The Legendary Nurse Awards began in 2015 to honor exemplary nurses across the Legendary State of North Dakota. With over 20,000 nurses statewide, nurses form the backbone of the health care system and are a vital part of many different settings as reflected by each year’s award winners.


Leadership Award- Brittney Mueller, NDSU Nursing at Sanford Health, Bismarck

Brittney Mueller has served as the simulation coordinator for NDSU Nursing at Sanford Health for 5 years. and in that time, she has made remarkable contributions to the school’s pre-licensure nursing program. She has taken the initiative to develop and implement four brand new simulation experiences within the curriculum. These experiences include a leadership and management simulation that allows students to practice prioritizing and caring for multiple patients and a mental health simulation that requires students to communicate with and care for a patient experiencing hallucinations and suicidal ideation. Very few students get these types of learning opportunities during their clinical rotations, and the rich learning experiences created by the nominee help students gain confidence and competence in their nursing skills. Among her fellow faculty members, she is an advocate for the use of technology and active learning to improve student outcomes. Her leadership skills are clearly exceptional and worthy of recognition. She never hesitates to take the lead to make a change that will enhance students’ learning experiences, improve the pre-licensure nursing curriculum, or streamline the efficiency of operations within her organization. She is truly an exemplary leader and a legendary nurse.


Clinical Practice Award- Amy Gotvaslee, Sanford Health Bismarck

Amy Gotvaslee was an RN in the Emergency Room for years prior to obtaining her FNP degree. After she obtained her degree, she started seeing patients in the clinic that I have been going to for years. She has helped me in so many ways, words cannot describe it. I previously had a brain tumor back in 2010-2011. I went through Chemo and Radiation, which caused a lot of side effects. With the help of Amy, I can function almost as good as before Cancer treatments- this is a true miracle! My doctors at Mayo told me that I was not going to be able to work and claim disability. Amy always had my health as a priority and does a full check-up per my chart. She looks for thigs that others might have missed or would be wise to do (Labs, X-rays, Ultrasounds etc.). She always takes the extra minute or two to chat or talk to you about other things going on in your life. She is my hero!


Clinical Practice Award- Brittany Larson, Essentia Health Fargo

My mom was introduced to Brittany on one of the most traumatic days of her life as the nurse’s voice was the first she heard, encouraging her to open her eyes. Asking her if she knew her name, where she was, and the litany of questions asked of victims of a stroke. My mom had been undergoing cancer treatment when she had a stroke and was rushed into the hospital, into surgery, and finally into the nurse’s care in the critical care unit. Mom had her nurse’s kind voice and caring spirit guiding her each step of the way. The strength of character her nurse exemplified was inspiring. She has extensive knowledge of critical care, a positive approach and dedication to her work. What makes her extraordinary is her empathy. She stands with the patient, seeing them being in the moment with them.  In speaking to the hospital chaplain about the care provided and the chaplain said that we are not alone; many families share with her valuable this nurse has been to their loved one’s care. This legendary nurse has had an impact on my family beyond those days of care she provided in the critical care unit. She has enriched our lives and walked alongside us as we said our final goodbyes to a beloved wife, mother and grandmother.


Faculty Achievement Award- Margaret Mackowick, North Dakota State University, Fargo

Her nominator had the honor of learning from Margaret Mackowick in three courses in their undergraduate BSN program. Her passion for nursing was evident in every lecture, including Gerontology, Adult Health and Adult Health III. She remembers her lecture style as engaging and innovative, as she shared her wealth of experience as a nurse and connected it with the course content. Her teaching style is vivid and colorful. As a nurse in practice at the bedside, I am transported back to the classroom with her clear explanation of the disease process or treatment methodology. She is honored to be Margaret’s colleague and am grateful that she continues to serve as her mentor. Her passion for nursing education is contagious, and she inspires all of us with her integrity and poise. She has positively impacted the lives of hundreds of students over her 25+ nursing education career. Her legacy in nursing is one of passion, joy and advocacy.


Faculty Achievement Award- Becky McDaniel, North Dakota State University, Fargo

Our nursing instructor teaches full time at the North Dakota State University Nursing program in Fargo. She uses a variety of teaching methods in attempts to reach her students’ learning needs. She uses skits, role playing, guest speakers and case studies to engage her students. On Valentine’s Day she provided each of her students a valentine with the name of a psychotropic medication attached. Students were required to look up the medication prior to eating the treat. During the mandatory quarantine, she put together a Facebook page for our class to support each other with our mental health along with additional training in suicide prevention. In addition to providing us with a variety of self-care activity assignments during COVID this spring. She went out of her way to communicate with students by phone calls or texts and met with students by zoom to review their exam scores. Her passion for education and the nursing profession is evident. She is positive and wants her students to be successful.


