Marion County’s 100 Great Nurses

Meet three local nurses who, with decades of combined experience, have made a lasting difference in not only their patients’ lives but also in our community as a whole.

During National Nurses Week in May 2018, nurses, colleagues, patients and the general public began submitting nominations for Marion County’s Great 100. In September, a seasoned jury of nurses convened to review the blinded nominations and select top 100 nurse candidates. During National Nurse Practitioner Week, on November 16, 100 of the county’s finest nurses assembled at the Ewers Century Center on the College of Central Florida Ocala campus and received recognition for their outstanding service to the residents of Marion County.

“It isn’t easy to be a nurse,” says
Mary Clark, director of the Marion County
Nurses Association. “It takes dedication and hard work. Nurses are known for integrity and compassion. Great 100 celebrations are a way to recognize and show appreciation for the fantastic jobs nurses perform on a daily basis.”

According to Clark, in addition to the baseline expectation that the nurses nominated were compassionate, caring and dedicated, additional criteria were used to determine which 100 nurses received recognition, including years of service in nursing, who nominated the individual, how many nominations were received per individual, degree

or degrees earned, type of
service, service in the military, membership in health care organizations, leadership
activity and volunteer
activities.


Meet three members
of the 2018 Great 100 Nurses of Marion County:

Julie Lowrey

More than three decades ago,Julie Lowrey attended what was then Central FloridaCommunity College, where she attained her AA degree.Upon her father’s urging, she took a part-time job at Munroe Regional Medical Center (now AdventHealth Ocala) to help pay for school expenses.

Her first job in the field of medicine was transporting patients from the facility’s 13-person emergency room
to the radiology department for X-rays. Whenever she had any downtime, Julie worked side by side with the nurses in
the ER. She loved working with people, and her experiences there led her to pursue a career
in nursing.

Following graduation from CFCC (now the College of Central Florida), she attended the Mobile College in Alabama where she received her Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree. She had a chance to work in major Florida cities, such as Orlando or Gainesville, but instead chose to return home to Munroe, where she has spent the last 32 years.

She is now Julie Lowrey, RN-C, BSN. Her field of expertise is in medical and cardiac clinical education where she helps organize the on-boarding and orientation of new-hire nurses and techs. Julie matches new employees with nurses who orient them to their working units and facilitates other learning experiences specific to the newly hired nurses’ needs. She also monitors and documents the new employees’ competency in skills and training.

“AdventHealth Ocala is such an amazing hospital,” she says. “Working at this one facility, I have experienced roles in neurology, cardiovascular-surgical, cardiology and medical bedside nursing, nursing unit leadership, case management and education. I have learned so much from every role I have experienced and from the many great nurses that I have enjoyed working alongside. I have always been proud to be associated with Munroe Regional Medical Center and now AdventHealth Ocala.”

Julie has had a lifelong desire to help others and feels that nursing is, and has always been, the perfect job for her.

“Being a nurse provides me the

privilege of caring for someone who is ill

or hurting in a way that can bring comfort, not just physically but spiritually and mentally as well,” Julie says. “I have a strong spiritual faith that gives me hope for the future, knowing that suffering will not go on forever. My goal as a nurse is to be trusted by the patient and their family members to make things better.”

Julie lives in Ocala with her husband, Eddie. They have two children, Russell  and Anna.

Amy Meiers

“I became a nurse a little bit differently than most people,” says Amy Meiers, RN, MHA. “I received a dual bachelor’s degree in health and planning management and business administration. Then I received my Master of Health Administration and took a management position in a long-term care facility in New York. My job required me to interact with nurses and patients on a regular basis, and I found that I really enjoyed that aspect of my job. When the company I was working for downsized 18 months later and my position was eliminated, I knew what I wanted to do. I returned to school and got my nursing degree. That was almost 20 years ago,
and I am so glad that is the direction my
life took. Many people might think that losing a management job would be a bad thing, but I am so grateful that it happened and led me to where I am today.”

Today finds Amy working for Hospice
of Marion County. Her desire to help others, empathy and compassion are fully utilized as she works with terminally ill patients and the employees who care for them on a daily basis.

