The March of Dimes, an organization that focuses on mothers’ and babies’ health, held their annual gala on October 1st. The event was virtual because of COVID-19. At the gala, the 2020 Oklahoma Nurse of the Year winners were announced, and Comanche County Memorial Hospital’s nurses were big winners.

The March of Dimes has been helping babies survive and thrive for the past 80 years. They believe babies deserve the best possible start.

“We want to make sure that all moms and babies are healthy and stay healthy, especially during this time, and March of Dimes has really stepped up,” Laurie Applekamp, the Executive Director of the March of Dimes said.

They hold the gala every year to recognize the outstanding nurses in 17 categories and also raise money for their cause. CCMH had the most nominations in the state, along with the most finalists. CCMH leadership sponsored a dinner for all nine finalists during the virtual awards event to recognize them for their dedication and hard work. They kept social distancing in mind as they were only allowed to bring one guest and sit at that table with their loved one.

Four CCMH nurses won in their category. Courtnie Alberry-Minnear won the Emergency category. Meagan Garibay won the Infection Control & Occupational Health category. Melissa Alavillar was recognized for her hard work in Nursing Administration by winning that category, and Torres Schlitte got the honor in Other Nursing Specialty. Nurses can be nominated by friends, family, coworkers, or even former patients.

“And they wanted to nominate the nurse because they thought they did wonderful care,” Applekamp said. “That’s what I’ve done. I’ve nominated nurses myself.”

Once the nomination happens, the nurses then have to fill out an application.

“And when they turn that application in that’s when it’s reviewed by the selection committee,” she said. “It is all under a blinded process, so none of the names are on the applications. It’s just like an ID number. So, it’s very anonymous. No one knows who they are. So, it’s truly on their merit, and what they do, and how they’re successful at being a nurse.”

We caught up with winner Alberry-Minnear, the winner of the Emergency category. She started working at CCMH in 2016.

“I grew up with my mom, who was really sick when I was younger,” Alberry-Minnear said. “I originally wanted to be a veterinarian tech, and then a physical therapist, and then all of the sudden, I was like I want to be a nurse.”

She uses her childhood experiences to be the best nurse she can be.

“I can relate to people because my mom was never treated well,” she said. “So, I can treat people better than expected to be treated.”

Alberry-Minnear not only work works in the emergency department but also works in the ICU at CCMH, and she’s in the National Guard.

“I really like the prehospital care,” Alberry-Minnear said. “So, I really enjoy being a part of prehospital care and emergency care. It’s been a big thing. I went to ICU to learn critical care skills so I could manage my care for my patients better.”

This was her first time being nominated for a March of Dimes award.

“I really wanted to be the best that I could be,” she said. “It’s constantly a learning experience and so getting this award is a huge achievement, and it’s kinda like all the hard work is paying off.”