Celebrating Three of Iowa's 100 Great Nurses

posted on Thursday, May 4, 2017 in General

Local nurses Ben Armstrong, Laura Manwarren and Brenda Tiefenthaler will be honored at a celebration in Des Moines on Sunday, May 7 as three of Iowa’s 100 Great Nurses for 2017.

The 100 Great Iowa Nurses program identifies 100 outstanding nurses every year whose courage, competence, and commitment to patients and the nursing profession stand out above all others. These nurses go above and beyond to contribute significantly to the profession of nursing.

Through their induction into the 100 Great Nurses, Armstrong, Manwarren and Tiefenthaler join several other Spencer Hospital nurses who have been selected for the honor previously:

Marcia Larson – 2006
Linda Casey – 2009
Judy Fox – 2009
Deb Johnson – 2009
Francel Graham – 2010
Mindy Sylvester – 2010
Dee Vaage – 2011
Laura Armstrong – 2016
Colette Rossiter – 2016
Ben Armstrong – 2017
Laura Manwarren – 2017
Brenda Tiefenthaler - 2017

Below are excerpts from the nominations for these three outstanding caregivers.

Benjamin Armstrong

Ben started his career with a bachelor’s degree as a personal trainer/life coach, working in Athletic Enhancement at Spencer Hospital. At Spencer Hospital, the Cardiac Rehab department shares a space with Athletic Enhancement. Ben became interested in the patients in cardiac rehab and was inspired to enroll in nurses’ training. While in nursing school, Ben began working with the CRNA's (certified registered nurse anesthetists) at the hospital and he helped developed the role of anesthesia tech, which motivated him to advance his career as a CRNA. Ben was accepted to the CRNA program the first year he applied and then he graduated top of his class.

Ben continues to demonstrate he is dedicated to the development of educating nursing staff and students following the CRNA education path. Ben shows patience, intelligence, and professionalism to all members of the nursing spectrum at his work. When Ben is asked to assist in other departments during critical situations he is calm and precise.

Ben has extended his education despite many challenges that have crossed his path. Ben and his wife Laura were gifted with a very special son. Despite being challenged with the long and difficult challenge of finding their son's diagnosis, Ben continued his education across the state. Their son was ultimately found to possess a developmental disorder on the autism spectrum. Along this rocky path Ben and his wife Laura learned of a reoccurring brain tumor in Laura's brother. Ben and Laura never gave up on themselves or their commitment to nursing as they dealt with the passing of Laura's brother and their son's unexpected diagnosis. Despite this devastating news Ben completed his education and is an upstanding CRNA at Spencer Hospital. He continues his mission to change the culture among his colleagues to promote a team oriented environment.

Laura Manwarren

Laura's nursing career has focused on emergency medicine, where she thrives as she's a hard worker, a quick decision maker, and always compassionate to her patients and their family members. She's taken emergency medicine beyond treatment as she strives to focus on prevention. Laura is always willing to do a public presentation or local media interview on injury prevention and safety awareness.

Approximately eight years ago, she took her passion for preventing trauma a step further by partnering up with Amy Sievers, who works with the Iowa DOT, to bring the "Every 15 Minutes" (now rebranded as "The Power of Choice") program to the local high school. Students are provided a dose of reality over a two-day program in which they witness and participate in a mock accident, an emergency room scene, trial and funeral. The pair has reached out to surrounding school districts to coordinate the program at their schools. Additionally, Laura and Amy have shared their program information and have taught it to personnel at other hospitals to help spread the message even further. Laura is a doer who works tirelessly while wearing many hats. She fund-raises, recruits volunteers, meets with parents and students, and is quick to provide a hug when a participant needs moral support.

While it's not uncommon for a healthcare professional to be credited with life-saving measures, Laura not only practices her life-saving skills in the emergency department where she's worked for over 17 years, she's also working to save lives in our community through an effort to prevent behaviors which could lead to traumatic outcomes. There are few things worse for an emergency healthcare worker to experience than treating teenage victims of accident which could have been prevented by those young drivers making better choices. Laura has dedicated herself to educating high school students on the power their choices may have on themselves and others.

While communities have staged mock accidents for years, the program Laura and Amy have designed appears to touch the emotional core in students and parents with the goal of creating an impact so significant that they pause to consider the consequences their risky behaviors may have. Through their efforts, their message has reached well over a thousand impressionable young people. It's important to note, Laura and Amy created the program on their own initiative and while their organizations are fully supportive, much of the time dedicated to the program's success is their personal time.

Brenda Tiefenthaler

Brenda began her career at Spencer Hospital as a staff nurse in the intensive care unit and Emergency Department. She was soon promoted to director of the hospital’s Abben Cancer Center, as her leadership skills and dedication to providing exceptional care were quickly apparent. Brenda was selected to serve as Vice President of Patient Care Services approximately 10 years ago. A few years later, her title expanded to VP of Patient Care and Informatics. While combining the leadership position for patient care and technology isn’t typical in healthcare, Brenda seized the opportunity to further enhance the integration of technology into patient care for the benefit of patients served.

A few of the initiatives Brenda has been instrumental in leading and developing include:

  • Brenda served on the initial IONL (Iowa Organization of Nurse Leaders) collaborative committee developing an online mentoring program for new and returning nurses into the hospital work force. This program was implemented across the state of Iowa as well as 3 or 4 other states.
  • Evidence Based Practice in nursing: Many new practices based on clinical evidence have been implemented in all areas of nursing for the betterment of our patients.
  • Research and brought the Language of Caring program to the hospital which focuses on enhancing communications among patients, caregivers and family members. Brenda continues to work with an active group to refresh the program to keep it meaningful, sustainable and pertinent to identified needs.
  • Initiated the Daisy Award program at Spencer Hospital to recognize registered nurses who provide exceptional care.

Brenda takes the success of each patient care area very seriously; when an area is in need of support and leadership, Brenda is there to assist in any way she is needed. She has provided the resources needed to bring in special training, consultants, temporary staffing, and has been interim director along with her many other duties when needed. For example she served as director of surgical services and the Emergency Department for about nine months each while the right person was found to lead the area.

A few years ago Brenda was honored as the Dickinson County Relay for Life Caregiver of the Year. An impressive honor alone and even more notable because the nomination occurred several years after care was provided, demonstrating the lasting impression and continued support provided by Brenda to her patients. Brenda has touches people in our hospital each and every day. She is the heart of our nursing department, promoting humanity and care at the bedside.

Brenda is unafraid of a challenge. She has a way with people, holds them accountable and yet finds ways to stay very normal and can relate to whatever they are going through. She has this ability to make tremendous change. Brenda loves the profession of nursing and works hard each and every day to ensure our patients receive excellent care and that our staff has the resources and support to be successful in providing exceptional service.