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Linda Merkey, MBA, BSN, RN, NEABC and Lisa Liston are helping recognize nurses around the state through the March of Dimes Nurse of the Year awards.

by Bobby Anderson, Staff Writer

For nearly 10 years now, the March of Dimes has sought out the most compassionate nurses around the state to honor them with an evening they will never forget.
“Nurses don’t typically get recognized. When we brought this gala up nine years ago it was an opportunity to kind of recognize the unsung heroes of the communities of the state of Oklahoma,” said Linda Merkey, MBA, BSN, RN, NEABC and chair of the for the March of Dimes Nurse of the Year selection committee.
Over the course of 11 weeks, nurses are nominated by colleagues, supervisors or the families they have served.
At a culminating awards event, the March of Dimes then celebrates the profession and recognizes the most outstanding nurses in up to 18 diverse categories.
This year nominations will be accepted until this Friday, June 22 at
Exceptional nurses employed in the state of Oklahoma are eligible. All nominations are confidential and then blinded to pass through the selection committee with no identifying names or locations.
Approximately 54 nurses will be honored at a gala event on Oct. 4 at Embassy Suites Downtown Medical Center in Oklahoma City.
Linda Fanning, CNO of AllianceHealth Deaconess, serves as the chair of this year’s event.
Whether serving as health care provider, educator, researcher or advisor nurses play a critical role in advanced the March of Dimes mission to fight for the health of every mother and baby.
“The selection committee is a group of previous winners, nursing administrators and leaders from across the state who dedicate a full day of their time to recognize and go through these blind applications and nominations,” Merkey said. “It’s just the neatest event, it quite honestly is. It’s an opportunity for nurses to get dressed up, bring a family member or two and be recognized by their peers from across the state.”
Nearly a decade ago the nurse of the year award began as a way to honor nurses from all specialties.
“It was uncharted waters at that time but it was great to be on that ground level because every year we’ve improved and improved in our numbers,” Merkey said. “We don’t have any other opportunities like that to recognize nurses at a state level.”
In order to be recognized a nurse must be nominated by this Friday.
“The hardest thing for nurses to do is brag about themselves,” Merkey said. “Some of the things these men and women across the state do above and beyond the call of duty … for me it’s cool just to read the stories. Sometimes people will be crying because some of the things these people do is just so above and beyond what a job description would say that they do.
“It’s really a privilege to be on the selection committee and read those stories.”
Premature birth is the leading cause of infant death in the United States and the leading cause of death among children under five around the world.
The March of Dimes is on a mission to change that.
One in every 10 babies is born preterm in the U.S. – more than 380,000 babies each year.
The U.S. has one of the highest premature birth rates of any high-resource country.
Worldwide 15 million babies are born too soon each year. Nearly one million will die before their first birthday.
Annual estimated costs associated with preterm births in the U.S. are estimated at $26 billion
Medical care costs for premature babies run, on average, 12 times more than for a health newborn.
Babies who do survive an early birth often face lifelong health challenges.
March of Dimes Development Manager Lisa Liston says three finalists from each of the 18 categories are chosen. The atmosphere the night of the event is like no other.
“In the room you have a good mix of the nurses being honored, CNOs, nurse educators and hospitals across the state big and small,” Liston said. “With the help of this committee I just have watched the growth of the event and I truly believe the integrity of the event has taken a big shift.”
“There’s so much integrity in the event itself. I still consider it a baby event but by growing each year and doing it a little better every year people want to be the chair of this event.”
“That to me speaks volumes of the event and to what others in the room see it as. They believe in and they think it’s a great night to honor this working group of people who think they are just doing their jobs.”

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Experienced RNs are invited to 918 Nurses’ Night, a social event sponsored by Saint Francis Health System. Come mingle with fellow nursing professionals while enjoying wine, beer and appetizers, and a beautiful view of the Tulsa skyline from Tulsa Country Club. Door prizes will be awarded throughout the evening.
Representatives will be on hand to answer any questions you may have about working for Oklahoma’s largest healthcare provider and the region’s only locally owned and operated health system. Learn more about our comprehensive range of services and locations—including our newest, Saint Francis Glenpool—and discover nursing opportunities throughout the health system.
About Tulsa Country Club
Country Club is only five minutes away from downtown Tulsa, which offers a variety of unique bars, restaurants and hotels. 918 Nurses’ Night is great reason to plan a night out and reconnect with fellow nurses.
918 Nurses’ Night will be at Tulsa Country Club, 701 North Union Avenue, on Thursday, June 28 from 4:00 to 8:00 p.m. RSVP and learn more about the event at or call 918-771-0678.