Nurse Executive Leadership Award- Shelby Quinn, Fargo VA Health Care System, Fargo

Shelby Quinn is the Associate Chief Nurse for Inpatient Care at the Fargo VA Health Care System. She has brought about numerous positive changes to inpatient nursing services. She has been instrumental in reducing the patient length of stay (LOS). She led a multi-disciplinary team that looked at opportunities for improvement and implemented a patient flow coordinator. The inpatient LOS went from a high of 4.96 days down to 3.43 days. During the COVID-19 pandemic her strong and steadfast leadership guided the inpatient units through the height of the crisis. One shining example of her ability to lead surrounds COVID-19 preparedness. Like many facilities we had a lot of information coming in a rapid fashion and there were constant changes. One thing she did was create the ultimate electronic tracking and communication tool. This provided a way to keep information regarding PPE, cleaning and COVID specific policies/procedures and communications all in one place. This was easily shared with staff across the facility to ensure that everyone had the latest information. Additionally, she created a nursing command center. This was crucial to maximizing our nursing leadership efforts as it established a hub to problem solve, streamline, and focus efforts and disseminate information. She then held a daily meeting with other members of management to ensure we were all on the same page. She has been the glue that keeps everyone together and moving in the same direction.


Rising Star Award- JoAnn Wierson, ND State Department of Health

JoAnn Wierson began her career with enthusiasm; her first job was at a large inpatient hospital. Later, she moved on to continue developing her nursing skills at a rural outpatient family clinic. She is currently employed at the ND State Department of Health. She is a team player and is supportive of her colleagues; she often collaborates with other departments. This new nurse utilizes the nursing process in her daily practice. She is efficient and manages her time effectively. She always shows passion and commitment towards her patients. This rising star witnessed patients’ wait times increased when labs or radiology tests were needed during a clinic visit. She collaborated with the laboratory and radiology departments to develop a streamlined patient process and implemented patient tracking cards. This shortened the wait times and increased patient and staff satisfaction by resolving confusion on where the patient needs to go next.


Evidence Based Practice Award- Kendra Roloff, Pelican Health, Bismarck

Kendra Roloff was nominated for an Evidence based Practice award because of a recent collaboration between her and the state medical school. She identified the need for increased knowledge of the history, collecting, diagnosing, and treating urinary incontinence in primary care. She recognized that the current guidelines set forth by the American Urological Association were not consistently being employed by family medicine physicians within the state. To improve primary care and patient outcomes, she designed and delivered education to family medicine residents via live and presentations, written materials and virtual opportunities which included current urologic recommendations for incontinence care.  Due to this successful collaboration, she was invited by the medical school to lecture annually to assure up-to-date distribution of scientific evidence, recommendations, and guidelines to their residents every year. The clinic associated with the medical school also decided to imbed a standardized and validated patient continence questionnaire into their EMR.  This serves as a perpetual tool for understanding current evidence and recommendations for patients with incontinence.


Champion for Nursing Award- Michelle Reitan, Fargo VA Health Care System, Fargo

Michelle Reitan is the safety officer for the Fargo VA Health Care System. Her contributions to nursing services and facility are invaluable. She conducts over 20 fire drills per year and educates staff regarding fire safety and emergency preparedness and evacuation. She worked tirelessly ensuring proper equipment was available for the care of COVID-19 patients. As soon as February, we were meeting and establishing facility recourses and needs. She scoured all avenues to place PAPR orders and worked with one of our pipefitters to retrofit some PAPRs to work with a different style of hood, greatly increasing PAPR resources. She worked with every area using PAPRs to ensure training completed and ensured additional resources were available should questions arrive. She worked with Environmental Services and SPS to procure a system to “clean” used N95 masks with a Xenex robot system. She personally research procedures and developed a facility specific procedure and go the entire system functional. She is a tremendous resource to our facility, working around the clock to ensure our staff were safe. I cannot put into words the difference she made during the pandemic. When every story around the world was filled with darkness, she was like a beacon of hope. The nurses could not have done what they did without her.


Champion for Nursing Award- Jennifer Ernst, Fargo VA Health Care System, Fargo

Jennifer Ernst is the Deputy Supply Chain Officer for the Fargo VA Health Care System. She is constantly collaborating and ensuring nursing has the equipment and supplies to do their job. She helps nursing management executive purchases from a few dollars to multi-million-dollar contracts. She executed over $3 million dollars’ worth of supplies and equipment purchases in less than 2 months to support COVID-19 operations; this took herculean effort and is virtually unheard of in the world of government acquisitions. Many supplies and equipment were difficult to find throughout the nation, yet she worked her magic, and we were fortunate enough to main an adequate supply of many things. She also collaborated with leaders across the facility to determine what current supply levels were, estimate a “burn rate” and determine a conservation and resupply approach. This included the establishment of a centralized PPE pickup station to ensure proper and controlled distribution, prevention of unauthorized distribution and keep a constant eye on levels. As nursing staff watch horrific stories of their colleagues working with inadequate PPE around the country, they took comfort in the fact that she was working tirelessly to ensure they were not in the same situation.