2022 Pathway Nurse of the Year Award™ winners : Nursing Management

Secondary Logo

Journal Logo

Department: Pathway To Excellence®

2022 Pathway Nurse of the Year Award winners

McCright, Maggie MSN, RN, NE-BC

Author Information
Nursing Management (Springhouse) 54(2):p 5-8, February 2023. | DOI: 10.1097/01.NUMA.0000918184.09792.f2
  • Free

When meaningful recognition occurs in organizations, nurses are acknowledged and appreciated for their contributions. It sends a powerful message that they're valued, which is a key component of a healthy and productive work environment, according to Kaufman and colleagues.1 Moreover, evidence has shown that recognition is the most significant driver of employee engagement.1 In addition, Lefton states that meaningful recognition involves “acknowledging one's behaviors and the impact these actions had on others, ensuring the feedback is relevant to the recognized situation, and is equal to the person's contribution.”2 Meaningful recognition is highly personal, acknowledging how specific behaviors impact the practice environment and patient interactions.

The Pathway Nurse of the Year Award™ globally recognizes the outstanding contributions of one direct care nurse and one nurse leader from a Pathway organization who have positively impacted the practice environment by modeling exceptional professionalism and leadership in working collaboratively with team members and integrating clinical expertise with compassionate patient interactions. The nomination process is competitive and represents the top tier of nurse professionals from across the globe. Each nominee is carefully considered through a two-tiered, peer-reviewed selection process. Only one nominee is identified per year for this prestigious recognition in each category (nurse leader and direct care nurse). This is the third year of the award program, and the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) is thrilled for this year's winners! The winners were recognized during the 2022 ANCC National Magnet Conference® and the ANCC Pathway to Excellence Conference® in Philadelphia, Pa., on October 13, 2022.

This year's award program sponsorship includes UMPC and WellSpan Health. UPMC, a world-renowned healthcare provider and insurer and an international healthcare leader has pioneered groundbreaking research, treatments, and clinical care. With more than 92,000 employees, UPMC operates 40 hospitals and more than 800 healthcare providers' offices and outpatient centers in western and central Pennsylvania, Maryland, New York, and around the globe. They currently have three facilities on their Pathway journey. WellSpan Health has more than 15,000 employees across central Pennsylvania and northern Maryland. They currently have three facilities that hold Pathway designation: WellSpan Good Samaritan, WellSpan Gettysburg, and WellSpan Ephrata Community.

Living the Pathway Standards

The ANCC Pathway to Excellence Program recognizes organizations that create positive practice environments for nurses at all levels. To achieve the credential, organizations must demonstrate the enculturation of critical components vital to a positive practice environment as defined under six Pathway Standards: shared decision-making, leadership, safety, quality, well-being, and professional development (see Figure 1). Shared decision-making is foundational to a positive practice environment and centers on the engagement of nurses and their interprofessional colleagues to have input into decisions that impact multiple aspects of care delivery. Leadership inspires and supports their team to participate in shared governance and therefore have a voice at the table. Organizations must foster, through policies, practices, and culture, an environment where patients and nurses feel safe. Quality initiatives are evidence-based, focused on improving patient outcomes, and developed through interprofessional collaboration. Strategic planning should include focus on staff well-being and resilience with purposeful assessment of employee health and staff involvement in suggesting, planning, and evaluating well-being initiatives. The importance of lifelong learning, ongoing education, and professional development activities are also valued and recognized.

Figure 1::
ANCC Pathway to Excellence® Framework for Positive Practice Environments.

Pathway Nurse of the Year (direct care nurse)

Marika Widmann, BSN, RN, MS-BC, a staff nurse from South Texas Veterans Health Care System (STVHCS), Audie L. Murphy Memorial Veterans Hospital Division in San Antonio, Tex., and part of Veterans Health Administration, is the 2022 Pathway Nurse of the Year Award direct care nurse winner.


“Marika epitomizes the Pathway Standards of shared decision-making, professional development, and well-being,” Louder said. “Her efforts keep staff engaged and excited to provide the highest quality of care–physically, psychologically, and socially–to each patient.”

