The staff at Tennova Healthcare – Harton gathered on Wednesday to honor Licensed Practical Nurse Maria Serna.

Serna is the first recipient of the hospital’s DAISY Award, which recognizes outstanding nurses.

The event coincided with National Nurses Week, celebrated May 6 through 12, and that made the occasion even more meaningful, said Teresa Teaff, Interim Chief Nursing Officer for Harton.  

“This was the first DAISY Award for this hospital,” Teaff said. “We will award one every quarter, starting now. There are boxes around the hospital and patients can nominate extraordinary nurses.”


‘A heart of a nurse’

The first award was well-deserved, said Teaff.

“The award winner today is Maria Serna,” Teaff said. “She takes care of the neuro patients and is one of the few neuro nurses at the hospital. We are so proud of her.”

The vast majority of patients nominated Serna.

“Maria got all the votes, with one exception,” Teaff said. “That tells you how great she is. She is very professional. She always has a smile as she takes care of patients. She does whatever is necessary – she has a heart of a nurse.”

With the event held during Nurses Week, it had a special significance. 

“This profession is important because we care for patients,” Teaff said. “It doesn’t matter what the situation is, if you are a nurse for the right reason, you want to be there for the patient and for the family to promote healing and make them as comfortable as you can in an unsettling environment.

“That’s what we do every day. Celebrating nurses week is important because nurses are sometimes underappreciated.”


Loving the profession

Serna has been a nurse for three years.

“That’s what I have always wanted to do,” Serna said. “I like everything about the profession. I love being with the patients. I like what I do and I like the people I work with, too.”

She said nurses have a positive impact on the healing process of patients.

“Nurses make a big difference in someone’s life,” Serna said. “Even if it’s just little things, such as saying something kind, caring for them or just bringing them something to drink.”

The award came as a surprise to Serna.

“It feels great,” she said.

Tennova Healthcare – Harton CEO Rich Ellis commended Serna and said she embodies all qualities of an exemplary nurse.

One of the most important qualities, he said, is clinical professionalism.

“Safe and quality care of patients is what is most important,” Ellis said. “Maria certainly embodies that.”

Compassion is also essential, he said.

“Patients are going through really tough times and that compassion she shows to every single patient is very important,” Ellis said. “She has compassion to a super-high degree.”

Praising all nurses, Ellis also stressed the importance of the profession.

“Nurses play such a key role in every hospital, and even outside of hospitals, in clinics and nursing homes,” Ellis said. “The role of the nurse is pivotal in patients getting better – getting not just proper medical care but getting proper human care, with compassion that aids the healing process and helps them through what can be extremely tough medical problems.”

“We are really proud of Maria and all of the nurses at the hospital,” Ellis said.



DAISY is an acronym for Diseases Attacking the Immune System, and was initiated by the DAISY Foundation, with Harton launching the program locally in October.

The DAISY Foundation was formed in 1999 by the family of Patrick Barnes, who died at the age of 33 of complications of Idiopathic Thrombocytopenic Purpura (ITP). The nursing care he received inspired his family to start the foundation, according to

Elena Cawley may be reached via email at