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Watson is 2016 KH Palmetto Gold nurse
Julie Watson
Julie Watson, a nurse supervisor at KershawHealth, is one of 100 Palmetto Gold nurses honored during a gala April 16 in Columbia. She is the hospitals 10th Palmetto Gold winner in the awards 15-year history. Watson supervises nurses in KershawHealths G.I. lab and oncology department. - photo by Provided by KershawHealth

A month ago, S.C. Nurses Foundation Inc. and its all-volunteer steering committee chose KershawHealth’s Judith A. Watson, BSN, RN, CGRN, as one of its 100 2016 Palmetto Gold nurses. This is the 15th year the Palmetto Gold Steering Committee has honored nurses like Watson -- nurses who “exemplify excellence in nursing practice and commitment to the nursing profession,” according to a copy of the 2016 program.

Watson is the nurse manager for both the gastrointestinal (GI) lab and oncology at KershawHealth.

The committee held the gala at the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center where Watson was recognized because she “consistently encourages the staff to exceed patient care expectations,” an entry in the program read. “She promotes nursing certification and has increased medication reconciliation rates to 90 percent. In addition, she developed a One-Stop-Shop oncology experience where patients and families could have their laboratory and medications addressed in one place.”

The entry noted Watson is a member of the Gastroenterology Nurses Association and a member of organization’s nursing quality council. She also serves as a captain for the hospital’s Relay For Life team, raises money for holiday food donations and -- as KershawHealth Chief Nursing Officer (CNO) Stacy Collier pointed out -- recently returned from a Guatemala mission trip.

“I worked in a medical clinic with a physician providing medical services … as well as a dental clinic,” Watson said during a joint May 10 interview with Collier and KershawHealth Director of Surgery and Oncology Services Jessica Geddings.

Watson is the 10th Palmetto Gold recipient at KershawHealth, a notable milestone since former CNO Susan Outen not only helped found the award but continues to serve as the steering committee’s co-chair.

“South Carolina has close to 60,000 nurses and only 1,500 have been recognized over the years,” Collier said. “We spent several months thinking through who was worthy of the award and ‘massaging’ the nomination forms.”

Collier said KershawHealth nominated Watson because she is more than just a “great nurse,” but goes “above and beyond” for her profession, especially in terms of patient care and safety improvements.

“She’s made a difference for many patients,” Collier said.

Geddings said Watson came up with the One-Stop-Shop oncology idea after realizing oncology patients were having to go to one part of the hospital to have lab work performed before moving upstairs to the oncology department.

“These patients can be so fragile,” Geddings said, explaining Watson’s idea was to make things easier, quicker and more comfortable for oncology patients by having lab work drawn in the very area in which they are treated.

“Patients form a very strong bond with the oncology staff,” Collier said, adding Watson has also lead the way on improving medical reconciliation -- making sure there is an accurate record of what medications patients are taking -- and in the hospital’s move to electronic records. “This makes sure the right patient gets the right medication at the right time, which is especially important in the world of chemotherapy.”

Collier said she spent an entire day in oncology in February to the relationships Watson and her nurses have with their patients.

“The love the patients have for the staff is amazing,” she said. “Everyone’s hugging with patients initiating those hugs as much as the staff does. I could feel the bond with and among patients.”

Watson, who has been in nursing since 1992, admitted to being a bit overwhelmed by the attention in receiving the Palmetto Gold honor.

“Mama said I wanted to be a nurse when I was growing up,” she said. “I really enjoy taking care of people and providing excellent care. I love nursing and helping other people.”

Collier said Watson has gone back to school to obtain certifications, including being certified for the GI lab. Collier also noted she and KershawHealth staff planned to recognize Watson’s Palmetto Gold award during its May 11 Nurse’s Week celebration (see accompanying story), but Watson wouldn’t be there -- and with good reason.

“Her daughter’s getting married Wednesday,” Collier said. “But I wouldn’t be surprised if she showed up for work. She gives and gives and gives. She sacrifices a lot for KershawHealth. She’s one of our most passionate nurses.”

But Watson said KershawHealth is “blessed to have a lot of good nurses” in addition to herself.

“What makes me the nurse I am is to have them to work with,” Watson said.

KershawHealth took out a large advertisement in the Palmetto Gold program to recognize Watson. In it, the hospital said, “Julie joins a distinguished group of nurses whose commitment to excellence exemplifies the very best in healthcare. We recognize that Julie and all of the outstanding nurses at KershawHealth have been essential to our ongoing success.”