DAISY Award Winner Leaves Handprints on Hearts

Debi Kienstra, RN, BSN, was so immersed in her daily work caring for patients at Ranken Jordan that she nearly missed a special ceremony honoring her as the hospital’s second DAISY Award winner. In fact, she didn’t even know she was nominated for the award.

“I was so busy, I wasn’t going to go,” Debi says. “When I walked in the room and saw my name on the board at the awards ceremony, I was totally blown away. Everyone, including my family, had kept the award a secret. This award is such a gift and honor because I feel like we just do what we do each day—we’re here to care for families. But I’m still floating on air after receiving this award.”

The DAISY Award is an international recognition program honoring extraordinary nurses for their skills and compassion. Nurses are nominated by patients, family members, or team members.

Two other names were also on the board: Joni Bellinger, who hired Debi, and Blottie Ussery, who was Debi’s preceptor. “What two great women to be on the stage with,” Debi says. “If I was in the hospital, I would want them to take care of me. They are awesome as people and as nurses.”

That spirit of camaraderie and respect is one reason why her co-workers nominated Debi for the DAISY Award.

A Giving Teacher and Nurturer

“She teaches new nurses to be kind, thorough and compassionate,” her co-workers wrote. “This RN leads by example by lending a helping hand, slowing down when she needs to, and showing love to everyone at Ranken. She cares about every kid the hospital, whether they are her assigned patient or not.”

Debi has even been known to rap for kids and dance in their rooms, even though she laughingly admits she is an uncoordinated dancer.

Debi’s nominators also commended Debi’s exemplary work with a particular patient who had especially complex medical and emotional needs. Debi built a relationship with this challenging patient based on kindness and compassion. On one occasion when the patient was upset over a variety of things and refusing medication and care, Debi approached the patient, held her hand and calmly discussed the patient’s concerns. “She listened, found solutions, and brought a huge smile to the patient’s face,” the nominators wrote. “This RN completely changed the course of the patient’s day,”

To Debi, offering comfort is her first instinct. “This patient was sick and lonely,” she says. “She had no one. I think how I would want my child treated if she was all by herself and I would want someone to be with my child.”

Compassion and Humor Build Connections

With more than 30 years of nursing experience, Debi has learned to regroup after difficult days and she focuses on staying positive. Her sense of humor helps both her and her co-workers, as well as patients and families. “While we work hard, we can have fun, too,” Debi says. “We have strong relationships and people really care about each other.”

When parents visit their children at Ranken Jordan, Debi’s friendly nature often opens the lines of communication in a difficult situation. “I try to help parents in any way to make the situation better. It’s amazing the walls that come down then. This also helps us get more done when training parents to provide care at home.”

Debi lost her first child to SIDS so she has a special understanding of a parent’s anguish when a child is sick and they feel helpless. “That look in parents’ eyes is gut-wrenching. I recognize it and will do whatever I can do to make a difference.”

Compassion is the hallmark of Debi’s nursing. “I want every patient to feel that I care. When you are gentle with them, and smile, they relax their bodies so they can heal, sleep and not be in pain. We’re so lucky at Ranken Jordan because so many nurses, CNAs, therapists and doctors show that same gentleness.”

Changing Lives One Smile at a Time

When Debi was seeking new job opportunities nearly five years ago, her daughter introduced her to Ranken Jordan. “I have my daughter to thank for me coming here. She is now a physical therapist but had done her observations and an internship here and told me she thought I would really like Ranken Jordan.”

And she was right. “I love the staff and the kids here,” Debi says. “We’re like a family and we support each other. It’s all about teamwork in caring for kids. Everyone pitches in no matter what their title.”

She continues: “There is no other place like Ranken Jordan around. So many parents tell me when they walk in our doors they can feel this is a special place.”

Debi is a vital part of making Ranken Jordan special because of her heart for nursing. “I’ve always liked taking care of people,” she says. “I was the oldest of five kids and babysat since age 10. Then I became a candy striper as a high school freshman year and knew for sure I wanted to be a nurse.”

Her mom saw it, too. “Even at a young age, Debi was thoughtful and caring,” says Debi’s mom, Carole. “She has always asked others ‘What can I do for you?’”

That simple, heartfelt question has woven a life-changing tapestry of compassion and kindness. And it complements Debi’s philosophy in life: “If you can go through life and put a handprint on someone’s heart, then you’ve done your job.”

Congratulations to Debi for receiving the prestigious DAISY Award in honor of her dedication and compassion in nursing to benefit the children at Ranken Jordan!