Distinguished Staff Award
Photograph of Julie Jothen Valley

Julie Jothen Valley

Radiation Oncology

Nominated by Kathleen Stine, Nurse Manager, Radiation Oncology/Cancer Center

Awarded 2012

It is an honor for me to nominate Julie Valley, Radiation Oncology RN2, for the Distinguished Staff Award; it is difficult for me to imagine anyone more deserving of the award. Julie is an incredibly talented, knowledgeable, and compassionate nurse. No task is beneath her pay grade nor beyond her skill level and she is heard often saying, “I love my job!” This is evident in everything she doe, in every relationship with patients and coworkers. Julie is dedicated to her patients and their families, her colleagues, and RadOnc, assuring not only the care she provides is of the highest quality and evidence-based, but also that the systems supporting quality patient care actually serve the patients, and are consistent across providers and departments. Her enthusiasm to and investment in the work she has chosen is extraordinary and it can be seen in caring for her patients and families, assuring a high level of engagement and collaboration within the clinic team, and being a model of service and dedication for colleagues young and old(-er!) There are three critical examples illustrating these points.

Julie not long ago had a patient with severe claustrophobia. This patient had been to several other providers and cancer centers for radiation treatment of his cancer and had left all of them before he received treatment due to his phobia and the inability of the other centers to help the patient manage it. With Julie’s care and encouragement and persistence, the patient not only entered six weeks of treatment, he completed it. There were days Julie literally followed the patient around the hospital to assure he was here for his treatment time, until he became comfortable and reliable enough to wander alone carrying a beeper. As Dr. Parvathaneni, the physician Julie works with, notes, every patient in the past 5 years has completed radiation treatment, a feat he attributes to Julie and her extraordinary care of their patients, and each of her patients as not only unique individuals, but iconic individuals as well.

Another of Julie’s patients, in a letter to Steve Zieniewicz (UWMC CEO), wrote: “My nurse extraordinaire was Julie Valley, whom I came to think of as my Mother Hen with an iron fist. She saved my life on several occasions and managed to shepherd me through the most difficult time of my life. I worship the ground she stands on. She willed me to get better. She would not tolerate anything but my very best effort. She is very smart and very kind. I owe her my life. I will never forget her and everything she did for me. I consider myself blessed to have had her as my nurse. Hiring her was the smartest thing U. of W. ever did.”

Julie will “not tolerate anything but” the best effort in herself either. Her intelligence, kindness, and persistent advocacy in getting the very best for her patients motivates her to look at systems’ changes to assure quality improvements. A particularly stunning example of this is her creation of a patient medication tool to improve patients’ understanding of post-chemotherapy drugs and also improved their ability to take these medications on schedule in order to prevent their often incapacitating nausea. In the past—for quite a time—patients receiving concurrent chemotherapy and radiation therapy have had great difficulties in the Radiation Oncology department with post-chemo medication regimens, nausea and vomiting, and hydration. When nothing else worked, Julie created a form providers and patients used together to both educate the patient and for the patient to log the medications they’d taken (and when they took them.) Julie then presented her template to MedOnc nurse manager and SCCA providers and made her case for the need for the log. The response was overwhelming from everyone. Julie’s template is going to be turned into a patient booklet and it will be used at UWMC and SCCA to guide post-chemo regimens for patients. Her system change will change the lives of her patients for years to come.

But it is not only patients for whom Julie comes to the rescue. She is as devoted to her coworkers as she is to her patients. She is the first to volunteer for a weekend shift when another nurse has something come up. During last year’s big snow storm, Julie left the hospital to walk home and found several colleagues waiting for buses (that never came.) She walked home, got her 4-wheeldrive car, came back to the hospital, picked everyone up, and delivered each of her frigid team members to their homes. Similarly, when one of RadOnc’s nurses broke her wrist, Julie was the one who helped out in the early days following the injury—walking the dog, helping with meals and dressing, providing comfort and support. The physician for whom Julie works has said he will not allow her to retire—you can understand why.

Julie is extremely deserving of the Distinguished Staff Award. Each day she demonstrates the standards of service excellence—more importantly she lives the values of service excellence, of Patients are First, and of the UWMC. And most people will not even know all her accomplishments and successes; compliments are most often met with rolling eyes and saying, “I just love my job!” Truly, her patient is right: hiring Julie is one of the smartest things the UW ever did. Bestowing on Julie the Distinguished Staff Award will affirm the UW fully realizes their intelligent design.

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