Distinguished Nursing Practice Award

This award recognizes a nurse who has long provided care for individuals with serious illness and their families in a manner that has clearly gone well beyond the ‘usual and expected’ requirements. The award recognizes a nurse whose clinical practice is exemplary and who is generous in mentoring other clinicians. The recipient is chosen by the HPNA Board of Directors.

The HPNA Distinguished Nursing Practice Award was first presented in 2015, but the award was previously known as the Ruby Jones Nursing Hero Award, which was initiated in 2008. The award honored Ruby Jones, an HPNA member living in New Orleans, Louisiana, who was named by Newsweek in 2006 as a “hero” for the work she did during the Hurricane Katrina disaster. This award became the HPNA Distinguished Nursing Practice Award in 2015.

Eligibility

  • HPNA member.
  • As a reflection of the HPNA membership, the recipient may be any of the following: APRN, RN, LPN/LVN, or CNA.
  • The scope of the contributions that the recipient has made should extend beyond that of a single organization or agency.
  • Actively involved in the care of persons with serious illness and their families for a minimum of 10 years (preferred).
  • Selected by the HPNA Board of Directors. 

Award Nomination Form

Distinguished Nursing Practice Award Recipients

2020-Constance Dahlin, MSN, ANP-BC, ACHPN, FPCN, FAAN

Educated and trained as a palliative advanced practice registered nurse, Constance has spent her whole career in hospice and palliative nursing. Constance is a palliative nurse practitioner at the North Shore Medical Center in Massachusetts. She co-directs the Palliative Care Advanced Practice Provider Externship, serves as national ELNEC faculty, and is a consultant to both HPNA, as well as the Center to Advance Palliative Care. 

Constance has produced several versions of the Palliative Nursing Scope and Standards and served as the 2004 HPNA board president. She was editor of the 2nd and 3rd editions of the National Consensus Project for Quality Palliative Care Clinical Practice Guidelines. Constance served as a palliative care content expert on the Measurement Applications Partnership Post-Acute Care/Long Term Care, Clinical, and Patient and Family Care Workgroups as well as the Hospital Care: Outcomes and Efficiency Steering Committee. She was named a Cambia Health Foundation Sojourns Leadership scholar in 2016. Constance is a Fellow in Palliative Care Nursing and a Fellow of the American Academy of Nursing. 

2019 - Hallie Mason, MSN, CRNP 

This award is given posthumously to Ms. Mason, who spent 17 years as a family nurse practitioner in palliative care at Summa Health System in Northeastern Ohio. She was the critical lynch pin in establishing robust palliative care consult services at Summa Health, which now helps more than 3,000 new patients and families each year. Ms. Mason developed a database of the service's first 10,000 consults for use in quality improvement, research, and internal advocacy. She advocated for and supported two palliative care units, helped establish one of the first ACGME-accredited HPM fellowships, and led the development of palliative care order sets and protocols to facilitate provision of effective palliative care.

As an educator, Ms. Mason published and presented findings nationally and internationally, was viewed as a role model for others, and served as a key member of Summa's Ethnics Committee, helping resolve many challenging issues, which arose in caring for patients with serious illness. She was diagnosed with a glioblastoma multiforme in 2017 just a few months before her death and was nominated for this award by her coworkers and colleagues. They recounted her profound and lasting impact on the development and practice of hospice and palliative care.   

2018 - Jennifer Gentry, MSN, APRN, ACHPN

For more than three decades, Ms. Gentry has been a nurse in both acute and long-term care settings and has practiced in the field of palliative care for 15 years. She is a nurse practitioner serving as Director of Palliative Nursing Practice and Education for Duke Palliative Care, a clinical faculty member with the Duke University School of Nursing, and a member of the Duke Hospital Ethics Committee.

Ms. Gentry is a graduate ELNEC trainer and the recipient of numerous awards, including the ELNEC Award of Excellence from the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, the Oncology Nursing Society Foundation’s End of Life Career Development Award, and the Friends of Nursing Award for Nursing Mentorship. She is an HPNA Fellow of Palliative Care Nursing, and was the 2012 recipient of the Advanced Certified Hospice and Palliative Nurse of the Year. She served HPNA on the Board of Directors from 2011 to 2016 and was HPNA’s President in 2014. Through her work with HPNA, Mrs. Gentry has been a tireless advocate for palliative nursing and advanced nursing practice. 

