South Florida Hospital News
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May 2006 - Volume 2 - Issue 11
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Jacqueline Gonzalez: Advocating for Children and Nurses is Her Passion

Miami Childrenís Hospital is one of Americaís most prestigious pediatric medical centers, internationally known for its high quality of care, research and education. A primary reason for that exceptional reputation may well be Jacqueline Gonzalez, ARNP, MSN, CNAA-BC, FAAN, Senior Vice President/Chief Nursing Officer, who has spent the past 26 years at MCH, guiding and shaping the environment of care. But Gonzalez is quick to deflect the spotlight, insisting that the credit belongs to the staff, whose commitment to excellence makes her beam with pride and admiration.

In 2003, MCH received Magnet designation from the American Nurses Credentialing Corporation (ANCC), a distinction that is only achieved by those hospitals that have met rigorous standards of excellence for clinical and administrative services. MCH is the fourth freestanding hospital in the nation to receive the Magnet status, and is the first pediatric hospital in Florida to receive the recognition. This accomplishment, says Gonzalez, is all about the nursing team. "We have an awesome staff and a great group of directors. I get positive feedback about them all the time. The Magnet designation is the highest hospital nursing honor in the country; it is the result of their hard work and dedication, and they deserve it. They are everyday heroes who do so many things that go unnoticed and unrecognized. They sincerely care and they go beyond the job."

It is this passionate advocacy for childrenís health and nursing that drives Gonzalez in a remarkable range of initiatives that has earned her a national reputation for leadership. Despite the demands on her time, she enjoys spending time on the patient care units and says this helps her remain focused on the mission of the hospital. "The children deserve the very best care, and nothing less than the best. The work that we do here is very important work, and the kids are my true passion."

With her own professional history well grounded in clinical pediatrics, Gonzalez has the credibility and familiarity with day-to-day nursing operations to understand the experiences of the staff. She began her career in Charlotte, NC, receiving her BSN from the University of North Carolina and working as a staff nurse in pediatric intensive care. When she moved to South Florida, she accepted a position at MCH in Hematology-Oncology and continued her education, eventually receiving her MSN from the University of Miami and additional advanced credentials from Florida International University. She is a nurse practitioner and is certified in nursing administration, and has been progressively promoted throughout her tenure at MCH, assuming her present position in 2004.

Gonzalez is involved in a number of regional and national activities in support of nursing and pediatric health care. She is the past president of the Nursing Shortage Consortium of South Florida, an organization devoted to promoting nursing careers through a variety of innovative projects. As president, Gonzalez led the revitalization of the Consortium, bringing together leaders in health care, the business community, education and government, resulting in an 88% increase in membership. She has collaborated with the National Association of Childrenís Hospitals and Related Institutions (NACHRI), the Child Health Corporation of America and other organizations, working through the Pediatric Data Quality Systems (Pedi-QS) to develop nursing sensitive indicators for JCAHO, specifically for pediatric hospitals. This year, Gonzalez has co-authored one book chapter and is working on another.

Her ability to bring together disparate groups is her primary talent as a leader, she says. "One of my favorite quotes that has guided me is, ĎThe test of a leader is taking the vision from me to we,í by John C. Maxwell. I have an ability to bring people together across competitive lines," she states, "to talk about joint issues. Iím a big believer in teamwork. My leadership style evolved when I learned to focus on issues and not on behavior. Itís so easy to get consumed with the stress of working in complex environments with so many people and lost track of the issue. A turning point as a leader was when I learned not to personalize things, but rather to look for opportunities for improvement."

Gonzalez credits her own mentors for helping her to channel her passion and advocacy for nurses and children. "I was fortunate to have mentors who were patient with me and helped me grow, and I want to do the same for young nurses. Nurses need mentors. Nursing can be stressful but itís a wonderful career if you are willing to work hard and commit yourself to it."

Gonzalez has done both, and as a result she has emerged as a national leader. Last year, she was named a Fellow of the American Academy of Nursing (AAN), in honor of her outstanding contributions to nursing, health care and health care policy. This honor recognizes her for leadership and accomplishments at both a regional and national level. She was also awarded the 2006 Alumnus of Distinction Award from the University of Miami, in recognition of her professional achievements.

While she is proud of her accomplishments in nursing, Gonzalez loves to talk about her family and says that her husband, Nelson, and her children, Eric, 19, and Allyson, 16, have been a tremendous influence on her career. Allyson was a premature infant who spent 10 days in neonatal intensive care, an experience that fueled her motherís passion and gives her insight to this day into the experiences of parents and families.

She is excited about the future of Miami Childrenís Hospital and cites the construction of the new ambulatory care center as evidence of the institutions ongoing growth. "We are always changing and growing here," she says, "and we are redesigning our entire hospital in a way that is centered around the needs of children and their families. The needs of children are unique and it takes a special place and special people to provide children with the highest quality care possible."

Jacqueline Gonzalez can be reached at jackie.gonzalez@mch.com.
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