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Kati Askren

2023 Cherokee Nursing Conference Scholarship Winning Essays

Viktoriya Baraya
Diana Berry

Katie Askren, BSN, RN

1. If chosen to receive funds for attending a conference, I will first give a power point presentation during a staff meeting to broadly summarize what I have learned. I would next coordinate with my unit educator on a plan for distributing monthly flyers that go into more detail on topics I learn at Congress. I work at an outpatient cancer infusion clinic and this education would include our community (satellite) sites. I would also create a list of resources for education that staff could access at any time. Examples on the list may look like group therapy resources, pharmaceutical information, websites for patient education, any available resources for tracking chemotherapy side effects, and information made available by other institutions (i.e. Mayo, MD Anderson).

2. My plan to incorporate what I learn from Congress would be to look for any ideas presented that I could take to my institution for a possible practice change. Currently, I have partnered with a colleague to study the elimination of heparin-locking infusaports when de-accessing. Our team was successful in determining that heparin was not needed and we are in the finishing stages of eliminating heparin from our policy for this particular type of central line. The timing of attending ONS Congress would be ideal to start looking for a potential new project of this nature. My institution has also been experiencing increased hypersensitivity reactions to oxaliplatin with no discernable pattern thus far. I am hopeful that if I am able to attend Congress it would be a helpful networking opportunity to compare notes on what may be happening at other institutions across the nation. This would have the potential to bring suggestions back to my institution to help with the prevention of hypersensitivity and to increase patient safety during and after chemotherapy infusions.

3. Attending ONS Congress would advance my long-term goals by giving me ideas and tools to make a lasting impact for improvement at my institution. This translates to continuing the type of projects similar to the heparin study mentioned above. I am interested in looking at the wider scope of solving a problem. Not what can we do to fix an issue on my unit, but how do we fix it system-wide? The world of oncology changes rapidly and ONS is the best resource for nurses to be informed and up to date. As mentioned above, it is also a great place to make contacts at all levels of nursing care. In my world, it's very common to reach out to other cancer clinics to see if other institutions may be experiencing similar issues my institution is facing. The networking done at Congress would help expedite this process. The amount of useful information one receives at Congress cannot be understated. It is at Congress that I would learn of new chemotherapies and new indications for existing treatments. This appears to be a short-term benefit, but these are treatments and side effects I will be seeing for years, and knowing more about them will only benefit my patients and colleagues and I share my knowledge. I awant to get my OCN certification and attending a conference such as Congress would help with my studying for this exam.


Viktoriya Baraya, BSN, RNC-MNN-C-EFM

Being active duty Navy Nurses stationed overseas (in Japan), my colleagues and I do not get frequent chances to attend conferences to advance our professional knowledge. Our nursing community here is tight-knit through the unique challenges and always willing to learn from each other and grow together. Knowledge and experience from conferences and advanced courses are highly valued here and passed to colleagues via information sessions, mentorship, team training, “lunch and learn” and via information technology like PowerPoint presentations or virtual posters. If given a chance to attend the AWHONN Convention, I would be happy to pass on the innovation, evidence-based practice advances, and inspiration for safe and patient/family-centered care that I am sure to receive there. Our Mother-Infant Unit provides antenatal, intrapartum, and postpartum care to nearly 400 families of our active duty and dependent beneficiaries. I strongly believe that they deserve the most up-to-date and clinically relevant care from the nurses who stay abreast with the KSAs in the specialty. The recent project I was involved in pertained to improved outcomes from skin-to-skin facilitation in OR after a cesarean section. The project was successful and I am looking for more ideas to implement at my hospital. My interest in holistic nursing makes me curious about the integrative, complementary, and holistic modalities that may be presented at the conference such as the use of aromatherapy, relaxation, and breathing techniques in the intrapartum period. As a Certified Lactation Counselor, I am interested in attending infant-feeding-focused lectures and bringing back relevant information to my colleagues and patients.

My passion is the safe delivery of care to pregnant mothers and their newborns. The complex and ever-changing environment of a labor and delivery suite requires our sharp attention, resilient minds and bodies, and continuous growth as professionals. I am looking forward to learning about the latest safety bundles, protocols, treatments, and nursing interventions that can facilitate the best possible experience for the families in our care.

