Mae Centeno, CCNS, APRN, BC
2005 Top National Winner (RN Category)
Clinical Nurse Specialist
Baylor University Medical Center, Dallas, TX
“ The nurse is the core of patient care who pulls together all the healthcare providers affecting the plan of care. The nurse cares for the patient in such a holistic manner that patients are willing to share their own triumphs, failures, joys and sorrows. The nurse is an advocate for patients and their families at times when nobody else will.”
Mae Centeno, CCNS, APRN, BC

With hospital charges amounting to nearly 60 percent of the estimated $40 billion the United States spends annually to treat patients with heart failure, the success of one Texas nurse could serve as an impressive model for the nation. Mae Centeno, a clinical nurse specialist at Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas, created a clinical program that dramatically reduced her hospital’s repeat hospitalization rate for heart failure patients.

For enhancing how her hospital serves this high-risk patient population, Centeno has received the prestigious Cherokee Inspired Comfort Award, one of only 14 people honored nationwide in 2005. The award is granted annually by Cherokee Uniforms – a leading designer and manufacturer of healthcare apparel – to recognize nurses and other non-physician healthcare professionals who demonstrate exceptional service, sacrifice and innovation and have a positive impact on others’ lives.

“We are proud to honor Mae Centeno,” said Wendell Mobley, who directs the national award for Cherokee. “She initiated and implemented an impressive program to improve the quality of life for patients and their families. She also used research findings and evidence to improve the quality of healthcare in her community. By rethinking how care is delivered, Mae has helped and touched many patients in countless ways.”

As a Top National Winner in the award’s Registered Nurse category, Centeno receives an all-expenses-paid trip to a 2006 U.S. medical conference of her choice, an annual membership to a clinical organization, a $500 donation to the nonprofit organization of her choice, a wardrobe featuring the best of Cherokee Uniforms and Rockers Footwear worth more than $1,000, a 2005 Cherokee Inspired Comfort Award trophy and placement in Cherokee’s 2006 Inspired Comfort Award calendar.

She was nominated for the Cherokee Inspired Comfort Award by Sonya Flanders, her nursing colleague at Baylor, who said that Centeno is “a true role model for professional nurses. She takes the time to thoroughly assess and evaluate the needs of patients, and then provides both patient- and family-centered interventions.”

Centeno, who studied nursing in her native Philippines, has 20 years of clinical experience and has been named “nurse of the year” three times at Baylor, a medical facility consistently ranked among “America’s Best Hospitals” by U.S. News & World Report. “I love my work because it is a profession of caring that affects people from all walks of life, and my patients give a lot back to me personally.”

Her clinical nurse specialist title reflects her advanced training and specialized knowledge in treating congestive heart failure (CHF), a chronic and debilitating condition that can result from narrowed arteries or damaged valves, heart infections or defects or high blood pressure. CHF can be managed with surgery, medications, exercise and diet, but treatment options are limited – and many patients have trouble accepting their diagnosis and following a care plan. “When patients are labeled ‘non compliant,’ we need to ask why, because sick people want to feel better,” she said. “Sometimes there are roadblocks in their way, such as a limited budget to pay for travel and medications, an inability to read, living alone or a lack of support or resources we could provide.”

Recognizing the greater positive impact she and other providers could have on the quality of life for Baylor’s CHF patients, who have ranged in age from 17 to 101, Centeno established an intensive, multidisciplinary, health education program in 2003. In one-on-one sessions, Centeno, another nurse and a dietitian listen to their concerns and counsel them about medications and lifestyle changes. Her team also works closely with Baylor’s social services departments to coordinate home care and transportation assistance. Other program accomplishments for patients include a grant to give them weight scales for home, help paying for prescriptions through drug assistance programs and 24-hour phone access to cardiac nurses at Baylor.

Flanders pointed out that “physicians who were initially skeptical of the need for such a program now refer and send their most challenging patients to her.” As one measure of the program’s success, hospital readmission rates for heart failure patients 30 days following discharge have declined dramatically – from 18.9% to 2.4% – indicating they were better prepared once home to manage their own care and recovery.

