DAISY Faculty Awards Bring Much Needed Light to a COVID-19 World

When answering a simple question like, ‘How are you doing?’ or ‘How’s it going?’ Kelsey Petersen ‘11 puts out a long sigh. While his words are always positive in nature, his face says enough. About a month ago, the renal transplant nurse and Augustana clinical adjunct instructor was transitioned to a unit that cares for patients with COVID-19.

Petersen noted, “It has been very hard taking care of these patients. The first week was very challenging. You had to learn on the fly — we didn’t get much training. It is very challenging day in and day out to take care of these patients; they are very sick. They’re gasping for air and it is scary to see. At any point, they can take a turn for the worse and need a higher level of care. I’ve lost some of my renal patients in the process, who I used to take care of, because of this. It’s hard to see them lose their lives because of this. These frontline workers, these nurses, are putting their heart and soul into these patients to help them.”

But through it all, he says his coworkers have worked as a team, and through it all, he always knows that the Augustana nursing faculty and students “have his back.”

“They’re always checking up on you to see how you’re doing,” said Petersen, whose mother and two brothers also attended Augustana. 

A few weeks ago, as clinicals were wrapping up for the semester, some Augustana faculty and students checked up on him again. This time, they surprised him in front of the entire unit, with the 2020 DAISY Faculty Award.

Petersen said smiling, “I was in a patient room with one of my students and all of a sudden she said, ‘We need to leave,’ and I thought, ‘This is weird.’ We left the room and I saw Mary Nelson was there and everyone’s smiling and I knew something was up.”

Since 2017, the nursing department has presented a DAISY Faculty Award each year to honor a nurse who goes above and beyond and make extraordinary differences in healthcare. 

“I’m just extremely humbled that I received this award. I know previous recipients of this award are very loved within the Augustana nursing department, and I feel honored to be recognized alongside them and I’m grateful to have Augie with me,” added Petersen.

In nominating Petersen for the award, nursing students and colleagues detailed the impact he has made in the lives of students, patients and families.

One student nominator said, “Kelsey is highly skilled and an excellent interdisciplinary team leader who made clinicals an awesome experience.” 

“He really encourages students and helps them to seek opportunities to learn. He is very intelligent, yet is able to explain things in a way students can understand. You can tell that he is passionate about teaching and wants his students to succeed. As a first year nursing student, I was so intimidated by clinicals, but Kelsey made transitioning from the classroom to the bedside so easy,” added another nominator.

Another student went on to say, “Kelsey is exemplary because he invests time into every student's individual learning. He made sure each student received time to ask in-depth questions about anything that was taking place pertaining to their patient. The first time Kelsey took the time to make sure I understood my patient's situation fully and received clarity upon any questions individually with me, truly shocked me. I even asked students around me, ‘Does he always do this?’ with their response being, ‘Every time. Every clinical.’ Never before had I experienced an educator so patient enough to not only stop everything they were doing, but stop everything I was doing, and physically sit down with me to go over my patient and any questions.”

The Luverne, Minnesota, native says when he was asked to become a clinical instructor at Augustana, he knew he wanted to lead by example, because he was once afforded the same kind of treatment. Petersen says he knows it’s also important for students to understand the big picture, getting to know the patient and their history, rather than just going through the motions — the liberal arts way if you will. He says slowing down the process has made him a better nurse as well.

Petersen said, “When students show up, they’re nervous. If they’ve had no prior experience, it can be a scary situation; now, if I sit them down and explain everything, I think they are calmed by that. They start connecting the dots and then all of a sudden you see this light bulb go off. I teach them, and my goal is for them to teach back so I know they’re getting to the necessary level.”

He attributes much of his success to Augustana faculty, in particular, Nursing Instructor Mary Nelson, who was always contacting him after college, pushing him to become an instructor. He says Department of Nursing Chair and Assistant Professor of Nursing Dr. Lynn White also had a profound impact on him. 

Petersen said of White, “She took me under her wing when I was struggling as a student and helped me. I owe a lot of my success to her because she was the one who really pushed me in the right direction to become a bedside nurse.”

So it’s only fitting that along with Petersen, Augustana’s nursing department awarded a second DAISY Award in 2020, with the honor going to White.

As you can imagine, students and faculty have a lot to say about the professor and colleague, who has led and continues to guide them through a global pandemic.

“Lynn is not only a professor, but she demonstrates what it means to be an advocate. She is passionate about teaching students the skills and knowledge in nursing, and sets an example of the ethical implications and the weight behind being a nurse. She does this by being intentional with her students, by reaching out to them, providing a safe space and encouraging us to be the best we can even if we feel like we can't. She believes in us, when we don't even believe in ourselves. I am blessed to have her as a professor and advisor. She truly goes above and beyond. I know that I am not only speaking for myself, but on behalf of so many other students when I say that Lynn has had our backs in ways we could never have imagined,” said one nominator. 

A faculty member stated, “She is an amazing leader, mentor and colleague. Thank you for helping all of us to continue to think positive and put our best foot forward for our students, the profession and for Augustana.”

White was presented with her DAISY Faculty Award as a surprise during the Accelerated Class of 2020 Pinning Ceremony on Friday, December 4.

White said about receiving the award, “I am very honored to receive the Daisy Award. I’ve been blessed with strong mentors and to work with an exceptional faculty team that keeps student outcomes at the forefront. Our nursing students bring energy and excitement to patient care. They are the future of health care and we need their commitment to the profession, now more than ever. It’s such a great feeling to see all the great work our alums are doing, including teaching our current students the art of nursing.”

At a time when nurses like Petersen and White are needed now more than ever, he hopes more students are called to get into the field.

“We need all the help we can get. Right now, it’s dark in the nursing field, but there is light at the end of the tunnel and we will get through this. We will get through this.”

Past DAISY Faculty Award Recipients

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