Two Emory Healthcare nurses received top honors from the 2023 Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s (AJC) Celebrating Nurses program for going above and beyond their duties as exceptional nurses in their respective roles. The AJC honored 10 extraordinary nurses and one nurse leader, chosen from nearly 1,000 nominations, during an awards luncheon on May 12 at Crown Plaza Ravinia in Atlanta.

Mark Lee, BSN, RN-BC, a nurse scholar who works on the 7E Complex Medicine Unit at Emory University Hospital, was recognized as one of 10 statewide Celebrating Nurses awardees this year from the AJC, while Millie Sattler, DNP, RN, CCRN, Emory Healthcare Corporate Director of Retention and Career Development Strategy, was honored as the sole nursing leadership awardee this year.

“Congratulations to Mark Lee and Millie Sattler for being recognized as two of AJC’s Celebrating Nurses honorees this year,” says Sharon Pappas, PhD, RN, FAAN, chief nurse executive for Emory Healthcare. “We are so appreciative of the care and compassion they put into their nursing roles at Emory, knowing their efforts promote healthy environments for both patients and nurses alike.”

Mark Lee, BSN, RN-BC

Lee began his career as a nurse just three years ago in March 2020 at Emory University Hospital as the COVID-19 pandemic began, embracing patient care on a different level. “Working at the bedside every week during the early part of the pandemic made it clear to me this is what I need to be doing,” says Lee. “My goal every day was to provide top-notch nursing care during a difficult time for patients, families and team members. One does not realize how many hats a nurse wears until you become one.”

Lee comes to work each day ready to plan how he will make a difference for his patients, their families and his fellow nurses, yet is flexible in adapting those plans as needed.

“Mark’s true compassion is best demonstrated by how he tailors his nursing care to the needs of each of his patients to provide the best patient-and-family-centered care,” says Lee’s supervisor, Betsy Augusthy, MSN, RN-BC, unit director of 7E Complex Medicine at Emory University Hospital. “Mark is also a servant leader, filling in as charge nurse on weekends, picking-up shifts when the unit is short-staffed and switching shifts when a colleague needs a day off. He also precepts new nursing graduates and experienced nurses when they join the unit.”

Besides his diverse leadership roles on the unit, Lee is committed to improving the experience for patients and nurses alike through his work on hospital and system-wide professional governance councils. He chairs both the Emory University Hospital Exemplary Professional Practice Council and the Emory Healthcare Professional Nurse Practice Council, bringing out the nurse’s voice on policy and practice changes that influence the systems more than 8,000 nurses. He also serves as an inaugural member of the RN Clinical Advisory Council on Wellness to promote wellness across the organization through Emory’s Office of Well-Being (EmWELL).

“On these practice councils, Lee’s position at the bedside allows him to speak genuinely about what nurses need,” says Augusthy.

Lee received a bachelor’s degree in international development from University of California at Los Angeles and a master’s degree in global health from Georgetown University. He first began his career in global health focusing on maternal and child health and the impact of malnutrition in these populations. While he enjoyed his work in public health, Lee recognized a calling to go into nursing and work directly with patients, receiving his BSN from Emory’s Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing in 2019.

While his time in the nursing profession is just beginning, Lee is already thinking about his next steps in nursing. As he remains an Emory nurse at the bedside, he is concurrently a doctoral student at the Yale University School of Nursing in the Healthcare Leadership, Systems and Policy Program.

Lee says the day patients go home is what he likes most about nursing practice. “Working with a patient who comes to the unit on a stretcher and is leaving on their own two feet is what it is all about.”

Millie Sattler, DNP, RN, CCRN

Sattler’s nursing career spans nearly 40 years. Before coming to Emory, she worked as a nurse in an emergency department, critical care cardiovascular intensive care unit and as a flight nurse in several states in the northeastern U.S. In 2016, she wished to move to Atlanta for a position at an academic medical center that was also designated as a Magnet facility for nursing excellence. Sattler was then hired as the director of interventional radiology at Emory Saint Joseph’s Hospital. One year later, she moved into her current role as Emory Healthcare Corporate Director of Retention and Career Development Strategy for the system’s 11 hospitals and Emory Clinic (of which five are designated as Magnet facilities).

“My position involves retaining nurses at Emory Healthcare, making sure they are celebrated for their accomplishments and helping nurses grow professionally and be recognized for that growth in their specialty area,” says Sattler. She does this by enhancing nursing recognition and reward and by overseeing nurse advancement programs.

“Upon moving into this position, Millie interviewed nurses asking them what differentiated Emory nursing and discovered what made them proud about their work,” says Polly Willis, MSN, RN-BC, director of nursing clinical excellence and the Magnet program at Emory University Hospital and Emory University Hospital at Wesley Woods, and colleague of Sattler’s. “Millie focused on the image of nursing by ensuring robust participation in the DAISY Award program in each of Emory Healthcare’s entities, more than tripling the number of nurses and teams receiving DAISY Awards.”

The DAISY Award for Extraordinary Nurses is both a national and international on-going recognition of the clinical skills and compassion nurses provide to patients and families all year long. Sattler also introduced the DAISY Leader Award, which was given to system nursing leaders who led nursing through the initial states of the pandemic.

Focusing on professional development for nurses, Sattler led a clinical lattice program called the PLAN (Professional Lattice Advancement of Nurses) Council that assists nurses with advancing their education, certification or taking on additional accountability to improve safety and quality. “Under Sattler’s leadership, PLAN Council participation increased by 30% across Emory Healthcare and monthly PLAN Council virtual meetings grew by 187% for Emory Clinic nurses during the pandemic,” according to Willis.

Sattler also developed advancement programs for LPNs (licensed practical nurses) and nurse technicians to advance their knowledge, and subsequently their salaries, increasing retention within these groups. Her work was recognized by The American Nurses Association, when the PLAN Council received a prestigious 2021 Third Place All Professional Team Award.

Known as the “Emory Healthcare nurse retentionist,” Sattler has battled through the pandemic, even as many nurses considered leaving the profession. She has innovated retention efforts that align with each generation’s needs and values to retain more nurses at Emory.

“I have worked with tenured nurses to shift them into telehealth or patient navigation positions to keep them at Emory instead of retiring, as well as younger nurses who are just beginning their careers,” says Sattler. “My goal is to learn what a nurse’s dream job may be and help them on their journey to find their best fit within our organization.”

Figures from the last four years show at least 200 nurses a year have been retained, thanks to the work of Sattler. Those 800 nurses otherwise would have left Emory for retirement or positions elsewhere.

Sattler obtained a diploma from St. Elizabeth’s School of Nursing, her BSN from Youngstown State University in Ohio, a master’s degree in executive leadership from Chamberlain University, and a doctor of nursing practice degree from Chamberlain University.

In all, 28 Emory nurses were nominated for the 2023 AJC’s Celebration Nurses program.


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