Category: School of Nursing

Six women posing for an award ceremony
From left to right: Xiaopeng Ji, associate professor, Susan Conaty-Buck, assistant professor, Beatrice Gaynor, associate professor, Janice Selekman, professor emerita, Joanne Thomas, associate instructor, Lauren Covington, assistant professor, and Janice James-Webb, DNP student.

Recognizing Delaware's Top Nurses

May 17, 2024 Written by Colin Heffinger | Photo by Lauren Covington

Each May, outstanding nurses throughout Delaware gather at the White Clay Creek Country Club to celebrate the prestigious Excellence in Nursing ceremony.

Hosted annually by Delaware Today and 302Health, winners are selected through a survey conducted by the Delaware Nurses Association, allowing professional nurses to select their peers in various categories that define nursing expertise. Nurses who receive the highest votes across the state are invited to attend the ceremony and recognized for their contributions to the field of nursing.

As the primary component of the ceremony, nurses across Delaware health centers and universities share dinner before being recognized by category. For 2024, seven winners and six honorable mentions were selected from the University of Delaware’s School of Nursing faculty and staff.  

Susan Conaty-Buck, assistant professor, acquired the Top Nurses award for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. Conaty-Buck is currently developing AI tools to aid in leading primary care discharge information to become more comprehensible and actionable, improving the patient’s ability to take charge of their health and wellness.

“Nurses as innovators and entrepreneurs have a rich and multifaceted history spanning centuries,” said Conaty-Buck. “Nurses are naturally adept as entrepreneurs, leveraging their unique blend of clinical expertise, compassionate care, and business acumen to drive forward-thinking solutions that enhance patient outcomes and transform the healthcare landscape for all.”

Conaty-Buck is also in the first cohort of Innovation Delaware (InDE) Fellows. The Coalition of Translational Entrepreneurship InDE Fellowship specifically provides inventors, research scientists, innovators, and entrepreneurs with opportunities to gain first-hand experience with the process of translating ideas, discoveries, and inventions from the laboratory or clinic directly into the marketplace.

“As a nurse entrepreneur, nurse innovator, nurse practitioner, and a doctor of nursing practice, I’m determined to continue blending this knowledge and skills to provide the best care for patients, families, and communities,” continued Conaty-Buck.

Lauren Covington, assistant professor, received the Top Nurses award for Research and Science. As a clinically trained Pediatric ICU nurse, her research is focused on sleep and health equity across socioeconomically disadvantaged families. Covington is determined to improve sleep and overall health outcomes for disadvantaged families by identifying multi-level determinants of sleep health to create effective, and easily modifiable interventions.

“When I was a newer nurse, a colleague said to me that as a bedside nurse, I’d have the opportunity to positively impact the lives of hundreds of families,” said Covington. “And as a researcher, I could positively impact the lives of tens of thousands of families by generating new knowledge that will improve patient care and family outcomes. This statement left a mark on me and kept me motivated in my career.”

Though primarily a professor and researcher, Covington continues her bedside practice caring primarily for children living in disadvantaged families as a fundamental piece of her identity as a nurse scientist. Working in both clinical and nurse scientist roles allow for symbiotic relationships between research, teaching, and clinical practice; each informing the other and allowing new opportunities for creativity and innovation across each domain.

“This is the first year the Delaware Top Nurses has added a Research and Science category to their event,” Covington reflected. “I am excited that they value the importance of nursing science in the profession and am incredibly honored that I am the first recipient of this award.”

Michelle DePhillips, assistant professor, was recognized as a Top Nurse in Advancing and Leading the Profession, as well as an honorable mention in the Academic Educator category. DePhillips is a Nurse Fellow for the Global Consortium on Climate and Health Education (GCCHE), where she works through both roles to incorporate climate and health concepts into nursing courses at UD.

DePhillips also collaborates with a team for the development of the Nursing Climate Resources for Health Education (N-CRHE), a peer-reviewed platform that is free and shares educational materials tied to climate and health in the nursing profession. She recently co-developed a workshop focused on heat-related illness and facilitated a training-of-trainers in India, enhancing career development for community health workers throughout the country.

“Nurses have a strong voice in advocating for the health of all people, and climate change will continue to impact health," said DePhillips. “It is critically important to highlight this throughout the nursing education, so that consideration of social and environmental determinants of health continue translating into practice to create lasting impacts on health.”

To ring in the most prestigious award of the evening, Delaware Today held the last announcement to showcase a dedicated nursing professional whose influence on nursing has spanned throughout their career and the First State. In recognition of her long-standing impact on the field of nursing, Janice Selekman, professor emerita, was honored with being selected for this year’s Delaware Nursing Legend award.

Authoring well beyond 100 research papers and developing the first and only national textbook on school nursing (School Nursing: A Comprehensive Text, now in its third edition), Selekman is a Doctorate in Nursing Science, a Registered Nurse, a Nationally Certified School Nurse, and a Fellow in the National Academy of School Nurses. She also writes certification review books for both pediatric and school nurses, preparing them for their respective national certification exams.

“Because of my wide-spanning expertise, I am often invited to speak around the country on cutting edge or challenging topics for healthcare providers,” explained Selekman. “These range from adolescent high-risk behaviors, mental health in children and youth, childhood obesity, children with chronic conditions, and youth-committed violence.”

Selekman also serves as a master teacher, being one of the first faculty to teach graduate students utilizing a distance format. “I take pleasure in watching past students thrive professionally and become successful as expert clinicians, academic faculty, and even, hopefully, governors,” she said. “As past Chair of the School of Nursing, I loved to mentor new faculty and then watch as they advanced in academia and made a difference in the growing careers of their students.”

“While I have received multiple awards from national and state organizations, the greatest award is knowing that you made a difference,” Selekman continued. “When people ask how they can thank me, I tell them to ‘pass it on’. To pass on your knowledge and your caring to mentor the next generation.”

Other Top Nurses included Beatrice Gaynor, associate professor, who received the Academic Educator award. For the Informatics and Technology category, Xiaopeng Ji, associate professor, was recognized. Joanne Thomas, associate instructor for SON and manager of the Center for Simulation Innovation, Interdisciplinary Education, and Entrepreneurship (CSIIDEE), received the Top Nurses award for Volunteerism and Service.

In addition to the seven distinguished top nurses this year, the following four faculty and staff members received honorable mentions:

· Jessica Madiraca, Associate Instructor, Academic Educator category

· Jennifer Saylor, Associate Professor and Associate Dean for Faculty and Student Affairs, Academic Educator and Advancing and Leading the Profession categories

· Kathleen Schell, Associate Professor, Academic Educator category

· Jennifer Graber, Associate Professor and Associate Dean of Academic Affairs and Practice Initiatives, Psychiatric-Mental Health Nursing category

“I couldn’t be prouder of the 2024 Top Nurses winners and honorable mentions awardees from the University of Delaware’s School of Nursing,” said Elizabeth Speakman, Senior Associate Dean of Nursing and Professor. “These individuals serve as testimony of why UD has an excellent reputation and outstanding nursing program.” 

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