Medical Center of Aurora April 08, 2018

AURORA, Colo. – April 6, 2018 – HCA/HealthONE’s The Medical Center of Aurora (TMCA) announced today that Kerri Tillquist, RN, BSN, has received the national HCA Excellence in Nursing Award for Professional Mentoring. One of more than 80,000 nurses in the HCA network, Tillquist is a Critical Care Education Specialist at TMCA.

Tillquist always knew she wanted to be a nurse from the time she was hospitalized as a small child. “There wasn’t ever another option,” she says. “I once told my Father perhaps I would major in history, like one of my sisters,” Tillquist recalls. “He said history wouldn’t be my best choice because he always envisioned me caring directly for people in some way."

Tillquist, a Colorado native, graduated from Denver East High School and received her Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing from the University of Colorado. In 1992, she became an ICU nurse at Swedish Medical Center (SMC) in Englewood, Colorado. After a serious injury in 2008 left her unable to return to direct patient care for six months,  she was asked to serve as a subject matter expert for a new HCA critical care collaborative program, which she could do while on light duty as she recovered from her injury. Following her work with the collaborative, her passion for teaching and mentoring realized, she developed and established a Dedicated Education Unit (DEU) program in the ICU at SMC.  An innovative, evidence-based orientation program, the DEU is a collaborative, comprehensive orientation model that allows hospitals to cultivate their own ICU nurses. Also during her tenure at SMC, Tillquist developed a class for hospital-based nurses on Documentation and Legal Issues in Nursing, which she has now taught well over 50 times across the Denver area HealthONE Hospitals and Surgery Centers. 

In 2015, Tillquist became the Critical Care Education Specialist at The Medical Center of Aurora where she established its Dedicated Education Unit. In 2018, Tillquist is working with HealthONE ICU educators to adapt and expand the program to include all hospitals' new ICU nurses, ensuring they too receive consistent critical care education and support.

“I’m still a bit in shock," says Tillquist. “This is a huge honor and I am so humbled - I love being a critical care/ICU nurse, educator and mentor. I have a passion for learning and sharing what I learn with less experienced staff in the ICU."

“Kerri is a very special nurse,” says Dan Miller, President and CEO of The Medical Center of Aurora and Spalding Rehabilitation Hospital. “Her capacity to give is immense and she has a tremendous passion for teaching and mentoring. Her goal is to work with her critical care nurses until they excel. I admire her ability to think innovatively and continuously look at ways to improve our program,” he says. “She understands the educational needs of new critical care nurses, as well as the guidance and support they require to successfully engage and develop into highly skilled nurses. We are very lucky to have Kerri on our team and I am so proud of her accomplishments.”

“Ever since I was in high school, or college, I have been a little obsessed with the theme of the movie, ‘It’s a Wonderful Life.’ I have watched it many times and I relate to the idea of doing something meaningful with my life," Tillquist says. "A coach in college challenged several on our team with a Bible verse -'to whom much is given, much is expected,' and I have always held that close to my heart. At the end of the day, I believe we are called upon to make a difference in the lives of the people around us; patients, families and colleagues alike, especially in nursing and health care."

In late June, Tillquist, along with her husband and three daughters, her CEO and her Chief Nursing Officer, will travel to HCA’s headquarters in Nashville to receive her award at HCA’s Healthcare Awards of Distinction Ceremony.

About HCA’s Excellence in Nursing Awards

HCA offers two Excellence in Nursing Awards, one for Compassionate Care and another for Professional Mentoring. The HCA Excellence in Nursing Award for Professional Mentoring recognizes a mentoring nurse who advances nursing practice in any clinical setting or nursing specialty by guiding or supporting career development for individuals or groups of nurses or by advancing evidence-based nursing knowledge. Nursing peers, other hospital staff, physicians, patients, families and volunteers can submit nominations for the awards. A selection committee comprised of nursing representatives across HCA and members of the Chief Nursing Officer Council completes the final judging and selection of the award winners.