After teaching for more than a decade, Mrs. Miller recently received the 2012 Circle of Excellence Award from the American Association of Critical Nurses (AACN) at the National Teaching Institute and Critical Care Exposition.
Mrs. Miller, 49, grew up in Wisconsin and earned a Bachelor of Science degree in nursing from the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh in 1984. Twenty years ago, she and her husband of 24 years, Troy, were driving through Tyler to visit friends and they never left. In 1992, she began working for Trinity Mother Frances Hospitals and Clinics in its Intensive Care Unit and since 1996, has been Mother Frances’ critical care educator.
Through the critical care residency class, Mrs. Miller teaches graduate nurses the information they need to care for ICU patients, helps them troubleshoot problems and facilitates team development.
“It’s a pretty big deal,” Mrs. Miller said. “I was surprised to get it … surprised and pleased.” She said although the award was given to her, she believes it is also for the team she works with.
Mrs. Miller also spends her time serving as president of Therapet, a nonprofit organization she has been involved with since 1994.
Therapet offers animal-assisted therapy, using animals to facilitate healing and rehabilitation of patients with acute or chronic diseases, according to Therapet.org.
She said they have 92 animals to service 21 facilities throughout East Texas, and they are working with The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas to start doing a program at its hospital. Mrs. Miller volunteers using two of her own animals.
“It’s neat to share my animals to help other people get better,” she said. “It’s a passion of mine for sure.” Mrs. Miller grew up with a Labrador. “I’m definitely a dog person,” she said. “People refer to me as the dog lady.”
Mrs. Miller teaches CCRN (Certification for Adult, Pediatric and Neonatal Critical Care Nurses) reviews for several chapters and is a well-respected keynote speaker for national health care conferences, according to the nomination written by Ms. Welch. Last year, Mrs. Miller donated the speaking fees from her reviews to the Greater East Texas Chapter of AACN to buy plaques to recognize nurses in the area who have achieved certifications.
Mrs. Miller served on the 2004-05 national AACN Nominating Committee and the national AACN Board of Directors from 2006 to 2009.
She also led the charge for redesigning the ICU preceptor program, which has led to positive outcomes for patients and staff, Ms. Welch wrote. The level of professional nursing in the ICU has been enhanced and the units have reduced their registered nurse turnover rate. Her efforts have helped the ICU staff achieve zero rates for central line-associated bloodstream infections and ventilator-associated pneumonia, the letter states.
Not only does Mrs. Miller teach at Mother Frances, she owns a business — Paws to Learn — from which she teaches certified courses and presents 10 to 15 conferences a year nationwide. She said a conservative estimate of how many nurses she teaches each year would be 500, but it is probably closer to 1,000. Each conference she teaches has 50 to 100 attendees, she said.
Mrs. Miller usually doesn’t think about all of the people she teaches.
“I just love what I do and I do it,” she said.
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