Dorn VA Nurses Receive Gold and more – reward? Healthy Veterans - Columbia VA Health Care System
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Columbia VA Health Care System


Dorn VA Nurses Receive Gold and more – reward? Healthy Veterans

July 31, 2015

COLUMBIA, S.C. - Recently six William Jennings Bryan Dorn VA Medical Center nurses were recognized by the South Carolina Nurses Foundation for their commitment and excellence to the profession while serving Veterans at William Jennings Bryan Dorn VA Medical Center.

Dorn is exceptionally proud because all six of those nominated were chosen as Palmetto Gold recipients. Each year The Palmetto Gold Nurse Recognition and Scholarship Program awards 100 nurses from across South Carolina the Palmetto Gold Award.

Ruth W. Mustard, RN, MSN, NEA-BC, associate director Patient Care/Nursing Services at Dorn and 2004 recipient herself of Palmetto Gold said of the awards, "The nomination and selection process is a rigorous one.  It is a very prestigious award, and to have six nurses selected (out of the six that Dorn was allowed to nominate) shows the caliber of nurses that we have at our medical center."

The six nurses are added to the fifty-two prior Dorn recipients since the recognition and scholarship program was organized in 2002.

"It also shows the level of support at our VA medical center in nursing for education, autonomy, and ownership of improvements in caring for Veterans," Mustard continued. "Each and every recipient, both past and present knows what an honor and privilege it is to care for America's Heroes.  They live the Department of Veterans Affairs "I CARE" values every day."

These values - Integrity, Commitment, Advocacy, Respect, and Excellence (I CARE) define the VA's and particularly Dorn's culture to strengthen the dedication to the Veterans they serve.   

One of those nurses, Demerise "Dee" Minor, BS, MSN, APRN, BC-FNP, appreciates the South Carolina Nurses Foundation for having a program that recognizes the professionalism of nurses in South Carolina. "I am truly humbled to have been selected to represent Dorn VA Medical Center as a 2015 Palmetto Gold recipient," Minor stated. "The greatest award of all is caring for America's Veterans who have served to protect our country. They deserve our respect."

Minor is just one example of the six which received the recognition from Dorn VAMC. As an advanced practice nurse at Dorn, she feels the last five years have been tremendously rewarding, both professionally and personally. "In my capacity as a nurse practitioner, I developed and implemented the first Neurosurgical Department for Dorn, which involves coordinating referral mechanisms for Veterans needing neurosurgical care."

Her job is not an easy one. Because of the development and implementation of the referral process, Minor personally sees that more than 800 Veterans receive regional neurosurgical care annually.  She believes that number will increase to nearly 1,000 annually. "By taking care of the Veteran, I'm also an advocate for their loved ones. That ends up being a lot of people," Dee said. "As I work with the Veteran, they become like family. I enjoy their stories and the interaction."

The integrity of the 484 nurses and nearly 60 Nurse Practitioners at Dorn continues to increase the level of care they provide to the Veterans and their families of South Carolina. They aren't just nurses working harder, they're thinking of how to increase their Veteran's quality of life. Even, how Dorn can better serve them.

South Carolina's Palmetto Gold isn't the only precious recognition Dorn's nurses have received so far in 2015. In addition to the SCPG, Yvette Twum-Danso, RN, MSN, CCRN, Cardiology Nurse, was also recognized by her peers of the Nurses Organization of Veterans Affairs. At the NOVA 35th annual meeting in Washington, D.C., Twum-Danso was awarded a Professional Nurse Award for Clinical Excellence. 

She believes her first grant writing experience for 1.2 million dollars to the Office of Rural Health in 2013, to ensure Dorn with the only cardiology and vascular mobile medical unit in the United States, is one of the reasons she was nominated for both the Palmetto Gold and NOVA award. She said, "It's the first grant I've written and, it's was a great one!"

 Twum-Danso, a former Army nurse, saw a trend of sending Veterans to hospitals out of the VHA's system for heart care. Rural South Carolina "upstate" Veterans would have to drive hundreds of miles for appointments for cardiology and vascular checkups. The new MMU is now taking care to them, near their homes. The impressive Cardiology and Vascular Mobile Medical Unit was unveiled October 6, 2014.

"It's rewarding to serve our Veterans directly," Twum-Danso said. "VA nurses provide a beneficial encounter with them. We know they are heroes, and we treat them with the honor they deserve."

After heart surgeries, Veterans used to be sent to local private hospitals for follow-up therapy. Twum-Danso changed that. Combining the MMU and post-surgery heart rehabilitation classes three times a week, Dorn ensures the Veterans in rural South Carolina receive continuous care.

 "Our post-surgery program involves heart rehabilitation. By bringing it back to Dorn, we keep the Veterans activity at high levels, and can monitor their progress."

The nursing staff at Dorn advocates for their Veterans so they can take charge of their wounds of war and are a success in their own recovery and steady the pace of their home life with their families.

Mustard said, "It's made me very proud to be a South Carolina nurse, but more importantly a VA nurse." 

The six 2015 Palmetto Gold recipients are:  Cheryl Crouse, Clinical Applications Coordinator; Tammy Taylor, Colo-Rectal Cancer Nurse Navigator; Tabitha Aldridge, Risk Manager; Alexis Carson, Staff Nurse Emergency Department; Yvette Twum-Danso, Clinical Nurse Specialist Cardiology; and Demerise "Dee" Minor, Nurse Practitioner Surgery Service.


Yvette Twum-Danso, RN, MSN, CCRN, cardiology nurse, is very proud of the Dorn cardiology and vascular mobile medical unit, which was purchased with a grant she wrote. The MMU has the capability for heart and vascular testing including EKG, echocardiography, and peripheral vascular imaging. It is staffed by trained cardiovascular providers from Dorn VA Medical Center. This unit provides care in six federally designated rural countries near the Orangeburg, S.C., Community-Based Outpatient Clinic (CBOC) and the upstate Greenville, Spartanburg and Anderson, areas. (Dorn VA photo released/150717-VA-WQ300-0066)

Navy Veteran Danny L. Henderson visits Dorn twice a week to strengthen his heart while award winning cardiology nurse Yvette Twum-Danso, RN, MSN, CCRN, tracks his progress. Twum-Danso believes having the Veterans return to Dorn for post-operation recovery is better than them trying it at home. “They have comradery here. Rebuilding their hearts as a team but, creating a better individual life.” (Dorn VA photo released/150610-VA-0030)



William Crockett, Army Veteran, is being checked by award winning nurse Alexis Carson, MSN, RN, for auscultating or adventitious lung sounds. Carson said, "The quality of nursing staff at the Dorn VA is competent, comfortable in their practice, and autonomous. We are always prepared for any emergency that arises." Carson works in the Dorn emergency department as a charge nurse and also as a triage nurse. (Dorn VA photo released/150623-VA-WQ300-0014)


Alexis Carson, MSN, RN, rewraps a Veteran's foot after examination at the Dorn emergency department before he's see by a physician. Carson said, "It is an honor to care for our nation's veteran's that provides a rewarding feeling at the end of every shift." Carson works in the Dorn emergency department as a charge nurse and also as a triage nurse. (Dorn VA photo released/150623-VA-WQ300-0009)

Award winning nurse practitioner Demerise "Dee" Minor checks for tenderness in Gene Abston's hand after he sustained a fracture. Abston, a Persian Gulf Army Veteran, had been treated with a removable splint for a fracture. Minor's expertise in neurosurgical care is one of the reasons Dorn's medical staff is unparalleled. "The greatest award of all is caring for America's Veterans who have served to protect our country," said Minor. (Dorn VA photo/released150619-VA-WQ300-019)