Dea Mahanes: A Leader, Mentor and Compassionate Care Provider

UVA Today is highlighting the winners of the 2012 Leonard W. Sandridge Outstanding Contribution Awards, the highest U.Va. honor staff receive for their dedicated service to the University. Today: Dea Mahanes of U.Va.'s Health System. To see all of the stories, click here.

May 18, 2012 — A nurse in the University of Virginia Health System's Nerancy Neuro Intensive Care Unit approached clinical nurse specialist Dea Mahanes with a complex question: Can we help a patient with quadriplegia – whose four limbs were all paralyzed – be present for the birth of his daughter?

Mahanes assembled an interdisciplinary team that included labor and delivery nurses, an obstetrician, and infectious disease physicians to ensure the patient could safely be present to see his daughter born. After the baby was born, Mahanes worked with colleagues to modify the patient's care plan so the patient would have time to bond with his new baby.

As nurse Jennifer T. Hall wrote in her nomination of Mahanes, "Dea consistently goes above and beyond daily expectations to ensure that patients, families, team members and community partners are supported."

Mahanes is credited with being a leader and a stabilizing force in the Nerancy Neuro Intensive Care Unit, helping the unit win the first "Pride in Practice" nursing award in late 2011 for sustained excellence in patient outcomes and patient satisfaction.

"She makes us all step up the quality of our work and our work ethic; from the bedside nurse, to the therapists, social workers, chaplains and the physicians, all work harder, more effectively and more humanely when Dea is around," wrote nominator Dr. Bart Nathan, assistant medical director in the unit, who first met Mahanes 19 years ago during his residency.

Nurse Bridget L. Moss said she is "continuously astounded" at the depth of Mahanes' compassion for her patients. "She truly enjoys her job, and has been a mentor to myself and many others who have worked with her," wrote Moss, who has worked with Mahanes for more than seven years.

Outside of the unit, Mahanes has been involved in several Health System-wide initiatives to improve care for patients and in professional development activities for her fellow nurses. She serves on the Health System's ethics committee, helped develop the Medical Emergency Team and has been an active member of the Professional Nursing Staff Organization.

Mahanes worked on her own time to edit the Professional Nursing Staff Organization's 58-page Career Ladder Handbook, which is used by hundreds of U.Va. nurses to guide their professional development. As Holly Hintz, director of nursing governance programs, wrote: "She proves the adage: If you want something done right and on time, give it to a busy person!"

Mahanes always makes the extra effort on every project, said nurse Joseph Moffett, who has known Mahanes for 25 years. "Whatever the context, Dea brings intelligence, diligence, compassion and creativity to any endeavor."

– by Eric Swensen