Supporting Home and Community-based Health Services for Chicago’s Medically Underserved

2008 Super Star in Community Nursing Award Finalists

Finalist Ingrid Forsberg, RN, MSN, APRN, BC Receives a $5,000 Award for Her Tireless Work Supporting Chicagoland Teens

CHICAGO – October 2008

With issues like obesity, sexually transmitted diseases and drug abuse on the rise among today’s teen population, school systems have to consider improving their programming to help control these growing trends. These are the issues Ingrid Forsberg encounters every day as the Nurse Practitioner and Health Educator in the Mercy-Dunbar Health Center at Dunbar Vocational Career Academy High School in Chicago. Forsberg – known to her students as “Miss Ingrid” – was recently commended for her exceptional nursing by becoming one of two finalists for the VNA Foundation’s 2008 Super Star in Community Nursing Award.

Forsberg has 30 years of experience as a Nurse Practitioner, the last eight of which she has spent at The Mercy-Dunbar Health Center where students in grades 9 – 12 receive primary care services. In addition to providing direct care and primary prevention, Forsberg coordinates the health services and educational opportunities provided by medical and nursing personnel in their clinical rotations. She enjoys helping children who don’t readily receive the care or guidance they need within their families. Forsberg has a unique way of identifying problems and developing interventions that really resonate with the youth she serves. She is described by students and colleagues as being trustworthy, passionate and extraordinarily committed to her work.

Always very hands on, Forsberg never misses an opportunity to work closely with Dunbar administration and teachers, the Health Center staff and families to address the needs of the student population. She talks with parents on report card pick up days, goes to classrooms to discuss health and engages teachers and students to write about and discuss important health issues. Advocacy for her students at Dunbar High School is a top priority for Forsberg and she works hard to implement new modes of testing and methods of education within the community. All of Forsberg’s methods directly reflect the needs of the students. Forsberg is constantly performing assessments of individual students to make improvements in their overall health and well being. Although at times advocating for students can be challenging – working to try and seamlessly unite all of the influential facets of each teens’ life – Forsberg finds that the reward of receiving positive feedback from students far outweighs the difficulties she sometimes encounters.

“We truly admire the incredible level of commitment Ingrid has shown to her Chicago community,” said Rob DiLeonardi, Executive Director of the VNA Foundation. “Ingrid plays an integral role in providing much-needed education and support to the students at Dunbar High School and its surrounding area. Her programs and services aim to address many of the prominent issues that teens struggle with today and are often not discussed.”

Always striving to better the community, Forsberg works hard to create and implement programs that address the needs of the entire Dunbar student body. Her ongoing efforts to improve student nutrition through her “Got Breakfast” program have positively influenced the students’ awareness of the relationship between academic performance, energy levels and healthy eating. Forsberg investigated the barriers that cause students not to take advantage of school breakfast and partnered with the school staff to encourage changes which would provide nutritional and appealing breakfast to the students. Furthermore, she is currently doing outreach to students and their families to raise awareness of the importance of breakfast.

As nurse practitioner and health educator, Forsberg takes both titles seriously and attempts to intertwine her responsibilities whenever possible. If she can not provide services on site, she facilitates partnering with community agencies. Upon noting the obesity epidemic among teens, Forsberg sought to develop a program to improve the overall health of her students and provide knowledge, as well as increased levels of physical activity. She partnered with CURVES so students could exercise free of charge while attending nutritional education session at the Health Center. She also established an alliance with the University of Illinois New Hope Obesity Program, which provides teen friendly support and treatment for those students who require more extensive interventions.

In addition to her programming contributions, Forsberg delivers outstanding one-on-one care as she partners with students to meet their personal health care needs. In an effort to increase the immunization rates of the adolescent population, she garnered support from her colleagues, students and parents and increased immunizations administered at school, raising immunization rates to 97 percent.

Forsberg’s effort to impact students’ lives doesn’t stop there. Her care reaches beyond the individual and into the larger student population through the establishment of standardized interventions for potential problems identified in the risk assessment protocol she developed. In her most recent project, Forsberg partnered with the Illinois Coalition for School Health Centers (ICSHC) to develop a pilot for a new risk assessment documentation and intervention program. The utilization of this program would improve the understanding and quantifying of levels of risks and provide for targeted interventions in teenagers across the state. The program is currently in the pilot stage and expected to launch next year.

