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Last year we called for nominations for the individual who best represents Nursing2012's four pillars of excellence:

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The winner, selected from many impressive entries, was Jan Auerbach, MSN, RN, LP, PACU nurse at the Texas Institute for Surgery at Texas Health Presbyterian Dallas. Here is the winning essay submitted by her friend and colleague, Cindy Asby, RN, CDN, Regional Home Therapy Manager, Fresenius Medical Care, Corsicana, Texas.


I'VE KNOWN JAN AUERBACH for 33 years. Not only has she made numerous contributions to the profession of nursing and the worldwide community, but she's also motivated many of her relatives and friends, including me, to enter the nursing profession because of the great joy she receives from her work.


It all began in 1975, when she switched her major in college from education to nursing in order to better care for an ailing father who suffered numerous complications of diabetes. Two years after her father's death, Jan's mother died at home due to lack of basic emergency medical services (EMS) in the community where she lived. Jan turned this overwhelming loss into positive energy, completing her Master of Science in Nursing and paramedic training simultaneously so that she could train emergency medical technicians, paramedics, and ED nurses. In the political arena, she constantly battled all the way to the state and national levels in order to facilitate changes to policies that improve patient care in the prehospital environment and ED.


During Jan's tenure in teaching, she quickly rose to the level of associate professor. She authored numerous publications, including textbooks, professional journal articles, and computer and televised continuing-education programs. She also served as a consulting editor for several publishing companies, and as a member of numerous professional organizations.


In 1989, Jan received the EMS Educator Award from the Office of Emergency Management in Texas. She's clearly added much needed substance to the body of knowledge of nursing and EMS.


In 2001, Jan left a lucrative and prestigious faculty position to return to full-time clinical nursing as a direct caregiver in order to sharpen her skills and provide a more flexible schedule for volunteer work. Jan's love for teaching is apparent as she voluntarily leads and critiques mock codes. She also presents monthly grand rounds for all hospital personnel on topics related to identified areas of need. Combined with her clinical expertise, Jan's "keep it simple" teaching style puts others at ease. Consequently, she's often asked to serve as a mentor to new graduates and a preceptor for new employees.


Jan's compassion for indigent patient populations was fueled by her many years of working in the ED at a Level I trauma center early in her career. She became a member of the North Texas Volunteer Organization shortly after assisting with the Katrina disaster, for which she received the American Red Cross Certificate of Appreciation in 2005. Jan also works with the large refugee community in Dallas through her local church. Besides nursing care, she provides information linking them to much needed medical and dental services at little or no cost, as well as financial assistance.


In order to better communicate with her Spanish-speaking patients, Jan returned to college for Spanish classes. She also made a personal commitment to complete two medical missions per year to impoverished countries. Meeting this commitment, she continues to serve on the front lines, providing nursing care to those in dire need in such places as Nigeria, villages along the Amazon in Brazil, Papua New Guinea, and Micronesia, to name a few. In 2010 alone she completed two rotations in Haiti after the devastating earthquake. More recently, she assisted with the care of children stricken with spinal tuberculosis in Ethiopia.


During these missions, she works tirelessly from sunup to sunset, risking her own health from constant exposure to incurable diseases. Besides providing much-needed care to patients, she educates local nursing personnel, families, and other caregivers. Jan received The President's Volunteer Service Award and Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition Award from President George W. Bush for her six-week service aboard the Mercy Ship in 2008, and again in 2009 from President Barack Obama for service aboard another U.S. Navy hospital ship. Her dedication to volunteer work clearly shows that she has a big heart and a passion to serve others as she leaves behind loved ones and the comforts of home.


Her enthusiasm and love for the profession is contagious, whether she's teaching colleagues or providing care to her patients. A stickler for providing evidence-based nursing care, Jan encourages others to never settle for mediocre nursing care and to reject the "that's the way we've always done it" attitude. Instead, she challenges naysayers to think outside the box and come up with creative, cost-effective methods of providing the highest-quality healthcare. Her can-do attitude and energy motivates others to perform at their highest level.


Jan's expertise is immediately evident to physicians and nurses alike, and she's highly regarded for her knowledge base and clinical competence. As a result, she was recognized in 2010 as one of the Great 100 Nurses in Texas.


Perhaps Jan's greatest contribution to the profession is her unwavering tenacity as a patient advocate, most likely in remembrance of her parents' experiences in the often confusing maze of the healthcare system and her years of service to the poor. Her mantra to nursing graduates and colleagues alike is to provide care to your patients as if they were your own family.


It's readily apparent to everyone who has the opportunity to serve with Jan that she practices what she preaches when it comes to providing the best care possible to all patients.