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Carrie Sommer, RN is the Clinic Nurse Manager at the Children’s Center Rehabilitation Hospital in Bethany, OK, where the children are true blessings.

by Vickie Jenkins, Staff Writer

The Children’s Center Rehabilitation Hospital is a private non-profit hospital, offering 24-hour medical care, comprehensive rehabilitative therapies, respiratory care and special education.
Here at the Children’s Center Rehabilitation Hospital, you will get the utmost care from the doctors, nurses, therapists, etc. Meet Carrie Sommer, RN, Clinic Nurse Manager. She has been a nurse for 20 years and has worked here at the hospital for 5. She loves working in such a wonderful environment, surrounded by loving, caring individuals.
Carrie grew up in Bethany, OK. “I still live in Bethany,” she commented. “Apparently, I am very fond of everything here in Bethany, especially working here,” she smiled. Carrie went to school at OSU OKC. “After graduating, my first job as a nurse was at Deaconess Hospital working in the Orthopedic Unit. That is where I felt like I got some good experience working in a hospital setting. I do need to give credit to two of my mentors while I was in school. Their names are Beverly and Antina and they both kept me going when the times got rough. They were always there for me and I appreciate them helping me at that time.”
Asking Carrie if anyone influenced her to become a nurse, she replied, “I knew that I always wanted to help people but I wasn’t sure what to do. At the time, my husband was a nurse, working at Children’s Hospital in the ER. I saw the way he cared for the patients, etc. and I’m pretty sure it was because of him, I wanted to go to nursing school and become a nurse too. So, I guess it was my husband that had such an influence on my life,” she smiled. “That was over 20 years ago, and I am still doing what I like to do,” she added.
What qualities should a nurse have if he or she is going into the medical field? I ask Carrie. “Well, I definitely think a nurse needs to have patience. I know sometimes, that is a rare quality to possess but nurses needs patience. A nurse needs to be open-minded, knowing that sometimes, the unexpected happens, and you just have to accept and adjust when you are in the moment. Then, there’s the obvious one, caring for people. That is definitely a requirement.”
Asking Carrie what her favorite part of her job is, she replied, “My favorite part of my job is the fact that I get to work with kids of all ages here. I love seeing the kids grow up, accomplishing their challenges after they have spent numerous hours working on their goals. It is so awesome to see the kids take baby step after baby step, trying as hard as they can, reaching their goal, accomplishing their challenges.”
How would you describe yourself in 3 words? “Oh, I would say understanding. I am also a very compassionate person and I am very straight forward. I think that is the best way to handle certain situations.”
Carrie has been married for 27 years and they have 2 grown children, ages 20 and 22. Her hobbies include working out and going to the gym 6 days a week. “I have set a goal and I am trying to follow it through,” she added.
Asking Carrie what advice she would have for someone going into the medical field, she replied, “I would definitely tell them to be ready for change. The medical field is always growing and expanding in a good way, like no other.”
“One of the most precious gifts you can give someone is to give your time. I am well aware of that and I love the fact that I can spend time with the kids and give them tender loving care. The most precious gift they give me is their smile. I love it when their faces seem to light up with pride and wonder, and then, there comes that smile on their face. What a sight!”
Carrie is a loving, caring nurse who believes in being the best nurse she can be. She is continuing to give and receive blessing each and every day.

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Rayni Lane, RN, BSN is a Diabetes Educator at the Oklahoma City Indian Clinic where she educates patients on Diabetes treatment and prevention.


