Nurse of the Year is who ‘we should all aspire to be’

May 12, 2021
a man in blue nurse scrubs hugs a woman in a cream business suit inside st Lukes chapel
Nurse of the Year Luc Gagne, R.N., hugs chief nursing officer Patti Hart, DNP, after the ceremony at St. Luke's Chapel at MUSC in Charleston. Photos by Sarah Pack

After 40 years of nursing, Luc Gagne, R.N., is still the nurse on the floor who is everywhere, ever ready to lend a hand to fellow nurses, always attentive to his patients and upbeat and enthusiastic about his job.

Monday, he was honored as the MUSC Health-Charleston Nurse of the Year for 2021.

“Luc is the nurse that we should all aspire to be. Hardworking, compassionate and dedicated to his patients and their families,” said fellow nurse Karoline Hill, R.N., who nominated him for the honor.

Hill wrote that she knew from the first time she worked with him that Gagne would teach her and mold her into the type of nurse about whom patients and families fondly reminisce years later.

“The one thing that separates him from all other nurses is his true determination to make sure patients and families are cared for until the very end, whether that’s the end of life, being transferred to the floor or discharged to home. He puts every ounce of energy that he has into his nursing practice,” she wrote.

Gagne said nursing work is not hard to him.

“It’s where I need to be, where I feel I need to be. My wife tells me all the time, ‘Are you not tired?’ But it’s not hard,” he said.

As a high schooler in Canada, Gagne wanted to go into physical therapy. But that program was very competitive, so when he wasn’t accepted, the university steered him into forestry.

“Forestry? In the forest? No, not going there,” Gagne said. He did end up doing one semester of the program, but, he said, “That was not me at all.”

a woman speaking at a podium cups her hand in a gesture to the audience 
Empathy educator and patient advocate Tena Brown reminded nurses of the power their love and compassion have for patients and families.

Instead, he pursued nursing, and the career has been a perfect fit. Gagne worked with the Inuits, traveled to Saudi Arabia and worked in Florida and Vermont before settling in Charleston, where he has worked for more than 20 years. In two weeks, he will celebrate 40 years as a nurse – 45 years of patient care once you include his time as a patient care tech.

The best feeling is at the end of the day when he knows he’s done a good job, he said. And at this point in his career, he is eager to pass on all that he’s learned over the years.

In addition to Gagne, the event honored a nurse from each unit in the hospital. Monday’s celebration at St. Luke’s Chapel was part of Nurses Week, a national celebration that ends on May 12, Florence Nightingale’s birthday. The hybrid in-person/streaming event represented an end to this phase of the COVID response, said MUSC Health-Charleston CEO David Zaas, M.D., as one of the first in-person events held on campus since March 2020.

Patti Hart, DNP, chief nursing officer, thanked the nurses for their perseverance, especially in these times of uncertainty.

“Over this past year, we have had many challenges thrust upon us, and I am so proud of what we have accomplished,” she said.

Guest speaker Tena Brown, an empathy educator and patient advocate, recounted her own health journey as well as that of a woman with a rare skin condition who felt herself alone in the world because her doctor, although medically exceptional, didn’t consider her mental and emotional needs.

She loves nurses for all they do, she said, and encouraged the nurses to continue to become more compassionate and loving.

“You have so much power. Each and every one of you. And maybe you don’t have the power to heal someone, but you do have power to love someone and care about someone. And I want you to know, from a patient's perspective, that is more important sometimes than anything. That you hear us, that you care about us, and that you listen to us,” she said.

Zaas, who recently has had his own health care journey, reiterated Brown’s point.

“The impact that the nurses had on me and my family is something I will always appreciate and recognize,” he said.

Now, as CEO, he receives countless letters from patients and families.

“The most common theme they highlight is the excellence and compassion of our nurses,” he said.

