Four nurses honored with Mary Dean Nurse Preceptor Award

Mary Dean Nurse Preceptor Award recipients pose for a photo

Four nurses were recognized with the Mary Dean Nurse Preceptor Award by Montana Technological University and Intermountain Health for their outstanding mentorship of student nurses at a reception in mid-April.

Mary Dean nurse preceptor award venue image

The recipients include: Paige Powers of St. James Hospital, Larry Warner of St. James Hospital, Lindsay Holden of Logan Health Medical Center, and Reagan Williams of Shodair Children’s Hospital. Each recipient was honored at a reception and received a $300 award.

This is the second year the award was made, through an endowment established by the family of Mary Dean, a late St. James Hospital nurse who left a legacy of compassionate care. Mary came from a family of nurses. Her mom was a nurse, and so was her twin sister Maggie. Mary made the switch mid-career from accounting and never looked back. Her love for the profession was contagious. Her husband, Phil, also enrolled at Highlands College and became a registered nurse later in life, inspired by Mary’s love for the field.

In 2020, Mary passed away from brain cancer. Her family wanted to honor her memory, and decided to establish the nursing preceptor awards. Nursing preceptors mentor, teach, monitor, and provide feedback, for student nurses in their workplace. Mary was beloved at St. James, and had a knack for taking young nurses under her wing.

“The award is a way for us to recognize Mary’s life and still positively impact nurses in Montana,” said Phil Dean. “She was an excellent nurse. She had all the attributes of an outstanding caregiver. She was a preceptor eager to help students as they entered the clinical setting.”

Nursing preceptors have to balance their precepting duties with other tasks, including onboarding new employees, caring for their load of patients, and onboarding new graduates.

“It is all volunteer,” said Director of Nursing Janet Coe, MSN, RN, CHSE. “They do it because they love to teach or because they recognize the importance of preceptors in transitioning nursing education into practice. We are really appreciative of Phil and his family for providing this award. Preceptors are crucial to nursing education.”

Associated Professor Maureen- Moe Brophy explained why preceptors make a mark on student nurses.

“It’s so important because the preceptor is our students’ guide and protector,” Brophy said. “The role of the preceptor cannot be overemphasized. Even when the experience is over, the student will not forget it. It impacts how they will view nursing from that point on.”

Montana Tech students nominate preceptors for the award. This year, there were 11 nominees.

Logan Harrington nominated Paige Powers Kingston, a Montana Tech nursing alumna.

“One of the most profound aspects of my time with Paige was her unwavering support and kindness,” Harrington wrote in her nomination letter. “She treated me with the utmost respect, always making me feel like I was an equal, even when I made mistakes, and I made plenty. Paige’s approach never made me feel undeserving of being on the floor. Her supportive nature motivated me to learn from my mistakes, and I aspire to emulate her respect and kindness when guiding other nurses new to the healthcare field in the future.”

Hallie Nikunen nominated Lindsay Holden.

“Prior to this experience, I hadn’t found my passion for nursing and was beginning to get worried since I would soon be graduating,” Nikunen wrote. “However, after completing my first clinical shift, my concept of nursing, of what I thought nursing was, completely changed. Lindsay treated her patients, co-workers, and myself with respect, compassion, and empathy. She came into every shift with a positive attitude, excited to teach me about anything and everything we would encounter.”

Li Yin nominated Reagan Williams.

“Reagan graduated from Montana Tech two years ago,” Yin wrote. “… She is dedicated to her patients and co-workers, acting responsibly and with caring passion. She showed mastery of various communication skills, conveying information concisely, in a way that was easily understood by others. She understood and acknowledged other’s emotions, perspectives, and experiences, and knew how to persuade and inspire others through compelling communication, positively influencing attitudes, behaviors and resultant decisions. As a preceptor, she was patient and compassionate.”

Jaimee Noble nominated Larry Warner.

“Aside from the clinical setting, Larry taught me skills about how to separate work life from home life,” Noble wrote. “He taught me about how I can be an excellent nurse at work and an amazing family member at home by learning to separate those aspects. He taught me to be satisfied with the care I provide and to leave hard topics at the door when going home to enjoy my life outside of work. I am thankful he was able to provide me with this information so I can not only grow to be a good nurse but to be a long-lasting nurse.”

Phil Dean called each nominee as part of the award process. They included Stephanie Bentley, St. James Hospital; Kathy McGrath, St. James Hospital; Olivia Bolton, St. James Hospital; Megan Brunell, St. James Hospital; Cody Symons, St. James Hospital; Josie Hagan, St. James Hospital; and Teal Joy, St. James Hospital.

“We know we are doing the right thing, because almost without exception the nurses are surprised there was even an award existing for their preceptor efforts,” Phil said. “Most of them are extremely touched, and they are grateful to be recognized.”

Dean hopes the award will strengthen the relationships between preceptors and the University, and improve the local healthcare system.