On May 6, 2021, as part of the Neurosurgery Department’s celebration of National Nurses Week (May 6-12), Department Head Clark C. Chen, MD, PhD, presented Sarah Heinle, APRN, CNP; and Jordan Marr, RN, with the 30th annual Jolene and Shelley Chou Excellence in Neuroscience Nursing Award. It was the first year in which two winners were named.

In June of 1991, former Neurosurgery Department Head Shelley Chou, MD, PhD, and his wife, Jolene (herself a nurse), endowed the award, which honors expertise in the field of neuroscience nursing, reflecting how a nurse assesses, plans for, provides, and evaluates nursing care for neuroscience patients and their families.

The award also recognizes a nurse who:

  • Has superior skills in interpersonal relationships and communication
  • Demonstrates sensitivity, a caring attitude, and consideration of the ethical dimensions of patient care
  • Promotes and contributes to evidence-based practice associated with the care of neuroscience patients and families.

Both University of Minnesota Physicians (UMP) team members were thrilled to receive the award. “I’ve watched nurses that I look up to professionally get this award in the past and it made me feel very honored and supported,” said Jordan. Sarah agreed, adding, “I work with so many awesome and fantastic nurses. For them to nominate me was a very big honor and I really appreciate it.”

Demonstrates support
Receiving this award is also validating. “We’re very busy and don’t always have time to appreciate one another,” Jordan said. “This award demonstrates the support of my colleagues.”

Being part of the Neuroscience Unit (6A) at the University of Minnesota Medical Center means being part of an effective, collegial team, according to Jordan and Sarah. “I love collaborating with the nurses, occupational, physical, and speech therapists, and the social workers,” said Sarah. “It’s a great group of people who provides excellent patient care. It makes my job so much easier.”

Rely on each other
The nursing professionals who work on 6A care for patients who have conditions such as stroke, brain tumor, spine, trauma, and epilepsy and have undergone surgery to treat those conditions. "Many of our patients have diagnoses that make them confused, sometimes combative,” said Jordan. “We rely on each other to help care for them. Our patients are inspiring. They get through conditions that change their lives.” 

Another important aspect of their work is to help educate the next generation of neurosurgeons or medical students thinking about specializing in neurosurgery. “The residents are awesome,” Jordan said. “They are looking for the best way to take care of our patients, so we understand one another.”

Biggest challenge
The Unit has been through a lot the past year. “Our biggest challenge, especially during COVID, was making sure patients and their families got the information they needed and that everyone felt well taken care of,” said Sarah.

“Sarah and Jordan exemplify the essence of the Chou Nursing Award,” said Clark C. Chen, MD, PhD, Head of the Neurosurgery Department. “While offering them my sincerest congratulations, I also want to acknowledge and thank all of our nurses for their grace and dedication in this trying pandemic. We are fortunate to have such a wonderful nursing staff.”