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The VNA Foundation Recognizes Carol Palmer Wardlaw, RN, MSN, APN of Huginnie Crane Adolescent Health Center
CHICAGO – June 23, 2005
Imagine being a nurse working in an inner-city high school health center serving more than 1,200 students and dealing with puberty and chronic illness, eating disorders and obesity, STDs and teen pregnancy, depression and self-esteem issues, all before the lunch bell rings! This is what 54-year-old Carol Palmer Wardlaw, MSN, BSN, does every day as the manager and family nurse practitioner at Huginnie Crane Adolescent Health Center located inside the Crane Technical Preparatory Common School on the city’s West side. Wardlaw was recently chosen as winner of the 2005 VNA Foundation Super Star in Community NursingAward and recipient of a $25,000 unrestricted cash award to recognize her significant contributions to community and public health nursing in Chicago.
Wardlaw has a great passion for serving adolescents in the predominantly African American neighborhood in which she serves. In fact, for the vast majority of her patients at the Hugginnie Crane Adolescent Health Center , administered by Rush University College of Nursing and run in collaboration with the Cook County Ambulatory and Community Health Network, Wardlaw is their first contact and often their only available access to health care. The students Wardlaw serves come to the center with complaints ranging from everyday headaches and stomach pains to more serious medical issues such as appendicitis and unplanned pregnancy. Wardlaw is known for relating to and respecting the students she serves and has become a trusted authority within the school. Through Wardlaw’s dedication and commitment to helping battle teen pregnancy at Crane, her center has seen a rapid decline in teen pregnancies, down from 60 in 1994 to only 9 in 2005. In addition, Wardlaw is also very committed to the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), and has witnessed a steady decline of Chlamydia from 16% of the center’s patients to 12% over the past four years.
Never one to sit idle, Carol Palmer Wardlaw has also been instrumental in the organization and development of the Illinois Coalition for School Health Centers and has played a major role in recruiting members and establishing this organization throughout the state. The Coalition’s mission is to improve the physical and mental health status of Illinois youth by providing access to quality health care through the development, stabilization and expansion of school-based and linked health centers. Wardlaw’s efforts have not gone unnoticed. This May, she received the first-ever “Advocate of the Year” award from the ICSHC for her advocacy work to promote the need for and benefits from school health centers. She is also active in supporting the National Assembly for School Health Care and has helped to train school health center staff throughout the country.
Wardlaw also takes very seriously her position as a role model to health practitioner students and, since 1996, has served as a Practitioner/Teacher for Rush University College of Nursing in Chicago.
“Year after year, we are amazed by the caliber of the Super Star Nurse award nominees, and this year was no exception,” said Robert DiLeonardi, Executive Director of the VNA Foundation of Chicago. “During the finalist interviews, Carol Palmer Wardlaw’s very impressive credentials matched her strong commitment and passion. After hearing firsthand about her dedication to ensuring quality health care for the adolescents she serves at the Huginnie Crane Adolescent Health Center, it was evident to our selection panel that she was most deserving of this recognition. Carol is a remarkable inspiration to others who are considering a career in community nursing.”
Growing up with her parents and three siblings in downstate rural Pembroke Township, Wardlaw always knew she wanted to become a nurse. Her earliest memory of caring for “patients” was extracting splinters from her siblings’ fingers and diagnosing and treating the occasional playground scrapes and bumps. When Wardlaw was 19, she read a newspaper article about Cook County School of Nursing and wrote the school to inquire about the profession.
The school urged young Wardlaw to enroll and shortly thereafter she was accepted and began earning her nursing diploma. Upon graduating the school’s three-year program, Wardlaw started her first job as a staff nurse at Mt. Sinai Hospital where she also served as the hospital’s diabetes educator. In that position, she helped newly diagnosed patients cope with and manage their diabetes thus beginning her long career as a patient educator and advocate.
After 8 years at Mt. Sinai, Wardlaw went back to school to pursue a Bachelors of Nursing at DePaul University. There she met a professor who suggested she pursue nurse practitioner training at the University of Wisconsin at Oshkosh. Upon receiving her Masters degree, Wardlaw worked for more than a decade as a family nurse practitioner at Winfield Moody Community Health Center in the Cabrini Green neighborhood offering prenatal, well women and family planning care to predominantly African American and Hispanic women. A colleague at Winfield Moody recommended Wardlaw to the medical director at Huginnie Crane Adolescent Health Center in 1993, where she has been employed ever since.
School-based health centers across the country are facing huge deficits as a result of the health care crisis, and many are closing their programs. Huginnie Crane Adolescent Health Center has been faced with these same challenges. Because the high school health center is one of just three on the west side of Chicago and the need for care is high, Wardlaw continues to be an advocate for the youth she sees daily and has worked with school administrators to find a way to keep the program going despite ongoing budget cuts.
“I am truly honored and amazed to win this award from the VNA Foundation and very thankful for all they do to promote community health nursing,” said Wardlaw. “I absolutely love my job helping care for students, so to receive $25,000 is just a complete blessing. I know that I’m not the only one doing this type of work — there are a lot of nurses in Chicago working hard to ensure better health for children — so I’m truly humbled by this recognition.”
“Each of our finalists this year demonstrated outstanding creativity, advocacy and clinical care, but Carol’s story truly stood out from all the rest,” said DiLeonardi. “We are honored to acknowledge the incredible service of all five of these nurses and the important role they play in providing much-needed nursing care to our local communities. This award was created to promote the importance of community nursing and hopefully encourage more young people to pursue it as a career option and serve communities that desperately need the support.”
