregnant teens to working as an adjunct professor in the School of Nursing at Boise State University (BSU), they will tell you how hands-on this labor and delivery nurse is all day, every day.

“Physicians trust her expertise and often consult her when developing care plans for our patients,” says Betsy Hunsicker, chief executive officer. “And our providers say they would trust Denise with the care of their own families, a clear indicator of the highest level of trust and regard.” At the hospital, Denise also serves on the Family Maternity Center’s education committee, working on training plans for the labor and delivery team.

“Denise demonstrates clinical excellence in each endeavor she has undertaken,” Hunsicker says. “She has gained the trust and respect of our providers, assumed a mentor- ing role among her colleagues, trained the next generation of nurses thorough our local university and as- suaged the fears of young mothers in our community.”

“Training students to become great clinicians and professional nurses is a daunting task,” adds Pamela Mulcock, clinical coordinator at BSU. “I am happy and encouraged that Denise Dixon has been part of the process here at Boise State University.”

Professional Mentoring Finalist: Michelle Yeatts, RN, Denton Medical Center, Denton, TX

michelle-yeattsnursingfinalist-sqNew nurses are some of the busiest people in a hospital. They’re learning on the job, taking classroom lessons
and putting them into real-life situations. Long hours and constant challenges can be exhausting, so the last thing Denton Regional Medical Center officials expected from Michelle Yeatts within a year of her joining the hospital was help launching a residency program.

But that’s what they got from Yeatts, who obtained her nursing degree in 2011 and is wrapping up work on a master’s degree. She wanted to help develop the program, and has since become a mentor and “mama” figure to residents, interns and externs throughout the facility. She now has been promoted to magnet manager in recognition of her efforts.

“She worked nights in the NICU while simultaneously working with the residency program to nurture and develop it into a successful program,” says Caleb O’Rear, chief executive officer. “She collaborated with other hospitals in the division, and in September 2014 the first round of residents began in the program.”

In addition to rave reviews from interns and staff alike, the program also proved to be an invaluable employee retention tool. In 2013 the facility had a 40.1 percent first-year RN turnover rate, which dropped to 15.4 percent the next year. One program graduate sums it up best:

“Michelle has been influential and unforgettable,” says Shulee Smith. “She has molded, educated, encouraged and helped me to become the person and nurse that I am.”