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South Texas Veterans Health Care System (STVHCS)

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An image of the DAISY Award Winner, her husband, and other VA staff.

Frank Tejeda Nurse Manager poses with her husband and nursing leadership after receiving her DAISY Award. (From L to R) Associate Director for Patient Care Services, Sharon Millican, Mary's husband, Richard, Mary Mather, and Deputy Associate Director for Patient Care Services Valerie Rodriguez-Yu.

By Steven Goetsch
Friday, December 2, 2016

The South Texas VA nursing staff recently selected their third DAISY Award recipient; Frank Tejeda Nurse Manager, Mary Mather. The DAISY Award is an international program, which is now represented in all 50 states and 14 countries.  The DAISY award recognizes and celebrates the extraordinary, compassionate and skillful care given by nurses.

The DAISY program was started at the Audie L. Murphy Memorial Veterans Hospital in late 2015, and the committee votes on nominees with a level of scrutiny befitting the DAISY.

The DAISY committee wanted to make the presentation a surprise, which was made difficult because
Mather, who is according to her staff, a very hands-on leader and manager, and is on top of everything that goes on in her unit. One nurse from Frank Tejeda even covertly invited her husband, Richard to the presentation, keeping him hidden until the announcement.

That secrecy paid off, and with the announcement came tears from Nurse Mather, who was overwhelmed by the recognition. The response was a testament to her personal investment into nursing and taking care of Veterans.
Mary Mather actually began her career in nursing in the private sector, and joined the VA in 2004. Her appointment to federal service was happenstance, as she was not even looking for a job.  The job sort of found her. “My husband is a Veteran, and when we moved here in 2004, we needed to establish his care,” said Mather. “The eligibility clerk asked what I did for a living, and I told her I was a nurse. After we were done, she took me down to the nursing office.”  The timing was perfect, as the South Texas VA was experiencing a nursing shortage. She was hired and began making a difference.

A nurse can be nominated for a DAISY by a patient, colleague, or even a supervisor. Mather was nominated by a consensus of nursing staff, led by Nurse Laura Hill, whose nomination led off with this:

“I have never met anyone – and especially a nurse manager, that is as dedicated as she is. Her dedication does not just extend to the wellbeing of the clinic; but also through her tireless efforts, to the nurses under her care and direction, and to her consistent reliability that she gives to the patients as well.”

Since that lucky day in 2004 when Mather and the VA crossed paths, Mary has made an impact on her entire staff, and she said it is always about the people. “I enjoy working with people and helping them with their problems,” Mather said. That was evident during the reading of her nomination which cited examples of Mary being there to assist with patient flow, getting time off, or even being a nurse to another nurse.

After a critical medical issue presented itself, Laura Hill explained how Mary was there for her. “After receiving a biopsy result, I walked into her office and fell completely apart,” Hill said. “She just hugged me and let me cry.”

Hill added more praise and placed her as one of the top nurse managers she has ever worked with in her 30 year nursing career.

A picture of the traveling wall banner with words of praise of current and former DAISY winners

At the South Texas VA, past and present winners of the DAISY Award are honored by having colleagues sign notes and well wishes for their accomplishment.

Beginning her career in a nursing home, Mather saw the difficult part of nursing, when patients were declined, or removed because of insurance, or lack thereof.  She has enjoyed her opportunity at the VA because she says doesn’t experience that in San Antonio.
“I have found that the VA has the most innovative and progressive care that I have seen,” Mather said. “We can provide whatever they need without limiting care to coverage from an insurance plan.”

Mather consistently goes the extra mile to ensure she does not let a Veteran experience any of the hardships she saw early on in her career. Another example of her selfless service from her nomination was a nurse who recounted an evening staying late with her, collectively attempting to assist a homeless Veteran gain access to a nursing rehab facility. Their persistence paid off and they avoided a possible discharge back to the streets.
She is fueled by her passion for serving, using smiles and business card as tools to let her staff and patients know she is someone they can come to when in need. “Caring for Veterans is very rewarding,” Mary said.  I enjoy helping them navigate the system since it can be very confusing and frustrating,” she added.

We thank Mary Mather for her service to our Nation’s heroes. If you know of a nurse who you think exemplifies the DAISY qualities, pick up a nomination form and drop it off in one of the boxes throughout the hospital, or drop it off with any outpatient clinic nurse manager or clerk.


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