According to the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO), nearly 130,000 nursing positions are unfilled today and that number is expected to skyrocket as 78 million aging Baby Boomers begin placing unprecedented demands on America ‘s health care system. The nurse staffing problem is today a major factor in emergency department overcrowding, cancellation of elective surgeries, discontinuation of clinical services, and the limited ability of the health system to respond to any mass casualty incident. In addition, 90 percent of nursing homes report an insufficient number of nurses to provide even the most basic care, and some home health agencies are being forced to refuse new admissions. While there are currently shortages of other health care personnel, nurses are the primary source of care and support for patients at the most vulnerable points in their lives. Nearly every person’s health care experience involves a registered nurse. Birth and death, and all the various forms of care in between, are attended by the knowledge, support and comfort of nurses.
The VNA Foundation of Chicago’s 2005 Super Star in Community Nursing Award is intended to acknowledge the service that Public Health/Community Health nurses provide, recognize the value of nursing in the community, help attract young people to the profession and contribute to efforts to decrease the nursing shortage.
“As growing numbers of elderly Americans require health care services, and as more underinsured families and children turn to community-based health services and clinics, we want to highlight the importance of community health nursing,” said DiLeonardi. “By promoting this award and the dedicated individuals being honored, we hope to appeal to young people and encourage them to consider public health nursing as a career choice.”
Wardlaw and four finalists were chosen by an all-volunteer, independent panel of community health experts, including longtime physician, public health activist and radio commentator Quentin Young, M.D.; Kane County Health Department Executive Director Mary Lou England; and others.
From 1890 to 1995, the VNA of Chicago employed its own nurses and other health professionals to provide health care to the underprivileged. Since 1995, the VNA Foundation has operated exclusively as a grant making foundation, giving financial support to nonprofit organizations offering home- and community-based care to the medically underserved. In 2004, the VNA Foundation distributed 49 grants totaling $1,812,833 in support of its mission to increase home and community-based health services for Chicago ‘s medically underserved. Recipients of the grants include a variety of agencies providing health care and health services to the homeless, the working poor and the disenfranchised.
Young Cheon-Klessig, MS, RNC, Family Nurse Practitioner, Uptown Neighborhood Health Center, Chicago Department of Health.
The Korean community is one of the fastest growing and most likely to be uninsured among Chicago’s diverse Asian populations. Due to various cultural and language barriers, Young Cheon-Klessig knows firsthand that the Korean American community isn’t getting the health care they need. As a nurse who received her professional training at Seoul National University College of Nursing in Korea , Klessig moved to America and began her life’s mission of caring for her fellow Koreans. Klessig has significantly impacted the lives of thousands of patients and their families by providing a source of affordable, culturally and linguistically appropriate health care for many of Chicago’s Korean immigrant community. As a result of her advocacy and tireless efforts, the Uptown Neighborhood Health Center has provided education and treatment for a variety of health issues that are often “taboo” topics among traditional Asians – including breast and cervical cancer, colon cancer, hepatitis B and liver cancer, as well stress and depression. An impressive role model, Klessig has become well-known among the Korean American community through her extensive community outreach to make individuals and families aware of preventive health care measures and public health services.
Dona Barton has positively changed the lives of medically fragile children throughout the area and has dedicated her life — both personally and professionally — to do so. Barton and her team at Uhlich Children’s Advantage Network (UCAN) provide basic health care and education to children often left to become wards of the state due to severe emotional, psychological and physical issues. At UCAN, a multi-faceted child welfare agency serving abused, needy and neglected youth in the Chicago area, Barton pioneered a Nursing Wellness Program that currently provides basic health care and education to more than 5,000 children and families. Through her work, Barton quickly recognized firsthand that children and youth with special needs can be difficult to place in foster care and, as a result, may spend time in medical institutions. At UCAN and at her own home, Barton has created support systems for such children so they can enjoy as normal a life as possible. She is so passionate about this issue, that over the past 18 years, she has adopted three special-needs children and currently provides foster care for an additional two.
Carmen Hampson, ND, APRN, FNP, Family Nurse Practitioner, Chicago Christian Industrial League
Carmen Hampson tirelessly advocates for homeless people throughout Chicagoland as a nurse practitioner at Chicago Christian Industrial League (CCIL), a social service agency that provides transitional and permanent housing, job training and supportive services for homeless men, women and families with children. Addressing the needs of homeless people requires both innovation and creativity which Hampson displays every day running the CCIL’s on-site health clinic. She attends to the immediate health concerns and diseases of this population while also providing preventive care, something homeless people often do not receive on a regular basis. Hampson has significantly made an impact on educating her patients on proper nutrition, communicable diseases (bed bugs, scabies, lice), women’s health needs (Pap smears, prenatal care), hepatitis, hypertension and heart disease.Hampson cares deeply about the health of those that are most in need and in addition to dedicating her service to people who are homeless, she is educating another generation of nurses in this field as a clinical instructor at Rush University College of Nursing.
Pamela Maness, BSN, RN, Nursing Coordinator, Jewish Children’s Bureau (Chicago)
Pamela Maness spends her days working with children that have experienced various trauma, violence, separation and loss beyond what many adults have suffered in their lifetime. As part of her role at the Jewish Children’s Bureau (JCB), a comprehensive, non-sectarian child welfare agency providing placement, outpatient and educational programs to children in need, Maness predominantly works within JCB’s five group homes and 17 foster homes that serve medically-fragile children and youth. In fact, she has helped grow the foster home program from 2 to 17 homes since 1997. Maness has also influenced the rapid growth and the development of medical systems that better serve JCB’s patients and she teaches advocacy skills so that patients can be empowered to better advocate for their own medical needs. Maness also works with parents, many who have their own challenges, teaching them to care for their medically fragile children.