My long-term goal is to continue growing in the field of obstetric nursing. I would like to focus on the specialty topic for the capstone of my MSN degree, projected for summer 2023. I believe the conference will be beneficial for my subsequent career goal of becoming a Maternal-Newborn Clinical Nurse Specialist. I just found out that I have been selected as a DAISY recipient for the second time which really makes me feel like I am in the right field of work and I am so grateful for the opportunity to share my passion.


Diana Berry, RN

Attending an annual ELSO conference in person has been a goal of mine since 2019. My coworkers and I began working together to create a poster presentation specifically for this conference in 2019, which we hoped to have accepted in 2020. As we all know, however, the COVID pandemic caused significant changes to plans worldwide. We tabled our project, but we were able to enjoy the conference virtually in the fall of 2020.

Later that year, we held our first ECPR simulation. We decided to set aside our previous project in order to start a new one- analyzing our past ECPR cases and comparing those with the outcomes from our multidisciplinary ECPR simulations. Specifically, we began tracking the quality of CPR, the timing of activation of the ECMO team, and the amount of time it took from the start of the scenario until the patient was successfully on ECMO. We developed a poster and had the opportunity to give a short presentation for the virtual conference in 2021. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend the conference this year. I was diagnosed with breast cancer in the fall of 2021 and was still undergoing treatment at the time of the conference. However, two of my coworkers did attend, and they came home with pages and pages of notes to share!

By attending the annual conference in 2023, I would be able to bring back information regarding ECPR strategies and different simulation experiences so our center can continue to learn and grow. We continue to hold our simulations quarterly, with the goals of practicing cannulations in different areas of the hospital, trying different scenarios, and including new staff members to increase unit exposure to ECMO.

Like everything in healthcare, ECMO amazes me because it is always evolving. It is unique, however, in the way that it literally saves lives. It continues to be a passion of mine after so many years because I am able to see infants and children I cared for, who were once on ECMO, grow and thrive after being so close to death.

My ultimate goal is to obtain my DNP or Ph.D. in nursing and to pursue a career in education. I am so grateful for all the opportunities I have received over the years and value my education immensely. I am excited to start my MSN program this winter and look forward to becoming an educator myself. This conference includes ECMO professionals from around the world, and it would be such a privilege to learn from these individuals.


Laura Brewer, RN

1) I am an RN who is currently finishing up my MSN (Psychiatry and Mental Health Nurse Practitioner) program with expected graduation in May 2023. There are nine other students within my cohort; we share information/experiences/updates weekly as we prepare to enter advanced practice. If I am able to attend this national conference I will be well-positioned to share what I have learned with other practitioner students at a critical time in our educational journey. As a cohort, we will be preparing to take national certification boards, applying for employment, and determine how we interact with colleagues and peers moving forward. The information gained through the conference experience will be an invaluable resource to us all.

2) As a newly graduated psychiatric and mental health nurse practitioner, I will be planning to enter practice during the summer 2023. Everything I learn at the AANP national conference will be valuable information to me as a new provider. I will be looking to get my feet under me and connect with experienced providers, so exposure to peers, experts, and professional information will directly impact my practice.

3) Attending a national conference for advanced practice providers will provide me with educational opportunities, networking/mentorship relationships, and the opportunity to build confidence in a new role. It's greatly empowering to see other advanced providers excelling in their respective fields and directly impacting patient outcomes. My long-term career goals are to practice as a PMHNP within a pediatric hospital system, meeting the behavioral health needs of my community. The resources, education, and connections I could gain will position me to practice at the top of my scope of practice, which is my ultimate career goal.