“Hospice nursing is different in that we provide palliative care, which focuses on comforting the dying,” she says. “We are trained in the fact that death is a part of life, and it is something that we all must face at some point. As hospice nurses, with the support of our team of physicians, social workers, CNAs and chaplains, we help people manage life-limiting illnesses and symptoms so they are comfortable and feel better. We help them feel as good as possible so they may have  the opportunity to cross something off their bucket list, laugh with friends, spend a quiet moment with their loved ones or share their memories and create new ones. To be able to help people feel well enough to do this is an honor and a privilege.”

The demands of hospice nursing takes an emotional toll on the nurses who choose this field of service. The very care and concern that makes them so effective in comforting others leaves them susceptible to caregiver burnout. “Nurses have a passion to care for others and are highly susceptible to compassion fatigue,” Amy says. “One of the greatest challenges nurses face is to learn to care for
themselves the way they care for others.”

Amy lives in Ocala with her husband, David, and two children, daughter Mackenzie and son Luke.

Dr. Jerry Gradek

Ocala resident Jaroslaw (Jerry) Gradek, DNP, APRN, NEA-BC, has worked 20 years in advanced nursing practice. Dr. Gradek is an advanced practice consultant for the North Florida/South Georgia Veterans Health System. He completed the basic RN program at Marymount University in Arlington, Virginia, received his Master of Science in Nursing with a concentration in psych/mental health from the Medical College of Virginia in Richmond and received his Doctorate of Nursing Practice from the University of Missouri in Kansas City, Missouri. He is board certified both as a psych/mental health nurse practitioner and as a nurse executive, advanced.“Nursing is a dynamic profession,” he says. “It changes and

evolves all the time. The technology and the body of knowledge are constantly improving and growing, but the core remains the same: health promotion, protection and preservation, disease prevention, risk reduction, behavior modification, and patient education and counseling.”

He feels that many people don’t fully realize the important role nurses play when it comes to patient care in today’s U.S. health care system. “Every day, almost a quarter-million nurse practitioners provide a full range of services, such as ordering, performing and interpreting diagnostic tests; diagnosing and treating acute and chronic conditions; prescribing medications and treatments; and managing overall patient care,” he says. Dr. Gradek feels that the nursing profession is the backbone of our nation’s hospital-based health care system and that its importance is vastly underestimated. “Nursing struggles with establishing itself as a core health care profession and often looks up to other professions rather than assertively recognizing itself as a central point of patient-care coordination and monitoring,” he says. “For example, patients are in a hospital because they are in need of 24/7 nursing observation and care, but it appears that nursing may not always claim the credit that has been earned and deserved for the benefits and outcomes of a hospital stay. Nursing has to own that role and educate the public about it.”

He says that nurses adapt accordingly to the extreme stressors of the job in order to deliver identified outcomes of care in every situation.

“As in all professions, there are certain risks associated with being in a profession exposed to human pain and end-of-life situations,” says Dr. Gradek. “You learn from your experiences and build respectful immunity to those events, because you still need to be there to help, assist and guide others through those experiences. With time, you master your skills and  become an expertin handling and navigating situations that others may find difficult to stomach.”

Dr. Gradek is pleased to be chosen as one of Marion County’s 100 Great Nurses. “It is a great honor to be chosen by my peers to receive this award, and I am humbly appreciative of the nomination,”
he says.

100 Great Nurses

Stephanie Barker
Hospice of Marion County

Deborah Becker
College of Central Florida

Bibi Bell

Ocala Regional Medical Center

Vanessa Bingamon
AdventHealth Ocala

Jaimie Bishop
Ocala Regional Medical Center/
AdventHealth Ocala

Justin Blocher
Ocala Regional Medical Center

Bridget Boynton
Cardiovascular Institute
of Central Florida

Italo “Flash” Buenaventura
Ocala Regional Medical Center

Shannon Butler
Hospice of Marion County

Kayla Campbell

West Marion Community Hospital

Heather Cavanah
Kindred Hospital/Promise Hospital Oxford

Joan Clark
Ocala Regional Medical Center

Latoya Clark
AdventHealth Ocala

Robert Clark
Ocala Regional Medical Center

Sara Mae Clark (Davis)
North Florida/South Georgia Veterans Health System

Christina Gaston
Ocala Regional Medical Center

Sheryl Creech
Ocala Regional Medical Center

Stephanie Cretul
AdventHealth Ocala

Elsa Cruz

North Florida/South Georgia Veterans Health System/Ocala Community Based Outpatient Clinic

