Hospital Heroes


Hospital Heroes

Saving the day is all in a day's work

By Elizabeth Hanink, RN, BSN, PHN
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Every year the Hospital Association of Southern California honors several people working in healthcare with their Hospital Heroes Award. In 2011, there were five RNs among the winners and when Working Nurse caught up with several of them, they each had an interesting story to tell. In every case, these nurses exemplified the qualities for which the award is given: Hospital Heroes are those with dedication to healthcare who make miracles happen for patients.


Marianne Ayala, RN, BSN, CHPN
Palliative Care
Providence Little Company of Mary, Torrance

Marianne Ayala didn’t think it was one particular event that caused her to be nominated. Rather she thought it was the general thrust of her work over a long career and for the last six years as the hospital’s manager of palliative care. She is part of a clinical team that is hospital-focused and helps patients with establishing goals of care, achieving symptom control, and exploring options when faced with a critical diagnosis.

Her outside efforts are considerable also as a volunteer with Strength for the Journey, a camp for HIV/AIDS patients with a dual diagnosis, often mental illness or drug addiction. “My work really nourishes me,” she says, “and it really is kind of a perfect fit for me.” She also contributed to the implementation and training for the No One Dies Alone  program at the hospital, which provides a compassionate presence to dying patients.

Pictured above: Marianne Ayala (left) with Dr. Glen Komatsu, director of palliative care.


Jennifer Horth, RNJennifer Horth, RN
Cardiac Care Coordinator
AHMC, Anaheim Regional Medical Center

Jennifer Horth says, “everything open-heart, from beginning to end, passes through me.” So she is used to dealing with complicated clinical situations and coordination problems in her everyday work. But she won the award for her efforts on behalf of one particular family.

When the patient was faced with surgery, his daughter explained to Horth how vital it was for her brother to see his father before the surgery. There was one great difficulty — the son was serving in Iraq. Nonetheless, armed only with a fervent desire to help, a telephone number, and a tracking number, Horth managed to arrange for the soldier to come home on emergency leave for the surgery.

The surgery went well. Everything seemed to work out, and then several weeks later, Horth was notified by the family that the son had been killed within a week of his return to duty. Although she was stunned by this turn of events, Horth says she was grateful for the opportunity to help. Her efforts made it possible for the family to see their son and brother one last time.


Michelle Martin, RNMichelle Martin, RN
Charge Nurse, Telemetry
HCA, Riverside Community Hospital

Michelle Martin won the award as a hospital hero for causing a change in the way the entire patient care team works at her facility. After receiving training with the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, she introduced the use of the whiteboard as a tool for interdisciplinary communication that would be unique for each patient.

Previous efforts to establish this method had been unsuccessful, but by using the tools she had learned, such as setting up a “test of change” on one unit to begin, she was able to get support from large numbers of the staff.

Another key to her success was to help staff see the white boards, “not as another task to be accomplished but a significant and useful tool” to help them communicate not just with staff, but with family and the patient. Martin truly showed leadership in action with the ultimate benefit of improved patient care.


Pam Quilliam, RN, CENLoquintha Rex, RN, DNP
Diabetic Nurse Practitioner
Community Memorial Hospital, Ventura

Loquintha Rex wears many hats: diabetic nurse educator, Chairperson of the Diabetic Resource Committee and diabetic patient advocate. Calls in the middle of the night are not unusual to her, whether it is from a nurse unable to troubleshoot an insulin pump or from staff unable to reach physicians during a crisis. She educates nurses, patients and doctors on diabetes protocols, standing orders, and how to obtain low-cost or free equipment.

She was particularly recognized for her help to a young diabetic mother in labor with her first baby. Rex remained available throughout the labor and delivery, helping to titrate insulin when the endocrinologist was unavailable and the patient was unstable. It was as she says, “one patient crisis that grew into a monster project.”

As a result of that incident, Rex assembled binders covering all aspects of diabetic care to be placed on all the nursing units. The binders serve as an instant reference on multiple types of insulin, signs and symptoms, and crisis intervention.


Pam Quilliam, RN, CENPam Quilliam, RN, CEN
Emergency Department
Providence St. Joseph’s, Burbank

Pam Quilliam was named a Hospital Hero for her assistance to the family of a young child with end-stage brain cancer. Although the family had understood that there was nothing more that could be done for their little boy, in the end his symptoms were frightening and overwhelming, and caused them to bring him to the emergency department for help.

Quilliam went out of her way, long after her shift was over, to help the family sort out what they really wanted for their child. She was able to help the parents achieve their wish of having the young child die at home. She handled obtaining increased support from hospice, transportation and symptom relief. According to her, most children this sick are usually not seen in the St. Joseph’s ER. Everything she did was by trial and error and by keeping in mind how she, the mother of a young child also, would want to be treated during such a crisis.

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