Anne Arundel Medical Center (AAMC) Nurses Aja Errera and Lisa Kirchner have been recognized in the Washington Post and American Nurses Association’s 2020 Star Nurses award program. Aja is a finalist and Lisa is a nominee of the award program honoring leading women and men at the front lines of health care in Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia. Finalists will be celebrated in a virtual ceremony in September.
The award comes during the “Year of the Nurse,” a declaration by the World Health Organization in honor of the 200th anniversary of the birth of Florence Nightingale.
“Every day, Aja and Lisa ensure that we provide quality patient care at Anne Arundel Medical Center as dynamic members of our nursing care teams,” said Barbara Jacobs, chief nursing officer at AAMC. “They deserve to be recognized not only for their dedication to the patients at AAMC but also to their fellow staff members.”
Providing great patient care is personal for Aja who became a mother at 15. After a less than pleasant emergency C-section and non-supportive staff during her postpartum stay at a hospital in Montgomery County, she was determined to achieve her goal of becoming a nurse.
“I ultimately chose the Mother-Baby Unit because I knew that nurses spent more time at the bedside and provided direct care,” Aja says. “I wanted a chance to instill strength and perseverance in teen mothers to prove the stereotypes wrong. After all, if I can raise a healthy baby, continue school and work full time other teen mothers can too.”
Despite being a full time police dispatcher while attending college, she graduated with honors.
Aja, a clinical supervisor on the Mother-Baby Unit, began her career as a nurse six years ago. She joined AAMC in 2016. Aja completed her clinical work at AAMC, and always wanted to secure a position at the medical center. Her role often includes teaching first-time mothers the skills needed to care for their new babies.
“I love what I do and I’ve just always had a passion to help and educate people,” Aja says. “I was a teen mom. I had everything stacked against me not to make it. To come this far, to be nominated as a Star Nurse is wonderful. It’s been a long road, but I haven’t given up. For anyone trying to take the road to nursing or anything else, just don’t give up.”
Pro tip: “My favorite quote is from Eleanor Roosevelt, ‘the future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.’ If you have determination and a passion to do something, you can do it. It doesn’t matter how many times you are turned away, your failures make you who you are. Your failures will make you stronger eventually.”
Lisa prefers to stay out of the spotlight. As a clinical quality specialist, she enjoys her role as a support figure for nurses. Lisa ensures that they have the tools to excel in their day-to-day work.
“I’m surprised and delighted by this nomination,” Lisa says. “It takes time to sit down and put a nomination together. I’m very humbled that someone took the time to do that for me and to recognize all the good things that I’ve tried to do all these years.”
Lisa has been a nurse for 36 years. She has worked at AAMC for the past nine. During her senior year in high school she decided to become a nurse. She made the decision after spending close to four days in the hospital with appendicitis. Oddly enough, it wasn’t a real-life nurse who inspired her to pursue nursing.
“I had appendicitis and I was in the hospital for close to four days watching a marathon of MASH episodes. Margaret Houlihan was my nurse inspiration,” she says, with a laugh.
In her current role, she examines nursing quality data. In her previous position as a clinical educator in the Heart and Vascular and Neuro Care Units, her work included facilitating new hire orientation, maintaining nursing competency and being a clinical resource for the staff.
“For most of my career, my focus has been to help staff become even better clinicians, by providing them the knowledge, tools and resources to provide the best care to our patients,” Lisa says.
Pro tip: “I always ask this question before we get started on anything, ‘Do we know what we are talking about, and is it the right thing to do for the patient?’ The patient is our number one priority. That’s pretty much what I live by.”