by Vickie Jenkins – Writer/Photographer

What is diabetes? Diabetes is the disease in which blood sugar levels are too high. This includes type 1 and type 2 diabetes.
The Oklahoma City Indian Clinic is a familiar place to many. Here, you will find professional doctors and nurses giving the utmost care. Meet, Rayni Lane, RN, BSN, a Diabetes Educator, educating patients on Diabetes Treatment and Prevention.
Starting out her nursing career, Rayni worked at the Heart Hospital. She enjoyed her job there but decided she would like to specialize in a particular field such as Diabetes. Currently, she educates patients on their diet, side effects of Diabetes and use of insulin. “There are a lot of people that have diabetes and I am here to educate them on the right way to take care of themselves,” she said.
Rayni grew up in Oklahoma City, OK. She was interested in the medical field while she was in high school and became a CNA at the age of 17. She continued her education, graduating nursing school at OU.
Asking Rayni if anyone influenced her to be a nurse, she replied, “When I was little, I remember my grandma working for a doctor; she was an accountant for him. When I was sick and had to stay home from school, I would go with her to work and I would talk to the nurses. I always admired them for the way they took care of people. When I went to college, I decided to go down the medical path and become a nurse,” she said. “I love where I am today,” she added.
What qualities make a good nurse? “I think a nurse needs to have a real drive and determination to care for others, a true passion for helping people,” Rayni said.
What is your biggest reward working here at the Indian clinic? “I love the fact that I get to help others. It makes me feel good. I liked my job at the Heart Hospital but I really like specializing in Diabetes and focusing on helping each individual, explaining what they need to do,” she replied. “There were quite a few patients at the Heart Hospital that had diabetes and I felt a real desire to do more. That’s when I became a Diabetes Educator here at the Indian Clinic. Right now, I am working on becoming a CDE, Certified Diabetes Educator,” she said.
If Rayni were to give advice to someone entering the medical field, she would let them know that they need to be ready for change. “Changes happen all the time, and so fast,” she commented. “Know that you are making a difference is someone’s life and they are putting their trust in you. No matter where you work in the medical field, there are many paths you can take and whatever you choose, it is very rewarding,” she added.
A typical day for Rayni is not so typical. “I wear a lot of hats here at the Indian clinic,” she smiles. “I love helping people at any time. Whatever I am doing, I know that I am doing my best. I work with dieticians and we educate the patients, telling them how they can prevent diabetes. I also work with life coaches that are in the pre-diabetes program. We teach classes that help the patients manage their diabetes on their own and work with the diabetes services, helping with the clinics dealing with the Indian health services,” she commented.
“My biggest asset at work is working with dieticians. We work well together. Sometimes, I feel like I can bring different information and knowledge from a nurse’s point of view. The dieticians and I provide as much information as we can discussing prevention of diabetes and side effects, proper foot care, how to use a meter and insulin. I feel like I can do so much more to help people under the scope of a dietician,” she said.
Rayni enjoys spending time with her husband and her son, Jonah, 2 ½ years old. Their pets consist of 2 dogs, a golden doodle and a boxer. Rayni’s hobbies include quite a bit of homemade projects and sewing. “I love making baby clothes and especially like giving a special gift of something I made when I go to a baby shower. It makes it that much more special,” she said.
“I have a real heart for people with Diabetes and I will continue to do my best to help them in any way I can,” she said.

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While paid parental leave is fairly standard in other developed countries, it’s less common in the U.S., particularly in the health care industry. Two weeks of paid parental leave are now available to nearly 40,000 Mercy co-workers across Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma. To learn more about opportunities at Mercy, visit
For co-workers, it’s no small change. Heather Schroeder, a registered nurse in Ozark, Missouri, has fostered children for nearly four years.
“Placement of foster children comes with the same joy and challenges as a birth or adoption,” she said. “To be honest, foster placements often come with more challenges because you are unable to prepare for the children in your home before they come and there are many requirements and tasks to complete within the first week they are placed. I am so thankful to work for Mercy and appreciate that every family, no matter how God chooses to bring them together, is valued.”
In 2017, Mercy surveyed co-workers about benefits and services. Mercy listened and then took action.
“Paid parental leave was one of the top concerns,” said Cindy Rosburg, Mercy’s chief human resources officer. “In the U.S., only about 10 percent of health care organizations offer paid parental leave. Catherine McAuley, founder of the Sisters of Mercy, never married or had children herself, but she adopted children. She founded the order in Ireland almost 200 years ago to help address critical human needs, especially those of children and mothers. For Mercy, providing paid parental leave is the right thing to do. Catherine would be proud.”
For Mercy, it’s a significant commitment. With 54 percent of Mercy’s nursing workforce under age 40, compared with an industry average of 37 percent, Mercy has a higher ratio of employees at the prime age for having children. In 2017 alone, nearly 1,000 Mercy co-workers gave birth. Although the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) requires all large employers to provide 12 weeks of unpaid leave, the U.S. has no law requiring paid leave.
In addition to paid parental leave, Mercy is piloting a program to provide child and elder care assistance. Mercy also recently rolled out a program for co-workers to refinance student loans, as well as share the benefit with family and friends. One co-worker refinanced a $314,244 loan, the largest submitted to date, and will likely save almost $80,000 over the life of the loan.
Like paid parental leave, these were some of co-workers’ top concerns.
“This is amazing,” said Amber Schuster, a licensed practical nurse at a Mercy Clinic in Oklahoma City, who is pregnant with her second child. “This is an awesome program for new moms and dads. Baby bonding is so vital and few companies recognize the need for dads to have that as well.”