Widmann was nominated by Angel Louder, MSN, RN, CMSRN, the nurse manager of Unit 4A Medicine, and endorsed by Valerie Rodriquez-Yu, DNP, RN, NEA-BC, CENP, the associate director for Pathway Care Services/nurse executive. She's a leader on her unit and actively involved in several hospital committees such as Women Veterans Health, Nursing Quality and Improvement, Tissue Organ Donation, and Unit Wellness committee. She's also a Unit Pathway Ambassador. She exemplifies shared governance and has a passion for quality improvement. She's an advocate for patients and staff alike. Marika was recognized for her true leadership with caring for LGBTQ+ veterans. She collaborated with the LGBTQ+ Veteran Care Coordinator and fellow nurses to improve the patient and staff experience and promote an environment of well-being and inclusivity. As chair of her unit's Health and Wellness Committee, she implemented wellness challenges to refocus the nursing staff on “self,” which became a priority during the COVID-19 pandemic. And she continues her academic journey as she's currently working toward a DNP with a concentration in Family Nurse Practice. She truly embodies Living Pathway.

Widmann commented, “The feeling of being an empowered member of a healthcare team is amazing. As we've seen through the COVID-19 pandemic, nurses are a crucial asset to the healthcare community, and having the ability to speak up and help make decisions that impact our practice and the care we provide to patients and families offered us the ability to improve policies and practices to promote a safer working environment and patient-care environment. From choosing what types of I.V. start kits we purchase to helping in the hiring process, or implementation of new evidence-based practices on the unit, living Pathway allows the front line to guide the path to our success.”

Widmann offered the following advice: “Always strive for better. Whether you're involved in direct patient care, research, quality assurance, clinic, etc., you should always ask yourself if there is anything you can do better. How can you improve outcomes? Can processes be simplified or improved? As healthcare providers we aim to provide the best for our patients; it all starts with asking a simple question. Quality doesn't just apply to patients and families though. Finding improvements for the nursing profession is just as important. For example, when our unit was caring for the hospital's first transgender patient, it became clear to me that as a team we would not be able to provide quality care to the veteran if we had endless questions. I wanted to make sure that all staff members felt comfortable and knowledgeable to provide safe and unbiased care to this veteran population, because regardless of their personal identities, we still identify all our patients as heroes. The in-service provided on our unit was a starting point to begin the discussions and to identify the needs of the staff. I'm excited to now be part of a focused group working on developing a hospital-wide training plan to ensure that all inpatient and outpatient teams have the foundation and knowledge to provide equitable care to our transgender veterans.”

When asked about the impact of Pathway, Widmann remarked, “Our hospital has a high retention rate, which is so important as the nation continues to suffer from critical nursing shortages. The Pathway Standards are intended to place the focus on allowing nurses to create and operate in an environment that promotes their needs while also maintaining high standards. As a Pathway organization, our nurses are empowered, and they feel valued. Those feelings carry over into how we provide care for our patients and their families. As we work to continuously improve ourselves and our profession, our positive outcomes reflect in our patient outcomes. For me, I appreciate all the opportunities I've had due to being a member of a Pathway organization. I have so many aspirations on how I want to improve the care for my patients and all veterans, and having the support of my team and leadership, and an environment that is welcoming of ideas and creativity, establishes an incredible foundation for me and my peers to become the best nurses possible.”

Pathway Nurse of the Year (nurse leader)

U.S. Navy Lieutenant Commander (LCDR) LaTarya Gulley, ACCNS-N, MSN, RN, from the Naval Medical Center Portsmouth (NMCP) in Portsmouth, Va., and part of the Defense Health Agency, is the 2022 Pathway Nurse of the Year Award nurse leader winner. LCDR Gulley is the department head for Inpatient Mental Health and Navy Medical Readiness and Training Command Portsmouth. She oversees a 32-bed inpatient department; manages 101 staff; and coordinates Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery (BUMED) required Career Development Boards for all nurse corps officers at the command, tracks progress, and reports BUMED monthly with updated numbers.


“LaTarya is an exceptional nurse leader who embodies the spirit of the Pathway to Excellence program,” Troncoso said. “She inspires her staff to consistently deliver safe, high-quality care and manage their well-being. Because of her commitment to nurses' professional development, the Navy retains a diverse and talented nursing workforce.”