That, he added, has been particularly true during this past year, when many families could not be with their loved ones in the hospital.

a group photo of masked nurses inside St Lukes Chapel 
Nurse of the year unit nominees for MUSC Health-Charleston.

2020-2021 Nurse of the Year nominees

Alicia Amon, RN  8 East Main Nichole Godi, BSN, RN  5 South Main
Joey Amundsen, BSN, RN STBICU Tasha Higgins, BSN, RN Total Joint Replacement
Teresa Anderson, BSN,RN, CCRN West Ashley Surgery Facility Rachel Jakins, BSN, RN 5 East ART
Ellen Ard, BSN, RN Hollings Clinic Ty Jenkins, ADN, RN Womens Ambulatory
Lauren Bates, RN 8 West/9 West Main Shawn Jenkins, BSN, RN 6 West Main
Jake Bennett, BSN, RN CVICU Brittany Jones, BSN, RN SJCH 2 Critical Care
Kelley Berg, BSN, RN 7 East ART Pamela Kilpatrick, ADN, RN West Ashley Ambulatory Surgical Center
Angela Biela, ADN, RN Pediatric Emergency Dept. Danielle Klinski, BSN, RN Labor & Delivery
Leslie Brooks, ADN, RN 7 West Main Carrie Laird, BSN, RN-BC IOP Youth Psych
Rebecca Brosnan, RN, DNC Specialty Surgery & Spine Shay Limehouse, ADN, RN  SJCH 3 Heart Center
Heather Brown, BSN, RN SJCH 9 Acute Care Hillary Linskey, BSN, RN  SJCH OR
Shannon Bruer, BSN, RN SJCH 3 Stepdown Tiffany McPherson, MSN, RN, CPN SJCH 8 Acute Care
Briana Childers, BSN, RN IOP Senior Care Unit Amber Mead, BSN, RN, BMTCN, OCN  7 West ART
Carly Clarke, RN, MBA Neuro/ENT & Sinus Ambulatory Amanda Miller, MSN, RN  Summey Medical Pavilion OR
Shannon Collette, BSN, RN OR Erin Moock, LPN Carolina Family Care
Crystal Culbertson, BSN, RN, RNC Mother Baby Unit Josh Moran, BSN, RN  IOP Addictions Unit
Aiyoria Dash, MSN, RN IOP 3 North Benjamin Murphy, BSN, RN Meduflex
Jennie de Leon, BSN, RN, CPN Children's After Hours Clinic Erica Neuhaus, RN  Adult Emergency Department
Mary Deluca, BSN, RN Ambulatory Kelly Pelletier, ADN, RN  6 East ART
Myrna Divinagracia, BSN, RN-BC IOP Acute Care Unit Jill Pentz, RN Chest Pain Center
Alicia Dollahan, BSN, RN, CCRN  5 South-West Main ICU Nicole Paterson, RN, CNOR  ART OR
Jennifer Draeger, RN Hollings Infusion Stephanie Pettiet, BSN, RN MICU
Lindsey Durga, BSN, RN  SJCH 10 Cancer Center Melissa Rabon, ADN, RN  6 East Main
Arianne Easton, BSN, RN SJCH Prep & Recovery Heather Schapp, BSN, RN, PCCN 4 East ART
Bethany Evans, RN  SJCH NICU Christina Silva, BSN, RN  Ambulatory Transplant
Johana Fajardo, DNP Heart Failure Tiffany Solari, RN  3 West ART
Carnice French, MSN, MHA 6 West ART Reynald Suan, RN  Dialysis
Lisa Fullen, BSN, RN 5 West ART Lydia Thompson, LPN  Carolina Family Care
Luc Gagne, BSN, RN  MSICU Katherine Walkden, RN  D Pod
Melanie Geradts, BSN, RN, SCRN  9 East Main Erin Wilkinson, RN 
Prep & Recovery, ART 
Leslie Gilbert, BSN, RN VAD Team

Jessica Giordano, MSN, RN, CMSRN 10 West Main