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OMRF researchers Courtney Griffin, Ph.D., and Siqi Gao.

Acetaminophen, sold over the counter as Tylenol, is one of the world’s most widely used pain relievers. But too much of the drug can lead to serious liver damage.
Now, new research from the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation has pinpointed the cause of liver bleeding during acetaminophen overdose. OMRF scientists have also discovered a new potential treatment for the condition, which often strikes users of Percocet and Vicodin, pain medications that also contain acetaminophen.
OMRF scientists Courtney Griffin, Ph.D., and Siqi Gao discovered that a marked increase in the activity of an enzyme called plasmin caused liver bleeding in the event of acetaminophen overdose.
“It was well known that acetaminophen, like most drugs, is metabolized in the liver. When you get too much of it, toxic byproducts start to build up and can damage liver cells,” said Gao, who is also a Ph.D. student at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center. “It was also known that a lot of plasmin is generated in acetaminophen overdose, but it wasn’t clear why.”
Griffin and Gao broke new ground by making a connection between plasmin activity and liver bleeding following acetaminophen overdose. While this finding is important on its own, Griffin said, the OMRF researchers also made a related discovery that yielded important treatment options for overdose patients.
In laboratory mice, the scientists were able to reduce plasmin levels through treatment with tranexamic acid, a prescription medication used to prevent excess blood loss from major trauma or surgeries.
“If the plasmin is breaking down the blood vessels and causing them to rupture, this can help dampen that effect to prevent excessive bleeding,” said Griffin.
In humans, it’s possible that treating this bleeding with tranexamic acid could help facilitate liver recovery from an overdose and also lessen the damage, said Griffin. “We think it can certainly protect against the bleeding itself, but its role in overall liver recovery is still unknown. That’s the next step for this work.”
The treatment impact of the findings could be significant, said Griffin, especially since tranexamic acid has already been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for another condition.
“It could be administered soon after a patient arrives at the hospital,” she said. “We are excited to see where the next stage takes us.” The new findings were published in the journal Hepatology. OMRF researchers Florea Lupu, Ph.D., and Robert Silasi-Mansat, Ph.D., also contributed to the findings. This work was supported by grant No. P30GM114731 from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, a part of the National Institutes of Health.

