Profiles & Features June 13, 2022

By Jennifer Larson and Debra Wood, contributors

Two American Mobile Travelers

Win Commitment to Excellence Awards 2022

Meet our Commitment to Excellence Award Winners

Let’s celebrate Tosha S. and Jennifer H., the American Mobile travel nurses who won two of AMN Healthcare’s Commitment to Excellence Awards! Tosha S. won the award for AMN Healthcare’s Commitment to Excellence Award for Compassion, and Jennifer H. won the award for AMN Healthcare’s Commitment to Excellence Award for Passion.

Tosha S., Compassion Award Winner

“I feel very honored,” Tosha said about the award. “As a nurse, winning the compassion award is better than anything else. … We get into this profession because we want to care for people. To be recognized for caring and compassion is the highest honor you can get.”

The COVID-19 pandemic offered Tosha an opportunity to demonstrate her compassion repeatedly, as patients were suffering from severe illness and dying at record levels in the intensive care unit (ICU) where she practiced. At times, that job can be overwhelming and stressful.

“Compassion is something you have to work at,” Tosha said. “There are days when this job is so hard and stressful, you have to be mindful of your compassion.”

Jennifer H.: Passion Award Winner

As a progressive care unit (PCU) nurse, Jennifer often cares for patients who have been critically ill but are relatively stable--but not yet ready to be discharged. Prior to becoming a travel nurse at the beginning of 2022, Jennifer managed a medical office, worked as a nurse on a step-down unit as the transplant post-op nurse, and worked on a step-down medical–surgical floor with renal and vascular patients.

Then she dipped her toe in the travel nursing waters and took a position through American Mobile, an AMN Healthcare company. She brought her trademark passion for her profession and compassion for patients and families with her.

“Jen is an amazing person and an even better human being,” wrote a colleague in her award nomination. “She goes above and beyond her nursing career to take care of her patients and their families.”

In addition to compassion and passion awards, the annual Commitment to Excellence Awards program recognizes nurses for innovation and overall excellence. A committee of AMN clients, clinicians and recruiters selects the travel nurses best exemplifying these vital aspects of nursing. 

Jennifer H.: A passion for patients and their families

During this past winter, Jennifer started her very first travel nursing assignment. Her kids were grown, and she had decided it was time to give traveling a try. Her first job brought her to a PCU floor at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in Columbus.

On a dark, cold Friday afternoon, Jennifer was hanging an IV for her patient, an 18-year-old girl who was scared to be alone in the hospital. Visiting hours were nearly over, so the girl’s parents were preparing to leave.

“I overheard her mom say, ‘Well, don’t forget I’ll be right in the parking garage right outside. So, if you need anything, just call,’” Jennifer recalled. “I whipped around and said, ‘You’re staying in the parking garage? There’s a snowstorm outside!”

Jennifer was aghast.

“There I was, going home to a warm bed and warm food, and they were sleeping in the parking garage,” she said. “And that was Day 3 that the patient was with me. They were already staying there, and I didn’t even know it.”

Jennifer told the parents that the hospital’s patient experience staff could help them out. But the hour was late, and the staff had already departed for the day--and the weekend. Jennifer’s mind raced. As the mother of four adult children and four grandchildren, she could imagine herself in a similar situation and could imagine how upset she would be.

“If I were ever in that situation with one of my children, I would want somebody to step up and do something,” she said.

Jennifer didn’t hesitate. She decided to help these parents, who had driven several hours to be with their daughter while she was hospitalized but couldn’t afford to go back and forth.

“I could not consciously go home, knowing that a mom and dad were sleeping in the car due to the fact that they couldn’t afford a hotel,” said Jennifer. “I just couldn’t bear that thought. So I put them up for a few days.” 

She arranged for them to stay in a nearby hotel, where they could take a hot shower and sleep in a warm bed and paid the bill for the weekend. When she returned to work the following Monday morning, she contacted the patient experience team and asked if they could also help the family. The patient’s mother eventually texted Jennifer and let her know that they wound up staying for 10 nights altogether.