Karen Hicks, MSN-NE, RN-BC

Being a nurse has been a passion of mine since I was a child and could only dress up like a nurse at playtime. As life happened, I finally was living my dream as a nurse and promised myself and my patients I would care for them as if they were my very own. I strive hard to deliver that promise on a daily basis to each patient I meet. Through the years, End of Life/ Hospice nursing has become my most desired field of nursing care to provide. Seven years into my nursing career, my father became ill with cancer, and I found myself sitting on the other side of the bed as the family where I valued the care each nurse provided my dad and savored every memory we shared. During his illness, I advanced my degree from RN to BSN, to MSN-Nurse Educator. My goals for nursing expanded and I realized that I not only wanted to be a bedside nurse, but I also wanted to teach nursing. I hoped students would find the same passion for caring for patients “as if they were their own family”. I knew I had to teach it and lead it. Then COVID happened.

Bedside nursing as we once breathed it was no longer the same due to the beast of COVID. As nurses, we had to adapt our delivery of excellent, patient-centered care by parameters demanded of us, putting behind the real reason we were called to become nurses, caring for the sick. The guidelines came from leadership who appeared to be completely unaware of the obstacles that challenged us, day in and day out. Nursing leaders adjusted their ways of guiding their teams appearing so far removed from the Florence Nightingale pledge to practice the profession faithfully and rapidly required staff nurses to go into survival mode of the unknown, while still taking care of patients.

As COVID continued and my father’s health declined, I continued to care for patients as if they were my own. At the beginning of the Pandemic, which was also the end of my father’s life, I received 3 nursing awards: on local, state, and national levels. My hospital entity award, Duke Friends of Nursing, a NC state award, Great 100 Nurses of NC, and a national award, The DAISY Award. It was a privilege to receive each award in the memory of my father, as well as, in honor of every patient I had served. I was unaware of the impact I was making in my patients’ lives as they were greatly influencing mine.

In December 2020, I graduated with an MSN-Nurse Educator degree and began teaching part-time while working full-time at the bedside. In Spring 2022, I knew I wanted and needed to do more in nursing, and I advanced up the clinical ladder to become the Assistant Nurse Manager on my unit. Through this growth, my passions have expanded to delivering, teaching, and now leading nursing students, new graduates, and my colleagues’ excellent patient-centered care.

I recognize that I have a lot to learn in nursing leadership as well as areas to improve how I lead others to better serve those who are sick. Hence is why I want to attend the conference. This scholarship will allow me to afford attending and enhancing my knowledge and skills as a nurse leader. My desire is to use the knowledge gained at the conference and teach, lead, and serve alongside my peers where I work. Together, we can make an impact at a local, state, and possibly national level in the nursing field.

I would like to use the material from the conference to enhance operational budget, staffing, and compliance to nursing regulations. I want to learn the why’s behind nursing leadership and be the change in the how’s we deliver care whether in a pandemic or not. My goal is to use data from the conference to develop new educational modules such as: PowerPoint slides, lunch and learns, huddles, team trainings in upper and lower nursing levels and within multidisciplinary colleagues to make a difference in the delivery of patient care.


My hope is that the information I learn from this conference will teach me new values, while guiding and improving my current leadership styles. Also, the educational material will enhance the choices I make as both a nurse and a nurse leader in directions that are founded by evidence-based practice, data and research, expertise wisdom. I want to use these concepts as well as my personal, ethical and empathetical ability to care and communicate while leading others.

Ultimately, my career goal is to further my education and obtaining my DNP in Nursing Leadership. The scholarship will allow me to afford to attend the conference, which in turn, will be a stepping-stone to beginning the next chapter of my career. It will open the door to not only my continued advancement up the clinical ladder but increase my influence as a nurse leader. I want my leadership to go beyond my immediate colleagues but to the greater nursing field impacting the lives of many patients, their loved ones, and each other.


Cailing Li, MSN

1. I would like to attend a Pediatric Asthma Conference in person. My 2-year-old son Liam was admitted to the Emergency Room recently with an oxygen saturation of 67% and got intubated at the bedside to preserve his airway. Childhood asthma is one of the most terrifying chronic diseases for kids. I cannot imagine how many families out there suffering from the same anxiety and terror witnessing their children gasping for air as I did. Although national guidelines exist for the diagnosis and management of asthma, general practice differs significantly from recommendations. As a nurse and a mom, I would like to advance my knowledge in terms of learning the most up-to-date Asthma treatment guidelines based on evidence-based practice. I would love to share what I learn from this conference with my colleagues in a PowerPoint presentation and hopefully, we can turn it into a quality improvement project at my current hospital.