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Today, the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC Health) launches a 60-day nutrition pilot to improve the eating habits of nurses. MUSC Health nurses are hungry for healthier food options, and through this pilot they have a new opportunity to increase their daily consumption of fruits and vegetables. By offering fresh, seasonal and locally sourced Simply-to-Go food items available for quick pick up at three locations on the MUSC campus, the pilot seeks to improve the quality of life for caregivers who work so hard to help others. The pilot is supported by Sodexo Healthcare, a food services and facilities management company committed to improving quality of life, and a major partner in the Healthy Nurse, Health Nation™ Grand Challenge (HNHN) an initiative of the ANA Enterprise. MUSC is a HNHN partner and the first organization selected to participate in a HNHN quality of life program in the U.S. It is the only participant site in South Carolina.
“Our nurses impact the lives of their patients, colleagues, families, and neighbors every day. We had no reservations when we were approached to spearhead the pilot because the health of our staff is a top-priority,” said Andrea Coyle, MUSC Health Professional Excellence and Magnet Program director and registered nurse. “We are honored to work alongside Sodexo and ANA to offer more quality food options on our campus and serve as a model for other organizations.”
The health of the average nurse is worse than that of the average American. Whether it’s due to demanding shifts or stress associated with providing the best patient care, nurses routinely put their own health and well-being last. In a recent survey, 75 percent of MUSC nurses said they put the health, safety and wellness of patients before their own. Nurses everywhere tend to have a 30 percent less nutritious diet despite vast knowledge about prevention. Almost half of MUSC nurses said they eat at fast food establishments or similar restaurants 1-2 times a week and 31 percent said they do so 3-4 times a week. In the same survey, the majority of MUSC nurses typically have 2-3 servings of fruits, vegetables and whole grains each day. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that all individuals eat between 3-5 servings of whole grains and 5 -9 servings of fruits and vegetables daily.
Studies have shown that when clinicians are healthy themselves, they are more likely to counsel patients about healthy behaviors and they are considered as more credible by patients.
“Nurses are viewed as exemplars of health due to their expertise, knowledge and role across all areas of health care. The HNHN pilot at MUSC is a shining example of how we can begin to close the gap between knowing and doing,” said Bonnie Clipper, DNP, RN, MA, MBA, CENP, FACHE, ANA Enterprise vice president of Practice and Innovation. “The well-being of nurses is fundamental to the health of our nation.”
“We believe that quality of life extends outside of our homes and into the workplace,” said Catherine J. Tabaka, CEO Sodexo Healthcare North America. “It’s our pleasure to participate in this important initiative that will further enhance the health and wellness for MUSC nurses so they can focus on their highest priority – caring for the patients.”
The outcomes and results from the MUSC nutrition pilot will be presented this fall. HNHN, made possible through Sodexo’s multi-million dollar contribution to the American Nurses Foundation, engages 330 partner organizations and over 21,000 participants to take action to improve nurses’ health. HNHN was recently named a 2018 Power of A Silver Award winner for enriching lives and positively impacting America through broad-reaching programs and activities. Both individuals and organizational partners can learn about the HNHN Grand Challenge by visiting

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Q. Why do people attempt suicide? How does someone sink so low in an abyss of darkness and despair that suicide seems to be the only way out?

A. A suicide attempt is a clear indication that something is gravely wrong in a person’s life. No matter the race or age of the person; how rich or poor they are, it is true that most people who die by suicide have a mental or emotional disorder. The most common underlying disorder is depression, 30% to 70% of suicide victims suffer from major depression or bipolar disorder.
Many (or most) people cannot identify with the person who sees suicide as an option to flee from their life pain.
I do understand that pain because I too have suffered with depression all my life. I was depressed as a child. It became my normal. My 20’s were a tumultuous time filled with drugs, alcohol and extremely risky behavior. I was deeply lonely even though there were people around me. One day the pain was too much; my Elavil that I was taking for depression became my vehicle to end this pain. I remember how I began to feel when the medication started causing extreme drowsiness, I became scared and I reached out.
A friend arrived and took me to the hospital. I remember people holding me down as I was fighting the procedure to pump my stomach. I remember someone calling out to get the crash cart and the number 40. I later thought maybe it was the top or bottom number of my blood pressure.
I woke up in the intensive care area of the psychiatric unit. I felt physically terrible. Emotionally I wasn’t sure. I was in the hospital for 2 weeks and discharged to outpatient therapy, which I desperately needed.
I understand people who make that choice. The demons that become too big. The blackness that becomes too dark.
But I am thankful that I reached out. It was not the right choice.
Anxiety and depression are very real. So is loneliness and despair. Posting the national suicide hotline is a great resource, but I encourage everyone to do more. Talk about it. Encourage employees to use EAP resources. Talk to people – get to know them, express genuine interest, ask questions, follow up, never be too busy to care. Put down your phone, really listen, make eye contact.
As a mental health provider, I am often asked what type of therapy I practice. The theory comes from Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) but what I think is more important in helping people find hope again is the real life therapy I practice; acceptance, kindness, non-judgement, encouragement, support and love. These are often deficient in the lives of people who are struggling, I know, I have been there.

Vicki L Mayfield, M.Ed., R.N., LMFT Marriage and Family Therapy Oklahoma City

If you would like to send a question to Vicki, email us at


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SSM Health St. Anthony is pleased to welcome Janie Howard, PA-C, to SSM Health Medical Group.
Janie Howard, PA-C, earned a Master of Health Science Physician Associate Degree from the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, and is certified through the National Commission on the Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA).
SSM Health Medical Group, located at 7221 West Hefner Rd., in Oklahoma City, focuses on family care treating adults, and pediatric patients six years of age and older.