Linda Merkey, MBA, BSN, RN, NEABC and Lisa Liston are helping recognize nurses around the state through the March of Dimes Nurse of the Year awards.

by Bobby Anderson, Staff Writer

For nearly 10 years now, the March of Dimes has sought out the most compassionate nurses around the state to honor them with an evening they will never forget.
“Nurses don’t typically get recognized. When we brought this gala up nine years ago it was an opportunity to kind of recognize the unsung heroes of the communities of the state of Oklahoma,” said Linda Merkey, MBA, BSN, RN, NEABC and chair of the for the March of Dimes Nurse of the Year selection committee.
Over the course of 11 weeks, nurses are nominated by colleagues, supervisors or the families they have served.
At a culminating awards event, the March of Dimes then celebrates the profession and recognizes the most outstanding nurses in up to 18 diverse categories.
This year nominations will be accepted until this Friday, June 22 at
Exceptional nurses employed in the state of Oklahoma are eligible. All nominations are confidential and then blinded to pass through the selection committee with no identifying names or locations.
Approximately 54 nurses will be honored at a gala event on Oct. 4 at Embassy Suites Downtown Medical Center in Oklahoma City.
Linda Fanning, CNO of AllianceHealth Deaconess, serves as the chair of this year’s event.
Whether serving as health care provider, educator, researcher or advisor nurses play a critical role in advanced the March of Dimes mission to fight for the health of every mother and baby.
“The selection committee is a group of previous winners, nursing administrators and leaders from across the state who dedicate a full day of their time to recognize and go through these blind applications and nominations,” Merkey said. “It’s just the neatest event, it quite honestly is. It’s an opportunity for nurses to get dressed up, bring a family member or two and be recognized by their peers from across the state.”
Nearly a decade ago the nurse of the year award began as a way to honor nurses from all specialties.
“It was uncharted waters at that time but it was great to be on that ground level because every year we’ve improved and improved in our numbers,” Merkey said. “We don’t have any other opportunities like that to recognize nurses at a state level.”
In order to be recognized a nurse must be nominated by this Friday.
“The hardest thing for nurses to do is brag about themselves,” Merkey said. “Some of the things these men and women across the state do above and beyond the call of duty … for me it’s cool just to read the stories. Sometimes people will be crying because some of the things these people do is just so above and beyond what a job description would say that they do.
“It’s really a privilege to be on the selection committee and read those stories.”
Premature birth is the leading cause of infant death in the United States and the leading cause of death among children under five around the world.
The March of Dimes is on a mission to change that.
One in every 10 babies is born preterm in the U.S. – more than 380,000 babies each year.
The U.S. has one of the highest premature birth rates of any high-resource country.
Worldwide 15 million babies are born too soon each year. Nearly one million will die before their first birthday.
Annual estimated costs associated with preterm births in the U.S. are estimated at $26 billion
Medical care costs for premature babies run, on average, 12 times more than for a health newborn.
Babies who do survive an early birth often face lifelong health challenges.
March of Dimes Development Manager Lisa Liston says three finalists from each of the 18 categories are chosen. The atmosphere the night of the event is like no other.
“In the room you have a good mix of the nurses being honored, CNOs, nurse educators and hospitals across the state big and small,” Liston said. “With the help of this committee I just have watched the growth of the event and I truly believe the integrity of the event has taken a big shift.”
“There’s so much integrity in the event itself. I still consider it a baby event but by growing each year and doing it a little better every year people want to be the chair of this event.”
“That to me speaks volumes of the event and to what others in the room see it as. They believe in and they think it’s a great night to honor this working group of people who think they are just doing their jobs.”