Michelle Hokanson
2005 Grand Prize Winner (Student Nurse Category)
Student, RN Program
Montgomery College, Conroe, TX
“ The greatest thing about beginning your nursing career is the potential for ideas. If you think there is something that could be improved, tell someone! If you have a suggestion as to what could make things better, cultivate that plan. Tell someone your ideas, and make it happen!  Your actions may revolutionize healthcare.”
Michelle Hokanson
Montgomery College Student Nurse Wins Cherokee Inspired Comfort Award
Cherokee Uniforms Recognizes Michelle Hokanson

Shocked and elated are merely understatements for the feelings that Michelle Hokanson experienced when she was awarded the Cherokee Inspired Comfort Award. During a surprise celebration, it was unveiled that Michelle was the Grand Prize Winner for the student nurse category of the 2005 Cherokee Inspired Comfort Award, one of the nation’s premier nurse and healthcare honors.

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.

Michelle, a student in the registered nurse program at Montgomery College, in Conroe, Tex., was chosen from among 1,300 nominations for developing culturally specific and innovative pain-assessment scales to help nurses accurately understand and manage patients’ pain. From her experience in the field, Michelle knew that a patient’s pain assessment could be better managed if there existed a universal pain scale that addressed all genders and cultures.  With extensive research on the topic underway, Michelle worked day and night to develop a more encompassing scale – as part of an honor’s project. 

Not realizing the potential of this issue, Michelle was stunned when she was awarded first place for her honor’s project at Montgomery College. Once word of her innovative pain scale spread, she was invited to present her idea at the University of Kansas Great Plains Honors Conference in April 2005. Michelle was overwhelmed with the feedback, but still wasn’t convinced the project was feasible in reality. To her, it was still a research paper.

Winning the 2005 Cherokee Inspired Comfort Award has instilled hope in Michelle.  “Winning this award is the catalyst to making things happen. This is a dream come true and I now know it was meant to be,” Michelle said after receiving the overwhelming news.

Michelle said she feels that the greatest part of pursuing a career in nursing is the influence she has on people every day. When asked to give advice to other student nurses, she offered:  “If you think there is something that could be improved, tell someone! If you have a suggestion as to what could make things better, cultivate that plan! You never know when your actions may revolutionize healthcare.” 

Michelle has maintained a 4.0 GPA in her nursing courses, is a hospice volunteer, and works full time at a local hospital.

As a Grand Prize Winner, Michelle will receive an all-expense-paid cruise for two to the Cayman Islands, a crystal award and a wardrobe of Cherokee healthcare apparel and Rockers Footwear worth $1,000. She also will appear in the nationally distributed Cherokee Inspired Comfort Award 2006 calendar.

Since the Cherokee Inspired Comfort Award was established in 2003, more than 3,400 healthcare 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 chooses winners.

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: Kathleen Monahan (Director of Montgomery College Honors Program)  
Michelle Hokanson's innovation is a pain assessment scale that she developed and to be culturally sensitive. Two models were created: one for a Hispanic female and one for an African-American male. The scale uses photographs of people whose body language expresses physical pain. The nurse using the scale will ask the patient to select the picture that best describes his/her pain level. The scale was created with the idea that all cultures do not express pain in the same manner, and that a more multidimensional model was needed for more accurate representation. The scale was developed as an honors project and Michelle was awarded first place in the college's honors project competition.
Michelle was also invited to present her project at the University of Kansas Great Plains Honors Conference in April 2005. Michelle was awarded a travel grant for attending this conference by the Great Plains Honors Council. It is my understanding that a faculty member from the University of Texas Health Science center assisted Michelle with some background information on the subject of the misrepresentation of pain in minority communities. Michelle hopes to publish her findings in the near future.
Montgomery College Student Nurse Wins National Award Mont. College Nursing Student Wins National Award
Houston Student Nurse Creates Culturally-Sensitive Pain Scale, Wins Top Honors  
Houston Student Nurse Changing Face of Healthcare One Patient at a Time