By Lauren Delozier, Liz Johnstone, S. Holland Murphy, Staci Parks, and Jenna Peck
Patients spend much more time with nurses than they do doctors. Lucky patients spend their time with the nurses whose work has earned them kudos in D Magazine’s fourth Excellence in Nursing Awards.
Homer Capiral’s mother is a nurse, which is only part of the reason he went into the profession. “I love interacting with the patients,” he says. “It gives you a sense of accomplishment and a sense of worth when you see them at the time that you took care of them to a point that they get well and get discharged.”
Capiral is the assistant manager for the cardiovascular and interventional radiology labs at UT Southwestern Medical Center, where he guides the workflow for 10 labs and 25 staffers. The hospital’s Interventional Radiology Clinic uses the latest imaging technologies to diagnose and treat cardiovascular disorders without open surgery.
But when major surgery is required, Capiral is there. He once had a young patient who was brought to the hospital in heart failure. “It was a life-or-death situation,” he says. Capiral stayed with that patient in the cath lab, throughout the emergency procedure, and in the ICU. The patient survived and eventually received a heart transplant.
His caring extends to his fellow nurses. In 2009, Capiral—whose family is from the Philippines—got involved with the then struggling Philippine Nurses Association of North Texas. Under his leadership, the organization has grown to include continuing education programs as well as provide a welcoming space for nurses who have only just arrived in the states.
When Jackie Cox found out she had Stage 3 colon cancer in January 2011, she made a choice. “I decided that cancer is one word, and it didn’t define me,” says Cox, director of emergency services at Lake Pointe Medical Center. After her diagnosis and throughout her 10 months of treatment, Cox—a single mother of two boys—missed just one day of work, and that was for surgery to remove the tumor.
She has long known the importance of simply being there. By the time she was 17, Cox had become the caretaker for her mother, who suffered from Alzheimer’s, and her father, who was battling cancer. “So I’ve always included caregivers in the patient’s care,” she says, “and treated them with the same respect I was treating the patient.”
Cox extends the same courtesy to her staff, which has grown from 35 to 115 since she took over the director role six years ago. In that time, she has helped Lake Pointe gain notable clinical certifications and overseen expansion projects that include an urgent-care center and two freestanding, fully functioning emergency departments.
“As a director, you get to impact every single patient that walks through the doors,” Cox says.
One Saturday last March, the chronic back pain that had crept into Michael Munger’s life over the past 18 months worsened, leaving him couch-ridden in his Las Colinas home overlooking Lake Carolyn. Not long after taking his meds and settling in for the afternoon, Munger heard a cry. He pulled himself to the window and saw a set of small arms above the water.
“There’s nothing worse than the feeling of a limp child in your arms,” says Munger, a certified registered nurse anesthetist at UT Southwestern Medical Center. Munger went into “adrenaline mode,” rushing to the lake and saving the unsupervised girl.
Munger, who served as a junior firefighter in his teens, has plenty of experience with emergency rescue. As a licensed CRNA who is also a certified EMT-paramedic, Munger combined these skills to create the first state-certified volunteer paramedic response unit in New York, serving six rural communities before he moved to Dallas in 2013. Munger now brings these varied experiences to his CRNA students. “Learning is a two-way street,” he says. “They learn from me, and I learn from them.”