PerfectServe’s Nurses of Note awards program honors nurses who deserve recognition for their remarkable resilience and unwavering dedication to their patients. In the second year of the Nurses of Note program, PerfectServe wants to shine a light on the integrity, perseverance, and compassion that nurses so regularly display in the course of caring for patients.
The incredible stories of these honorees paint a clear picture of the individuals who populate this noble profession, and their experiences offer just a glimpse into the many ways they make the world a better place. Of the 200-plus nominations PerfectServe received, we selected a group of providers to spotlight throughout the year.
August of 2022 holds many holidays and awareness dates that pertain to childhood illnesses and health: Children’s Eye Health and Safety Month, Children’s Vision and Learning Month, National Breastfeeding Month, and National Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders Awareness Month—just to name a few. In honor of the way this month brings many important issues to the forefront, we chose to profile a nurse who works directly or partially in pediatrics.
Honoree 7: The Senior Manager of Clinical Professional Development at Northern Westchester Hospital (Mount Kisco, NY) — Meghan Walter
Meghan Walter is the Senior Manager of Clinical Professional Development at Northern Westchester Hospital in Mount Kisco, NY. Part of Northwell Health, Northern Westchester Hospital specializes in cancer care, orthopedic and spine conditions, and maternity services. Meghan’s role as an educator makes her job especially important for the emergency department and the behavioral health, short stay, and pediatrics units. That’s a lot of hats to wear, but Meghan doesn’t mind.
Meghan knew she wanted to pursue a career in nursing in high school. Her father became ill and was hospitalized, and she saw first hand how the ICU nurses took care of both her father and her family. She was instantly inspired, and this experience put her on a trajectory to become a registered nurse in New York. She began her career as a telemetry and emergency department care nurse before she obtained her master’s degree in education. She later took on the role of Clinical Professional Development Educator, and though she does not care for patients directly at this time, her educational role is instrumental in teaching others at the hospital how to provide better care.
As a clinical educator, Meghan cited the Association of Nursing Professional Development to describe the purpose of her role, which is to “advance quality healthcare by defining and promoting professional development practices.” In other words, her goal is to be an advocate and a leading resource for nursing professionals and their development practice. Meghan oversees orientations and fellowships, mentors nurses, partners with academic organizations for educational tools, and advocates for the spirit of inquiry through knowledge acquisition and development. Meghan says her role helps nurses by promoting lifelong learning that will, in turn, provide an environment for safe practices at the bedside for patients.
Part of Meghan’s job is to create new training programs for the nursing staff at Northern Westchester Hospital. In one of these programs, Meghan taught new emergency department nurses how to use evidence-based practices in learning about new equipment. The nurses had to video the use of the latest equipment and upload these videos to an educational YouTube channel. They then printed out QR codes for easy access to the educational sessions. These videos helped other nurses and care team members quickly access video resources when operating new equipment, ensuring the entire team—regardless of department—would be better prepared to do their jobs.
Meghan also creates podcasts to disseminate information to the entire staff. Some of the podcast topics include hypertensive crisis in pregnancy, stroke, neurocritical care, surgical procedures, and more. Meghan says this is especially helpful for auditory learners, who can hear from the doctors and nurses themselves about a variety of topics. Alongside podcasts, Meghan’s team created the “Collaborative Care Connection: Improving Teamwork and Patient Safety with a Sustainable, Patient-Centered Bedside Hand-Off” poster. This staff-led project was developed to incorporate patient and best practice information into a report. Meghan assisted the team by finding research articles that supported their findings, eventually instilling multiple process changes to ensure frontline nursing staff had all the tools needed to facilitate proper patient handoffs at the bedside. As a reward for their efforts, her team was chosen to present these findings to other nurses at the Sigma Theta Tau Creating Healthy Work Environments Conference in Washington, D.C., in 2021.