2017 - Lolita Melhado,PhD, ARNP, FNP, BC

Dr. Melhado has been in nursing for nearly 25 years and has focused her clinical expertise and research in areas of moral distress and moral courage in oncology nurses, palliative care, and end of life care. She is a nurse practitioner on the Palliative Care Team at Lee Memorial Health System in Fort Myers, Florida, and is the co-chair of the hospital’s Ethics Consult Group. She served on the strategic planning committee and was involved in the startup of the palliative care program at Lee Memorial Health System, and is the founder and former president of the Southwest Florida Hospice and Palliative Nurses Chapter. Dr. Melhado serves on the Advance Directive National Work Group, and previously served as a PhD student representative on the HPNA Research Advisory Council. As an educational consultant, she served on the online education and curriculum development committee for the Center to Advance Palliative Care (CAPC), and was recently appointed as co-chair of the HPNA APRN special interest group.

Dr. Melhado has presented several topics in palliative care on both the regional and national levels, and is a guest lecturer with nurse practitioner students at Florida Gulf Coast University on topics in palliative care. She is the co-principal investigator and co-author of evaluating nurses’ perceptions of end of live care and co-developer of Perception of End of Life Care evidence-based tool.

2016 - Maureen Lynch, MS, ANP-BC, AOCN, ACHPN, FPCN

Maureen Lynch has an extensive clinical background in oncology and palliative nursing, has written numerous articles, and has presented both nationally and locally. She initiated the Pain and Symptom Clinic, which preceded the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute (DCFI) Palliative Care Service in Boston, MA. For the last 16 years she has worked in the outpatient palliative care program at DFCI in Boston. She developed the Palliative Nursing Fellowship at DFCI/Brigham and Women’s Health Cancer Center (BWH), serves on national faculty for ELNEC, and is co-director of the Art & Science of Palliative Nursing course at Harvard Medical School.

Throughout her career, Ms. Lynch has contributed to the development of the inpatient consult service, the palliative care unit, and, more extensively, the outpatient oncology palliative care clinic. Recent projects have included coediting and authoring for the HPNA Core Curriculum for Advanced Practice Hospice and Palliative Registered Nurse, serving as faculty for Oncology Nursing Society regional pain and education projects, and developing a communication educational module for oncology nurses. Ms. Lynch is a former member of the HPNA Board of Directors. She served on the APN Mentoring Program Committee in 2009, the Board Leadership and Development Committee in 2009 and 2010, and the Palliative Nursing Leadership Institute Task Force in 2012. She was a member of the national faculty for the HPNA ELNEC Core course from 2008 to 2015 and, since 2014, has been on the national faculty for the HPNA Advance Practice Certification Review Course. 

2015 - Kate Ford Roberts, MA, BSN, RN, CHPN

Kate Ford Roberts is Clinical Nurse Specialist in Palliative Care at the University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics. She has dedicated her professional life to caring for seriously ill individuals and their families near the end of life. She is the inaugural recipient of this honorary award given by the HPNA Board of Directors to an individual who has made a major contribution in the area of palliative nursing clinical practice.

In 1978, as a new graduate nurse, she became one of the founding members of HospiceCare, Inc., now Agrace HospiceCare, in Madison, WI. In those early years she worked full-time nights and volunteered her time at the hospice during the day. In 1986 she became involved in the Wisconsin Cancer Pain Initiative, and in 1994 she became an educator for the Cancer Pain Role Model Program. In 1991 she started the Center for Life and Loss Integration, a grief counseling center, and co-founded Pathways Through Grief, an aftercare/bereavement program for Gunderson Funeral Homes in Madison, WI.

In 1999 Ms. Roberts was involved in the initial development of the University of Wisconsin Hospital & Clinics Palliative Care Program, where she remains an integral member of the Interdisciplinary Palliative Care Team. Her colleagues describe her as the “heart of the palliative care team.” In 2011 Ms. Roberts received Agrace HospiceCare’s Excellence in End-of-Life Care Award. 

Ruby Jones Nursing Hero Award Recipients

2011 - Carma Erickson-Hurt, MSN, APRN, ACHPN, LCDR, USN-Ret.