Gulley was nominated by U.S. Navy Commander Melissa Troncoso, PhD, NP-C, CHWC, and endorsed by CAPT Laura McMullen, RN, MSN-Ed, MHA, SANE-A, CNO and director, Nursing Services at NMCP. She was recognized for her commendable contributions to leadership and nursing excellence. An engaging and transformational leader, LaTarya was nominated for her commitment and willingness to sprint toward a challenge. Here are a few highlights.

She was asked to lead outside of her area of clinical expertise (neonatal intensive care unit [NICU]) and serve as the department head for a 32-bed inpatient mental health unit, one of the busiest inpatient units in the military. LCDR Gulley has been given several military awards and has held several positions, including nurse residency program director and co-chair of the Navy Career Development Board. She was sent to Iwakuni, Japan, to assist with a newly created Maternal Infant Care Center. As a NICU clinical nurse specialist, she worked with staff to design, implement, and conduct an evidence-based project focused on standardizing positioning devices to improve patient outcomes. Her accomplishments are a true testament to Living Pathway.

Gulley commented, “For me, leadership is having meaningful impact on people and organizations that is sustained long after you have left. Leadership leaves people and the organization better because of your influence. You can only have that sort of impact because you have taken the time to learn your staff and genuinely care about their personal and professional growth and development. People will naturally follow a great leader. People are attracted to authenticity, and they will trust in those leaders who have their best interests as a top priority. Leaders must know how to navigate their organization across disciplines, be sensitive to diversity and its importance, and understand and maximize the potential of various healthcare roles at all levels. This creates a well-balanced effective team who can operate with resilience when needed.”

Gulley reflected on how “quality care is what draws patients and staff to an organization. It's what drives the business. It must be woven into the thread of an organization's mission, vision, goals, and values. When patients come to a hospital for medical care, they expect high-quality patient care where they feel involved in the process. Therefore, it is imperative that we, as healthcare providers and leaders, ensure that we are staying current with evidenced-based practice and research. We should always have that spirit of inquiry where we are assessing our processes, questioning why we do the things we do, if what we are doing is evidenced-based, and does it make sense for our organization.”

When asked about the impact of Pathway, Gulley remarked, “Organizations first must be willing to invest in nursing and recognize the value in investing in nurses. Continual focus and commitment to the six Pathway Standards to promote a healthier working environment for patients and staff is needed. In a Pathway organization, nursing has a strong voice, communicated through the shared governance model. Naval Medical Center and Training Command Portsmouth utilizes unit practice councils as one of the ways to support shared decision-making in the organization. There are six established unit practice councils currently, and the number is continuing to grow to include outlying outpatient clinics and case management.”

Gulley offered this advice: “Take care of yourself and your people. In this climate of nursing staff shortages, it is especially important that we make wellness and resiliency a top priority! Find small things to implement that will have a big impact. We can do this by prioritizing tasks and identifying areas in which we can eliminate redundancy and improve efficiency.”

A culture of excellence

When the Pathway Standards are truly rooted in an organization's culture, nurses feel valued and are inspired to go beyond their call of duty. This is clearly exhibited with the 2022 Pathway Nurse of the Year Award recipients. These nurses' contributions illustrate how their organizations live the Pathway Standards, which is further demonstrated by their commitment to nominating their nurses and their team's exemplary dedication and commitment to nursing excellence. Meaningful recognition is an important aspect in sustaining a positive practice environment at both award-winning organizations.

Congratulations to the recipients of the 2022 Pathway Nurse of the Year Award! For more information regarding the eligibility criteria and call for nominations, visit www.nursingworld.org/PNOY.


1. Kaufman T, Christensen J, Newton A. Employee performance: what causes great work? 2015. O.C. Tanner. www.octanner.com/content/dam/oc-tanner/documents/whitepapers/2015_Cicero_WhitePaper_ Drivers_of_Great_Work.pdf.
2. Lefton C. Strengthening the workforce through meaningful recognition. Nurs Econ. 2012;30(6):331–338,355.
Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. All rights reserved.