Meghan’s educational role is what led her to become involved with pediatrics. In the emergency department, Meghan always had a special fondness for pediatric patients. When she stepped into her educational role, she was able to visit her hospital system’s children’s hospital to learn from and educate nurses there. On one particular trip, she learned about Northwell’s BEEMindful Program, which assesses children with neurobehavioral disorders such as autism spectrum disorder, ADD, and ADHD. The program allows providers to cluster their care and communicate with patients in a way that ensures maximum learning and understanding. Realizing her community hospital did not have a program like this, Meghan worked with a multidisciplinary team to develop sensory carts and education for all staff to identify and communicate with this population. The carts had hospital-grade diversionary activities and communication devices to ensure staff were able to provide person-centered care to pediatric patients with sensory needs. Everyone who volunteered to participate in the program did so because they had a loved one in their life with sensory needs.
But Meghan’s work in pediatrics doesn’t stop there. She once made a presentation to the Northwell Pediatric Service Line on the care of a “safe haven” infant. In New York, safe haven infants are babies up to 30 days old who are dropped off at local hospitals, EMS sites, and police and fire stations. Though the occurrence is rare, and there are policies in place related to these instances, Meghan realized there was very little guidance about which medical tests and treatments should be administered on safe haven infants who appear healthy. She worked with a team to create care guidelines, ensuring there are concrete best practices in place when and if one of these patients presents at their facility.
To say the least, Meghan is an extremely valuable member of the team at Northern Westchester Hospital. We at PerfectServe are inspired by her determination, leadership, and commitment to spreading knowledge. Her nominator wrote that Meghan “truly embodies what it means to be a dedicated resource, bedside nurse, advocate, and educator, and has improved the practice of all she encounters.” We couldn’t agree more!
Meghan, your devotion to the continuing education of nurses and other care team members is admirable. PerfectServe is honored to highlight the work you do for Northern Westchester Hospital and for the nursing community at large. Thanks to you and the rest of your team for the impactful work you do every day!
In addition to learning about Meghan’s role, we posed some additional questions to get to know her a bit better.
Why did you choose to become a nurse?
I always wanted to be in the medical field but initially thought I wanted to be a physician. I was a volunteer at my local Emergency Medical Service agency as an emergency medical technician. When I was a senior in high school, my father became ill and was hospitalized. It was the intensive care nurses that truly made my father and family feel comforted during that time. At that moment, I knew nursing was the right fit for me.
What is the biggest lesson you learned while serving as a nurse throughout the pandemic?
I learned how effective communication and resource allocation is the key to overcoming almost everything. This was so with the healthcare team, as we had staff pitch in from all hospital areas throughout COVID-19. We also had to learn to communicate about all of the changing diagnostics and treatments. It was also super important to keep families in the loop as much as possible. It was a scary time! We went from a hospital with 24/7 visitation to no visitation at all. We embraced technology and worked to connect patients with their families.
What’s one piece of advice you would give to your younger self about working in healthcare?
Nursing is a hard profession—mentally, physically, and emotionally. But there are times when you can see you truly made a difference for one person, and that is the best experience ever. Be sure to hold onto that feeling, especially during the most difficult times.
What do you do to relax after a stressful day?
After a stressful day, I regenerate and recharge by spending time with friends and family. I have a particular friend I call who helps me to destress on my way home. I also love reading. The last (non-nursing) book I read was “Rock Paper Scissors” by Alice Feeney. I love psychological thrillers.
What changes would you like to see in the nursing field in the future?
I would love to see the nursing profession continue to remain one of the top most-trusted professions. I also feel it is extremely valuable for nurses to spearhead healthcare policy and research and to be at the table with our physician partners and the interprofessional team. Teamwork and collaboration create successful outcomes for patients and families!
If you had to pick one song to describe you as a nurse, what would it be?
“I’ll Be There for You” by The Rembrandts. As an educator and nurse, I feel this song best describes what I do—I’m there for the team.
Make sure to follow our blog as we publish in-depth profiles about more of our deserving Nurses of Note honorees throughout the year.
For more about Nurses of Note 2022, check out the full list of winners.