2. I am a current Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) student at Mount Mercy University. Childhood Asthma Prevention and Management is the topic of my dissertation project. I would like to incorporate what I learned from this conference into my quality improvement project and conduct research studies and identify potential funding for the project. It is incredibly hard to diagnose children under 5-year-old with Asthma as some of the tests and procedures require the patients to be able to follow commands. My goal is to develop an ‘Early Childhood Asthma Detection Plan’ so parents of children at risk for asthma can have an appropriate tool to monitor their kids at home and get a timely referral to the pulmonary specialist.

3. My short-term goal is to continue to be the best ICU nurse I could be for the next 4 years while attending DNP school and learn as much as I can each day from my colleagues. One of my favorite parts of bedside nursing is education and advocating for my patients when they do not have a voice. My long-term goal is to be a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner specialized in pulmonary medicine. I want to help children breathe better. I want to help parents battle childhood asthma. As the first-generation immigrant and the first-person attending college in my family, I struggled a lot because I did not have much help or resources. I strongly believe we can change lives and healthcare for the better through continuing education. This is my second DAISY award and 11th nomination. I was never the fastest learner nor the smartest nurse, but I have a true passion for life-long learning and will not give up until I pursue the truth.


Kristina Martinez, RN

I have two loves in my nursing career: being an emergency room nurse and raising sepsis awareness- both with my peers and patients. Currently, the community and some clinical staff still struggle with sepsis recognition. In my sepsis research, I found a passion for advocating for sepsis awareness and have twice now petitioned and received sepsis awareness proclamations from our governor. If selected, I would love the opportunity to attend the ENA conference in September 2023.

The information I learn at this conference will be brought back to our sepsis collaborative, ED and inpatient nursing staff, and quality teams. My focus would be on legislation advocacy related to sepsis awareness, sepsis recognition, and sepsis treatment. To share this information, I could do staff meeting presentations, huddle updates, emails, and posters.

I would incorporate this education into my practice by sharing my excitement and knowledge from the conference with my colleagues. And I would be able to speak about the current best practice on the topic after attending a recent conference.

Conferences are so valuable in restoring purpose and passion in nursing, bringing together this amazing occupation and sharing current innovations and stories is the spark needed to promote positive change. My long-term career goal is to improve sepsis outcomes by both increasing prevention and awareness of sepsis. This conference will provide the education, networking benefits, and improved job satisfaction needed to attain my goal.


Tim Nichols, MHA, BSN, RN, OCN, CEN, CPEN

I have recently been awarded RN4 status at my organization. The RN4 designation is the highest level of our clinical ladder program. My RN4 concentration is clinical education and research. I will share the information I learn at the conference through the avenues that have been created through our clinical ladder program. Our organization consists of 6 cancer centers consisting of approximately 125 nurses. I am a member of several committees including Shared Governance and Pharmacy and Therapeutics which will be great avenues to share the learned information. I also serve as a nurse planner in our organization which will allow me to provide educational sessions with associated NCPD hours. Our organization is planning to offer an oncology symposium later in 2023. That will be another opportunity for me to reach other oncology professionals.

I will use the learned information to strengthen my assessment skills of oncology patients. Oncology patients are very complex and often present with unusual and/or vague side effects related to disease and treatment. Oncology treatments are also changing very rapidly with new modalities being introduced very often. The information from ONS Congress will help me provide a higher level of care to the population I serve.

I am currently enrolled in an MSN-Nurse Educator program. The information learned at ONS Congress will provide me with opportunities to gain knowledge that I can share for years to come. My long-term career goal is to become an Oncology Clinical Nurse Educator and/or a researcher/nurse scientist/professor. I feel the knowledge that I will gain at the 2023 ONS Congress could be used to educate many others throughout my career. Oncology nursing and nursing education are two of my greatest passions.