Centeno has spearheaded her organization’s participation in medication research studies for heart failure patients. To enhance clinical practice, she also participates in formal and informal education for Baylor nurses as well as national speaking engagements. She is an active member in the American Association of Critical Care Nurses (she had a poster presentation at the national conference in May 2005), the American College of Cardiology, the National Association of Clinical Nurse Specialists and the Texas Nurse Practitioner Association. In addition, she recently established a clinic program for people with pulmonary hypertension, and she hopes to conduct research on heart failure risk factors and treatment approaches in the Hispanic population.

Since the Cherokee Inspired Comfort Award was established in 2003, more than 3,400healthcare professionals have been nominated in the Registered Nurse, Licensed Practical Nurse/Licensed Vocational Nurse, Student Nurse and Non-Physician Healthcare Professional categories. A panel of nursing professionals and Cherokee representatives evaluates nominations and grants the awards.

For every nomination in 2005, Cherokee Uniforms donated $1 to Nurses House, a national fund that provides short-term financial assistance to registered nurses facing serious hardship. Cherokee donated $1,300 to Nurses House in 2005.
Nominated by: Sonya Flanders (Cardiovascular Nurse Clinician, Baylor University medical Center, Dallas, TX
I am nominating Mae Centeno, who is a Certified Clinical Nurse Specialist in an outpatient heart failure clinic, for the 2005 Cherokee Inspired Comfort Award. Mae should be selected as the winner for excellence in registered nursing because, while she is truly exemplary in her current role in providing clinical care, she has been exemplary and gives her all to every job she has ever held in nursing.
Mae is highly skilled at meeting each patient's individual needs and takes the time to really assess and evaluate what those needs are and then provides patient and family centered interventions. Mae is a highly skilled clinician in times of crisis. She has participated in countless emergency scenarios supporting her colleagues and literally performing lifesaving interventions with the highest degree of competence. Mae is exceptionally knowledgeable already, yet she continually strives to add to her current knowledge through regular journal reviews, continuing education and participation in professional organizations.
Mae opened the heart failure program at our hospital a little over two years ago, and because of her ongoing ability to demonstrate excellent patient outcomes through her interventions the volume of patients referred to the clinic has grown exponentially. Physicians who were initially skeptical of the need for such a program now refer to her regularly for consults and send their most challenging patients to her for education, counseling and medication management. Mae has reduced 30-day hospital heart failure patient readmission rates from 18.9 percent to 2.4 percent by allowing patients to access one on one patient education with her via the heart failure program within three days after hospital discharge. In 2004, Mae applied for and received a grant allowing distribution of weight scales to needy heart failure patients prior to hospital discharge which has proven to reduce hospital readmissions in those patients.

Everyone who works with her from nurses to physicians to support staff would be glad to comment on her clinical excellence. On an individual patient basis, Mae has provided extensive counseling for patients who need extra attention to medication teaching. She spends hours with patients so they can better manage their own health. She doesn't give up when someone is labeled "non-compliant," but instead seeks to understand the nature of the problem and adapts her plan accordingly. She works with age groups from young teens to the very elderly, and is able to adjust her care appropriately. She goes above and beyond. Recently one of her patients went to an emergency room because his internal defibrillator had fired. The patient was discharged from the emergency department, but made contact with Mae later that day. She immediately made arrangements for further evaluation and determined the patient had experienced ventricular fibrillation, then collaborated with the physician to have that patient admitted to the hospital so medical therapy could be adjusted to minimize his risk. The bottom line is that Mae is a shining star clinically and professionally.

Mae seeks to enhance the nursing care of patients through education and support of colleagues. She provides both formal and informal education for nurses both in the hospital, locally, and nationally through speaking engagements. Mae is an active member in the American Association of Critical Care Nurses (she had a poster presentation at the national conference in May, 2005), the American College of Cardiology, the National Association of Clinical Nurse Specialists and the Texas Nurse Practitioner Association. Mae presents a positive image of nursing to everyone she comes into contact with, both other healthcare professionals and the general public. Her peers have nominated her as "nurse of the year" on three separate occasions.
Mae initiated our facility's participation in an important drug study for heart failure patients, and this has allowed several of our inpatient staff nurses to become involved in clinical research. She has been an educator, a preceptor, a charge nurse, a manager and councilor management chair. She is a true role model for professional nursing.