“To me, nursing is about being an educator and having a fresh perspective for each individual and their situation,” said Forsberg. “Throughout my experiences as a nurse, I’ve learned to be open-minded and I hope that is something I can pass on to others who are thinking about becoming involved in community health nursing.”

Finalist Monica Ryan, DNP, APRN, FNP-BC, Receives $5,000 Award and Recognition for the Establishment of and Dedication to the Saint Xavier Health Clinic

CHICAGO – October 2008

Far too often, traditional healthcare vaccinations and other routine procedures are unfortunately more of a privilege than a right. Monica Ryan, a visionary leader who knows how to instigate positive change within her community, recognized this issue and proved to be a true “saint” for her contributions to Saint Xavier University and its surrounding population. Ryan has been named “Finalist” of the VNA Foundation’s 2008 Super Star in Community Nursing Award and is being acknowledged for her extraordinary work throughout her career as a strong advocate for community healthcare needs.

Three years ago, Ryan assessed the needs of her community and saw that a university-based, nurse-managed health center was essential to better serve the Saint Xavier students and community residents. Today she serves as Director of the Saint Xavier University (SXU) Health Center and a School of Nursing Assistant Professor where she juggles leadership both in the classroom and the health center.

Unlike most university and healthcare centers, Ryan’s SXU Health Center extends far beyond standard student care. The facility also benefits the surrounding community – specifically, those who are under or uninsured. Ryan is relentless in shaping the clinic into a place where the cost is kept low but the care, support and services for patients is of high quality. Although it’s sometimes difficult to juggle her nursing and teaching responsibilities, she finds the results incredibly rewarding.

“Monica exudes an incomparable level of passion and energy, which allows her to excel as an advocate for community care,” said Robert DiLeonardi, Executive Director of the VNA Foundation of Chicago. “Her multifaceted career and ongoing dedication to providing quality community healthcare has deemed her a remarkable inspiration to others – both to patients and health professionals.”

Ryan began her nursing career at Saint Xavier University and right away saw the need for an extension of healthcare beyond standard university services. In 1985, Ryan’s vision because a reality when the School of Nursing at Saint Xavier University established a Wellness Center – staffed by School of Nursing faculty. The Center provided basic health services for students, faculty, staff and community members. Shortly after, Ryan worked with the Chicago Department of Public Health to establish the Center as an immunization site for the community.

As the SXU student population grew and residents of the community increased, Ryan vigorously campaigned and worked with a core group of faculty to establish a fully functioning Health Center, which included increased space and staffing. Under Ryan’s leadership, the Health Center established partnerships with numerous schools, healthcare providers, governmental bodies and community organizations. Ryan created an annual newsletter that reaches more than 70 local schools – still in effect today – that outlines the Health Center’s services. Ryan also developed a relationship with the office of Chicago Alderman Ginger Rugai and most recently provided skin cancer screenings, flu shots and dental services.

“I feel privileged to be in the company of the other VNA award winners,” said Ryan. “I am humbled by an award like this and grateful to the VNA Foundation for honoring nurses that dedicate their lives to helping others in their communities. My hope is that this will encourage more young people to pursue public health nursing and give back to their communities where support is so desperately needed.”

On behalf of Ryan’s advocacy, she has been awarded multiple grants from organizations, including the following:

  • AT&T Foundation: Expanding Community Outreach in the Saint Xavier University Health Center
  • The Agatha O’Brien Ministry Fund
  • Sisters of Mercy Regional Community of Chicago: Creating a Specialty Care Netword to Enhance Nurse Practitioner care of Uninsured and Underinsured Clients

She has also received numerous leadership awards for her work including the Leadership Award from the Student Nurses Association, SXU, the Ambassador Award, the Family Health Society Award, the Excellence in Nursing Practice Award, and more.

Monica Ryan was a committed member of the SXU community upon entering as an undergraduate in the School of Nursing; she received her bachelor’s of science degree in 1975. She continued her education at Rush University where she received her master’s of science (she later received her Doctor of Nursing Practice there). Directly following, she returned to SXU where she earned her master’s of arts. Ryan is married with four children and one grandchild. She relaxes by reading, playing golf, exercising and cherishing time with friends and family.

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