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Presenting Our Area’s Best and Brightest
by Margaret Hawke, RN, MA




Winner, Finalists Named for 2001 ‘Nurse of the Year’ Honors

Just as bright stars light up the evening sky, nurses of excellence light up our profession. During this National Nurses Week, we celebrate the contributions of nurses everywhere. There are so many stars — many fine nurses who are committed to the care and comfort of their patients, their communities and the world. For us at Nursing Spectrum, this offers a difficult, but delicious dilemma — how to select the winner and finalists for the Nurse of the Year award from the wealth of compassionate and committed nurses.

After much deliberation, our division’s advisory board chose Karen Hamilton, RN, RNC, CFRN, as our regional winner. Five outstanding finalists were also selected. Hamilton competed with the regional candidates from Nursing Spectrum’s six other circulation areas, and Bernetta Pearson, RN, was chosen as the national Nursing Spectrum Nurse of the Year (see"Nurse of the Year: The Power of Heart, Mind, and Soul" ).

Nursing Takes Flight

Hamilton, our area finalist, serves as the chief flight nurse for Aeromedical Transport Specialists, Inc (ATS) in Manassas, VA. Her application form, submitted by John P. Bryant, MD, the operational medical director at ATS, attests to both her love of flight nursing and her entrepreneurial spirit. When the Virginia air ambulance division was closed due to reduction in government programs, Hamilton, along with her husband, incorporated ATS, a fixed-wing air ambulance service.

Recognizing that there was no formal training for hospital-based flight programs, Hamilton developed such a program, and to date has trained more than 2,000 medical professionals from nine countries. Along the way, she has published numerous articles and several books on flight nursing. Hamilton also makes time to volunteer with a local fire and rescue department, averaging between 75 and 100 hours each month. “Her role as a street paramedic has served to promote the highest standards of patient care,” says Bryant.

Whatever her arena, Hamilton demonstrates the creativity of a field medic with her nursing clinical skills. One crew member even referred to her as “Mrs. MacGyver” [from the popular television show] after she extended the battery life of a portable transport ventilator by using alligator clips and a battery charging cable on a long patient flight to Thailand. When asked about this incident, Hamilton explains, “We were transporting a ventilator dependent patient with Lou Gehrig’s disease, along with seven members of her family. Her life was totally dependent on battery operated equipment, so I had to quickly determine what would extend the power.”

Fifteen years ago, Hamilton was diagnosed with the connective tissue disorder, known as scleroderma. “I was told at that time that I had seven years left to live,” she explains. In a letter to Nursing Spectrum, her husband says, “She was convinced that if she slowed down, she would surely die, so Karen chose, instead, to better herself and her nursing career.” Hamilton started a bicycling non-profit organization, called the Care Bears Team, Inc., to promote awareness and raise research funding to aid in the fight against scleroderma.

“My love of cycling began when I started as a travel nurse and used a bike as transportation to work,” Hamilton explains. “Nursing has been my life, and intertwined with everything I am. I can’t imagine doing anything else.” Despite persistent joint problems and other effects of the disease, she and her husband have biked more than 12,000 miles to further the awareness and funding for this little known disorder.




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