Sherwin Pazzibugan, Student (graduating January 2023)

Growing up in a family of healthcare providers who worked in different parts of the globe unfolded my dream to work as a practicing nurse. Right now, I am closer to becoming one since I only have one more semester to finish my nursing education. I took up nursing not because of my family’s legacy in the field of health. I chose this journey because it is the career, I envisioned myself committing to while serving people from all walks of life. And, nursing was able to unleash this prodigious compassion within me. I learned greater things which I know, will eventually become my stepping stone in achieving greater heights.

In 2021 I was recognized as the first Filipino student nurse to receive the internationally acclaimed DAISY Award for Extraordinary Nursing Students. An award that gave me opportunities and inspired me to do more and be more which eventually increase my potential to become an effective nurse someday.

Before becoming an extraordinary nursing student, I was a student leader and student journalist which broadened my own understanding of the community and has fueled altruism toward the needy. As a writer and a leader, I witnessed and shared stories of people and these gave me so much fulfillment, but I always have a sense of giving back to the community. With my experiences as a student nurse, it is my mission to make gentle ways of helping the community and convey a message that it is not hard to make a difference, especially in these trying times.

This then led me to establish a public health project focusing on the promotion of routine infant immunization in communities amidst the threat of the current pandemic. After a year of its implementation, the project was able to ensure that no children in our community are left behind regarding immunization amidst the pandemic. I am also humbled to have been part of the government and other health sector’s battle cry to end the polio outbreak in the country.

Aside from this, I also initiate delivery of basic health care services in our community particularly in times of public health emergency, by connecting grassroots areas to primary health care.

These experiences led me to study harder as I see myself working in the field of public health through health promotion, disease prevention, and implementing and or co-create health policies.

Once I graduate from nursing school on January 2023 and pass the Philippines Nursing Licensure Examination thereafter, I will join our Rural Health Unit and become a public health nurse.

On the other hand, NurseLEAD: Leadership Course for Advanced Practice in Public Health Nursing will then actualize these long-term career goals by working in the field of public health. I am looking forward to learning more about public health and how this conference will strengthen my leadership skills in a mission to transform communities as self-sustaining and self-reliant in terms of their health-seeking behaviors and health-related concerns. This will also help me co-create initiatives primarily focusing on the promotion of health and the prevention of diseases.

Once I truly become a professional health provider, I can take a step forward and be the best instrument that I can to save lives and to build a healthier Philippines, one community at a time.


Diane Sirajudeen, BSN, RN, BMTCN

I have worked on the bone marrow transplant floor for over four years and absolutely love working with this patient population. Attending the American Society for Transplantation and Cellular Therapy (ASTCT) and the Center for International Blood and Marrow Transplant research (CIBMTR) Tandem Meeting for transplantation and cellular therapy conference will help me broaden and develop my knowledge in the field of stem cell transplantation. Learning from cellular experts in the field and hearing about the latest developments in clinical and translational research will allow me to provide the highest level of quality care for my patients. I will be able to use this knowledge to teach my colleagues and advance the current practices used for patient care and treatments on the bone marrow transplant floor.


As a current RN, I have seen the changes and advancements made in the unit for patient care that came from the research that was presented at these conferences. We have implemented multiple practices to improve infection rates on the unit as well as reduce side effects from the high doses of chemotherapy. One example includes incorporating an oral mucositis assessment scale into daily practice to help prevent central line-associated bloodstream infections (CLABSIs) due to organisms that are introduced from mucosal barrier injuries. I was able to lead this project on our unit and implement it into practice. The rates of CLABSIs due to these organisms were reduced from the introduction of this assessment scale and education for oral mucositis treatment and prevention increased. I hope to have the opportunity to learn about the other research projects being done at other hospitals and bring back that valuable knowledge to our own hospital.


I am transitioning to a nurse practitioner in the upcoming months and am excited to learn even more from the provider side of stem cell transplantation. My long-term goals include utilizing this knowledge to continue to provide for our bone marrow transplant patients from a provider perspective. I look forward to the opportunity to attend this conference and advancing the care and treatment of our bone marrow transplant patients.

Karen Hicks
Laura Brewer
Cailig Li
Kristin Martinez
Tim Nichols
Sherwin Pazzibugan
Diane Sirajudeen
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