When I first started working the evening shift on the Neuro floor, Taylor back in 1980, I used to get so annoyed by the report I would get from one of the day shift nurses. She would always say exactly how much to feed a baby, how often to burp it, how to turn a patient, how to give a patient their medicine. I used to think “does she think I’m stupid?” but what I came to learn was that she was just always about the patients and wanting to make sure that the care they got was the best . I ultimately realized we shared a similar philosophy about patient care and became close friends. With the encouragement of Dr Morrison and Joanne Vignari we joined the American Academy of Neuroscience Nurses and studied and became certified. We learned as much as we could about neuroscience and neurosurgery; Maria developed a special interest in patients with brain tumors. She soon became an expert on preoperative and postoperative care. More than that, she became a staunch advocate for these patients. She would always be there for the parents when they received this terrible diagnosis. She is able to encourage them to keep having hope when they feel there is none. She is not afraid to show her feelings and cry with them. She lets them know how much they matter.
She started a Brain tumor support group and became involved with the pediatric brain tumor foundation to insure her patients would get the help they needed. Every year she throws a Christmas party for these kids and makes sure that they are smothered in gifts!
She was eventually made “Assistant Head Nurse” on Taylor and because of her incredible skill as a neurosurgical nurse, she was abducted by Dr Morrison to help him, help his patients. She became a skilled OR assistant and was used this to be better able to tell her young patients and their families exactly what would happen in the OR. She continues to be there constantly for these patients as well as any other Neurosurgical patient that needed help. She taught the nursing staff on Taylor and then 3 South how to properly care for these patients. She stuck them into Dr Morrison’s schedule even when he was not thrilled with seeing one more patient. She made sure they got their surgery when they needed it and when the family wanted it. Her patients and their families know they have an ally in Maria and she will always be there for them.
A LETTER FROM A FAMILY
I would like to let you know how much I appreciate the special care I was given by Maria Penate she not only showed professionalism but Maria was caring, loving and very helpful to my daughter Ashley. Maria always put her heart into helping Ashley first.
Maria, the assistant nurse to Dr. Morrison, has help my daughter, Ashley through several surgeries and procedures done at Miami Children hospital. Without Maria, standing by her side throughout these things we as a family could not have made it through. Maria is someone on your staff that you should be very, very proud of. Her compassion, understanding, strength, professionalism, and kindness to my family and our daughter will never be forgotten. She calmly handled all the details from how to tell Ashley about the surgery to actually walking us to the operating room. Maria was there after the surgeries to answer any questions we had whether they were repeated ones or serious ones. Her strength became our strength and I truly appreciate her help. Maria has even helped us this year through yet another surgery that she did not have to help with. Maria has been a God sent to us and is a very special person to our family. Thank you so much Maria.
The Howell Family
It has been my honor and privilege to work with her. She has always pushed and inspired me to be better. I can think of no one who better describes the kind of nurse that the inspired the Barnes family to create this award.