Carma Erickson-Hurt, a long-standing member of HPNA, volunteered in Haiti to help with the recovery efforts after its devastating earthquake in 2009. Carma, who teaches health assessment classes at the Grand Canyon University in Phoenix, Arizona, volunteered for a 3 month rotation as the Chief Nursing Officer for Project HOPE. She retired from the U.S. Navy Nurse Corps after serving for 20 years. Carma first worked with Project HOPE when stationed on board the USNS Comfort in response to the Tsunami disaster in 2005. During 2010, Ms. Erickson-Hurt served as the HOPE Medical Director onboard the USS Iwo Jima and ashore in Nicaragua and Panama. 

2010 - Natalie Casey, RN

Mrs. Casey is being recognized for her 61 years of work as registered nurse, including spending the last 42 years of her long career at UPMC Passavant. Until suffering from cardiac arrest this past February, Natalie, 83, worked a six-hour shift, five days a week at the hospital, sitting with patients and helping them with whatever they needed. Much of her time was spent in conversation with patients, which she believes is a critical part of nursing.

After graduating from Allegheny High School on Pittsburgh’s North Side in 1945, Natalie joined the Cadet Nurse Corps, part of the homeland World War II effort. She went on to train at St. John’s Hospital in Pittsburgh where is became a registered nurse. Natalie worked for a short time at Bellevue Suburban and St. Clair Hospitals, both local community hospitals, before finally arriving at UPMC – Passavant in 1967. With decades of nursing experience and personal attentiveness to her patients, Mrs. Casey has found that the greatest medicine doesn’t come from a pill or a bottle. “I found out that if I took a genuine interest in my patients, it took their minds off what they were in the hospital for,” she says. “Nursing isn’t just delivering medicine and changing bandages. If you listen to somebody, it’s surprising how much their outlook can change.” 

2009 - Sandra Clarke, RN

Ms. Clarke is being recognized for her work as the founder of the “No One Dies Alone” (NODA) program, which provides a reassuring presence of a volunteer companion to dying patients who would otherwise be alone. NODA encourages hospital employees to participate as “compassionate companions” for “elder orphans”. These companions read, sign, play music, provide a quiet vigil or hold a patient’s hand when family members cannot be present. Established in November of 2001, NODA is an all-volunteer program and operates with only a small grant to subsidize the printing of program materials. The written NODA manual, which was authored by Sandra Clark, has been distributed to more than 400 hospitals, hospices, and AIDS care facilities worldwide.

Ms. Clark first developed the “No One Dies Alone” program after attending to a dying patient who was alone and without family present. After the passing of this particular patient, Sandra envisioned her idea for putting together a group of volunteers made up of hospital employees who would be willing to sit with the alone and dying. During the next 16 years, Sandra’s idea for the NODA program did not move beyond casual conversations and meetings. It was not until a hospital employee overheard Sandra’s idea and presented her program to hospital administration for consideration. In only six months time, the “No One Dies Alone” program was created based on a simple plan without creating a new department and with only minimal financial impact. Ms. Clarke works at Sacred Heart Medical Center in Eugene, Oregon. Her Final Farewell program was also featured in the May 2008 issue of “O” Magazine with an article titled, “The Kindness of Strangers.” 

2008 - LuJan Meketi, RN

LuJan has established a new program that honors nurses who have died. The program is called the Final Farewell and is fashioned after the special funeral services provided for firefighters, police, etc. As LuJan has stated “Who better deserves a Final Farewell than a nurse – one who dedicated her or his own life to taking care of others.” The program has two parts:

Part I: Easing the family’s pain– by providing services, carrying out requests of the dying nurse prior to death, donating to a local college nursing scholarship. A white flag with a red cross and the nurse’s name embroidered on it is placed at the head of the casket. Honorary pallbearers attend the visitation and funeral services and wear traditional white nursing uniforms and the familiar blue and red capes. They enter the chapel in single file with the left wing of their capes folded back showing their nametags with a black ribbon attached. During the services, one of the pallbearers addresses the congregation and shares memories of the nurse’s time on duty.

Part II: Saying good-bye: the honorary pallbearers stand watch as the casket is put into the hearse. At the grave site, a Nightingale lamp is lit in the nurse’s honor. After the chaplain’s prayers, the nurse’s name is requested to report to duty. When there is no response, the nurse’s name and license number are called out twice more with the same request. After the third and final call, the nurse’s license number is announced as being retired and the lamp’s flame is extinguished. The white flag with the red cross is folded and presented to the family as a token of appreciation for the nurse’s devotion to the profession. The left wings of the pallbearers’ capes are then draped forward covering their nametags as they walk silently away from the grave site.