The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

May 12, 2013

VA honors nurses during special week


DANVILLE — As part of National Nurses Week, the Veterans Affairs Illiana Health Care System honored several people last week.

The special week began Monday (Nurse Recognition Day) and ends today, the birthday of Florence Nightingale, founder of nursing as a modern profession. The week honors all nurses for their dedication to patient care and for their contributions and services to the health care industry.

This year’s theme was “Nurses: Delivering Quality and Innovation in Patient Care.” The VA had several activities to highlight Nurses Week, including the annual poster contest sponsored by the Nursing Workforce and Workplace Enhancement Committee and the Sacred Cow contest sponsored by the Clinical Nurse Practice Committee.

The Excellence in Nursing Awards and Recognition Program was held Friday at the Danville VA with Director Emma Metcalf providing the keynote address. The ceremony concluded the week with a formal gathering to recognize the 2013 Excellence winners, as well as nursing staff who have obtained new degrees and/or VA recognized certifications.

Nursing units and work groups from Danville and the Community Based Outpatient Clinics in Decatur, Mattoon, Peoria, Springfield and West Lafayette, Ind., celebrated with staff carry-in meals and theme days throughout the week.

The 2013 Excellence in Nursing Award winners are:

— Joyce DeBoer of Danville, RN in Expanded Role — local recipient

— Pam Van Leer of Danville, RN in Clinical Role — local and VISN 11 recipient

— Rita Mitchell of Potomac, LPN — local and VISN 11 recipient

— Daphne Osborne of Danville, Nursing Assistant — local recipient.

Veterans Integrated Service Network 11 (VISN) is comprised of seven VA medical centers and 29 clinics in central Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and northwest Ohio.


DeBoer has been employed at the local VA for five and a half years and is the facility’s Reusable Medical Equipment (RME) coordinator. Her role involves working with services throughout the facility to develop and implement procedures that address the cleaning of reusable medical equipment.

Prior to her move to RME coordinator, she worked in a variety of other roles, including clinical nurse educator for Extended Care, where she provided staff education to promote the patient-centered care for veterans. She also provided the CNA certification class for the Shahbazim working in the Green Houses.

Other roles have included: certified nursing assistant instructor at Danville Area Community College and nurse educator, infectious disease coordinator and case manager for Healthy Moms Healthy Kids at the Vermilion County Health Department.

Her future nursing goals include continuing to provide education to staff to promote patient-centered care and to work on obtaining an advanced degree in education.

When asked what she likes best about her job, she said, “working with staff to develop processes that improve the care we provide to the veteran.” She added, “This position allows me to utilize some of my skills and to keep learning new skills. I learn something new every day. And, I really enjoy the people that I work with daily.”

Van Leer

Pam Van Leer and her husband, Mike, have two children, and one granddaughter. She graduated from Lakeview School of Nursing in 1984 with a nursing diploma. She received a bachelor’s in nursing from Indiana Wesleyan University in 2002.

She began working at the Danville VA in December 1983, and now works in Ambulatory Care Service. She is the RN care manager for the White Team. She triages patient needs and spends time educating and training the White Team veterans. She also conducts the care management of things like blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and hemoglobin A1C levels of the team’s veterans.

Van Leer assists with PACT concept orientation and education of veterans regarding their roles and responsibilities in the management of their personal health care.

Van Leer began at the VA as a student nurse in 1983, and in May 1984, transitioned to a graduate nurse tech and transferred to Long Term Care and Palliative Care. After five years, she transferred to Cardio/Pulmonary, where she worked for the next 15 years.

After that, Van Leer accepted her current position in ambulatory care for nursing service. She said it is rewarding to be able to provide veterans with education and see the difference it makes in their lives.


Rita Mitchell lives in the country with her husband, Robert. She enjoys spending time with her children and grandchildren.

She attended DACC and obtained her LPN certificate in 1994. She came to VA Illiana Health Care System as a new LPN graduate, stayed a short time, and then returned in 2000. She has spent the last several years working on the gero-psych unit.

Prior to returning to DACC, Mitchell worked in a local candy factory for 16 years.

After obtaining her LPN certificate, she had the opportunity to work with diverse patient populations including Alzheimer’s/dementia, palliative care, Nursing Home Care Unit, and gero-psych.

Mitchell retired from the VA in March, but she hopes to continue to use her nursing knowledge to help others.

When asked what she liked best about her job, she said, “There are so many blessings about being a LPN. Whether your patients or your co-workers — at the end of the day, when it comes together for the good, it is the best feeling anyone could ask for to see someone’s smile of relief and know that you helped to make it better.”


Daphne Osborne has five children and 15 grandchildren.

She obtained her certified nursing assistant training through DACC, and has been employed with VA Illiana for 23 years. She now works in podiatry, where her job is to help doctors in foot care for the veterans — especially those with diabetes to help decrease the chance of amputation.

Osborne spent 17 years working in the Nursing Home Care Units at VA Illiana prior to transferring to her current position in Podiatry/Ambulatory Care. She is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in clinical psychology through Ashford University in Iowa.

When asked what she likes best about her job, Osborne said, “I like caring for the veterans. I enjoy the time I can spend with each and every one of them.”