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Veterans Crisis Line Badge

Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs

Remarks by Secretary Eric K. Shinseki

Excellence in Nursing and the Advancement of Nursing Programs Award Ceremony Department of Veterans Affairs, G.V. "Sonny" Montgomery Conference Center
Washington, DC
June 30, 2010

Good morning, everyone. The six professionals we honor today have demonstrated the highest levels of dedication to the profession of nursing, and in doing so, they exemplify what’s best about VA. We’re so very proud of them and their achievements, and I am honored to participate in today’s ceremony recognizing them.

Mother Teresa reminded us that, “it isn’t how much you do, but how much love you put in the doing.” I know first-hand what that means in hospital wards. I also know that our VA nurses personify those words.

Everyone who encounters our health care system—as a patient, as a visitor, as an employee—is touched by a nurse. You cannot walk into our world-class health care system without engaging our world-class nurses. You see, we wouldn’t have a world-class healthcare system without world-class nurses. And for 80 years, VA nurses have shaped that system as dedicated leaders, innovators, and visionaries whose patients always come first. They are the face of VA health care.

In fact, no one at VA is better prepared to meet the challenges of transforming the Department into a model of 21st century Veteran-centric health care than our nurses.

VA nursing was the first health care system to establish positions for doctorally prepared nurse researchers. Today, VA nurses focus their research on patient care, outcomes, disease prevention, and health promotion.

It was a VA nurse who designed the use of bar code software for administering medications to our patients. This innovation greatly improved patient safety by reducing errors. Now, all VA medical centers use this software to ensure the highest quality treatment for those who rely on us for care.

And the transition of service members from DoD to VA Polytrauma Centers is now more seamless, thanks to a VA nurse who was the driving force behind the development of an electronic hand-off tool. Ensuring a smoother transition to VA polytrauma facilities for our injured men and women in uniform is a top priority of the Department, and it is gratifying, yet not surprising, that a VA nurse has played such a pivotal role in the lives of service members and their families.

The VA nursing staff—77,000 strong—will continue to provide cutting-edge care, dispense quality products and services, communicate compassion, and foster comfort as VA leads us into the next decade. Our nurses continuously improve the quality of care they provide and constantly seek opportunities for self-improvement through advanced training and education. It is about the patients and bringing the best in professional skills to them.

Florence Nightingale once said, "let whoever is in charge keep this simple question in her head—not, ‘how can I always do this right thing myself,’ but, much more importantly, ‘how can I provide for the right thing to be always done?’"

As we commemorate 100 years since Florence Nightingale’s passing—the Year of the Nurse—our award winners have all demonstrated that they will always ensure the right thing be done for Veterans.

Lisa Alexander, Julie Brant, Rebecca Knutson, Sofia Puerto, Josephine Vranick, and Terry Gerigk Wolf—you have already been recognized by your peers and by the Veterans in your care as being the best of the best. Today, all of VA recognizes you.

I am personally grateful for your unique contributions to the Department of Veterans Affairs. Congratulations to all of you for this well-deserved honor.

May God bless our nurses, our Veterans, and this great country.

Thank you.