Erin Cubbage
Ocala Regional Medical Center

Linda Cupo
North Florida/South Georgia Veterans Health System

Rhonda David
Ocala Regional Medical Center

Charlotte Davis
Ocala Regional Medical Center

Diane De Razza
Ocala Regional Medical Center

Melissa Kim DeVaughn
North Florida/South Georgia
Veterans Health System
Home Based Care

Penny Ettinger
AdventHealth Ocala

Kim Favata
Hospice of Marion County

Rebecca Feliciano
West Marion Community Hospital

Christina Follett
Ocala Regional Medical Center

Maribeth Foster

Ocala Health and Rehabilitation Center

Christine Freeler
Ocala Regional Medical Center

Kimberly Gibson

AdventHealth Ocala

Janeiceyah Gordon
DaVita

Toni Gordon
Human Potential Healthcare

Jaroslaw Gradek
North Florida/South Georgia Veterans Health System

Carol Grier
Ocala Health System

Jordan Griffis
Florida Cancer Specialists

Pamela Hagemeyer

Ocala Kidney Group

Christine Hawkesworth
Hospice of Marion County

Nancy Holtman
DaVita

Dana Houston
Ocala Regional Medical Center

Heather Howard
Ocala Regional Medical Center

Andrea Hunter
Ocala Regional Medical Center

Joy Hutcheson
AdventHealth Ocala

Rachael Joiner
Ocala Regional Medical Center

Sabrina Jones
Ocala Regional Medical Center

Kelly Julio
West Marion Community Hospital

Rosemary Keegan
Ocala Regional Medical Center

Wendy Kingsley
West Marion Community Hospital

Sonia Kohler
Ocala Regional Medical Center

Lixie Labrador
Florida Hospital Ocala

Patricia Leibrandt
Marion Technical College

Tina Loughrey

Ocala Regional Medical Center

Julie Lowrey
AdventHealth Ocala

Cecilia Malara
North Florida/South Georgia Veterans Health System

Angelia Marrero
West Marion Community
Hospital/College of Central Florida

Alec “Zeke” Mattheus
AdventHealth Ocala

Todd Mazer
AdventHealth Ocala

Oriasaunta McAllister
North Florida/South Georgia Veterans Health System Community Based Outpatient Clinic

Beverly McCarty
Ocala Regional Medical Center

Kristina McCormick (Losurdo)
Ocala Regional Medical Center

Kim McDonald
Hospice of Marion County

Cathy McDonough
College of Central Florida

Debra McIntyre

Ocala Regional Medical Center

Tommie McLain
AdventHealth Ocala

Amy Meiers
Hospice of Marion County

Gail Menezes
Ocala Regional Medical Center

Tania Meridith
College of Central Florida

Vashti Nugent
Ocala Plastic Surgery

Rhonda Oglesby
West Marion Community Hospital

Michael Reilly
Super Male Men’s Clinic

Lorna Rembert
Hospice of Marion County

Yolanda RogerS
Ocala Regional Medical Center

Drumeka Rollerson
AdventHealth Ocala

Sarah Rounding
AdventHealth Ocala

Teresa Russell
AdventHealth Ocala

Meshell Sanford
Ocala Regional Medical Center

Ladonna Sartorius
Ocala Regional Medical Center

Fran Sciotto

College of Central Florida

Ashley Seek
Faithfully Guided Health Center

Janet Seminario
AdventHealth Ocala

John Sessoms
Ocala Regional Medical Center

Brigitte Smith
Ocala Regional Medical Center

Tashara Stafford
North Florida/South Georgia Veterans

Health System

Karisa Stilwell
North Florida/South Georgia Veterans

Health System

Jet Taylor
AdventHealth Ocala

Valerie Timmons
West Marion Community Hospital

Melissa Tolbert
College of Central Florida

Christopher Twiss
AdventHealth Ocala

Sandra Walker
AdventHealth Ocala

Lynn Weber
Marion Technical College

Andrea Lynn Williams
Life Care Center

Ray Williams
Ocala Regional Medical Center

Rashana Wilson
Florida Cancer Specialists

Valerie Wilson
North Florida/South Georgia Veterans Health System

Pamela Woodson
North Florida/South Georgia Veterans Health System

Diane Xeller
Lake Bryant Health Department

Virna Yager
Ocala Regional Medical Center

Jennifer Zylis
Life Care Center

Robert Zylis               
Life Care Center

  

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