Jennifer H.: Families matter

Why go out of her way to do so much for people who weren’t her actual patients? That’s easy. Yes, family members play an integral role in helping her patients, and as such, Jennifer always involves them by educating them about patient care.

But she never forgets that they have needs, too. “I feel that my patients’ families are always important, and I would want somebody to treat me that way, if they were taking care of my loved one,” she said.

As her colleague pointed out, Jennifer is “an excellent reminder that nurses not only need to help their patients but also care for the family and friends who are involved as well.”

Her commitment and passion landed her this year’s Commitment to Excellence Passion Award! Congratulations, Jennifer, and thank you for the reminder that it’s not just the patient who needs a nurse’s care and compassion.

Tosha S.: Fulfilling a lifelong dream

Tosha grew up in a medical family. Her mother, several aunts, and countless cousins and other family members are nurses or paramedics, and her father is an occupational therapist. She married and started her own family, with five children and grandchildren, before going to nursing school and fulfilling “a lifelong desire.”

She has two children, a daughter, 21, and a son 18 years old; three stepchildren; and five grandchildren. Tosha will soon return to school to gain her master’s degree and nurse practitioner license in psychiatric/mental health.

“Since I was little, I wanted to work for Doctors without Borders,” Tosha said. “I saw an advertisement and thought it would be so neat to travel the world and help people who really neded it.”

A 2020 graduate of South Dakota’s Williston State College’s accelerated associate’s degree in nursing program, she began her career at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. After completing her studies, she accepted a year-long ICU nurse residency program in Bismarck, North Dakota.

“I spent that year doing nothing but COVID ICU,” Tosha recalled. “It was trial by fire. It’s been a wild two years. But it has gotten a lot better.”

Tosha returned to Williston after completing her residency and worked in a critical access hospital until she started traveling with American Mobile in January 2022. Her travel position allows her to use her skills in a facility with a large ICU, caring for more complex patients. 

“My fondest memories are making new friends, especially when traveling,” she said. “I meet so many great people. I enjoy working with different physicians and learning new things. You never know enough.”

Tosha S.: Showing compassion in challenging times

While many patients survived COVID-19, many did not, despite the best medical and nursing care. Nationwide, more than 1 million people have died of COVID-19.

The pastor and husband of the last patient of Tosha’s who died of COVID-19 nominated her for AMN’s annual award program.

“They were kind and generous,” Tosha recalled. “That family was losing a loved one to something beyond their control and unexpected – a new disease.”

Talking about the situation still brings tears to Tosha’s eyes. The patient’s husband was at her bedside when she stopped breathing, and the ICU team began cardiopulmonary resuscitation. But the patient did not make it. Tosha called the patient’s pastor. When he arrived at the unit, he saw Tosha had her arms around the husband and was singing an old hymn to him in a quiet and comforting voice, embracing him in his grief.

“I did not want him to be alone, and I knew the singing would be comforting to him,” Tosha said. “It felt natural, not planned, but what I could do in that moment. It helped him. There is always something you can do as a nurse.”

The pastor said in her nomination that this was not the first time Tosha had gone above and beyond for her patients and their families.

“It does not feel like I went above and beyond,” Tosha said. “It feels natural and what you should do in that moment.” Tosha considers it nurses’ duty to care for family members, as well as the patient in the bed. How the nurse cares for them is how they will develop their perspective of nursing.

“Compassion is easy when the patient has passed away, and the family is broken,” Tosha concluded. “However, it’s not always easy. In the difficult situations, on the shifts where everything is chaotic and it feels overwhelming, you have to work at compassion and remind yourself that you are a compassionate person.”

“While your shift may be overwhelming and your day stressful, your patients and their families are going through some of the most difficult days of their lives. And it is your job to slow down and practice empathy and compassion, despite your own trials in those moments.”

American Mobile, an AMN Healthcare company, is seeking compassionate and talented nurses in various specialties for travel nursing jobs across the U.S.

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