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Meet this year’s outstanding alumni award winners

Each year, the College of Nursing recognizes two alumni for their contributions to the profession — one, a young alumnus who has graduated within the past 10 years and has less than 10 years of experience in the nursing profession, and one, an alumnus who graduated more than 10 years ago or whose nursing career spans more than 10 years.

The winners were recognized during the college’s oyster roast, as part of the inaugural Fall Expo.

Outstanding Nurse Alumnus: Kevin Lowe ’09

Kevin Lowe can’t turn away from a challenge.

He enrolled in Carolina’s nurse practitioner program a few weeks after earning his Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree, earning his master’s degree at age 25.

When Lowe began practicing he discovered nephrology, a demanding but rewarding specialty area, and is now one of four certified nephrology nurse practitioners in South Carolina.

“When I’m seeing new consults in the hospital, it literally is sitting down and putting a puzzle together,” he said. “That’s really what attracted me to nephrology and that’s what keeps me interested.”

The field allows him to develop relationships with patients across the spectrum of care — from diagnosis to later-stage disease — and see them in diverse settings: in the practice office, at the dialysis clinic or at the hospital.

When he learned about a critical care post-graduate fellowship for nurse practitioners at Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, an opportunity not available when he graduated from USC, Lowe was eager to apply to bolster his bedside critical care experience.

During his fellowship, Lowe cherished the year of “protected learning time,” turning his clinical curiosity into a full-blown research project that he completed within six months.

His study, the first to confirm the utility of early blood lactate measures to identify mortality risk for septic patients with end-stage renal disease, was published in The Journal of Emergency Medicine.

Lowe has since been invited to edit a chapter about acute care for the American Nephrology Nurses Association Nephrology Core Curriculum textbook, and in September he gave a presentation about analyzing the results of a kidney disease workup at the association’s national nursing practice management and leadership conference in New Orleans.

In addition, he is known as a generous colleague and dedicated preceptor who is extraordinarily committed to student success. A recent student said Lowe set weekly goals for her and pushed her through daily plans designed to improve her weaknesses, hone her strengths and expand her knowledge.

“As nurses, we must have a commitment to our fellow nurses to pay it forward and make sure that they get whatever they need from us,” he said.

Outstanding Young Nurse Alumna: Megan George ’12

The sky’s the limit for Air Force nurse Megan George.

Propelled by a strong clinical foundation from Carolina, George launched into her career full-throttle. Recognizing her potential, leaders selected her to attend a competitive training program at the R. Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore, Maryland, for advanced trauma education to improve her combat injury care skills.

Within four years, George was chosen to be the nurse manager for a busy inpatient unit where she advocated for greater nurse autonomy, persuading hospital leaders to change policies that prevented nurses from administering intravenous blood pressure medication. As a result, patients could be cared for in the unit, reducing transfers to the intensive care unit by 13 percent and aligning the hospital’s nursing scope of practice with other Air Force hospitals.

She also elevated the role of nurses in the hospital by helping to launch an evidence-based practice council. Among other initiatives, the team researched best practices for stocking the medical surgical unit’s two automated medication dispensing machines, generating a uniform medication list for both machines. The project is estimated to have saved 13,000 labor hours per year and increased patients’ medication availability by 92 percent.

As nurse manager, George was also responsible for training 20 new graduates per year and preparing all of her nurses for deployment so she worked with a clinical nurse specialist to develop challenging simulations that honed their clinical skills.

In 2017, she was ranked the top nurse on all inpatient units, and about nine months ago, she was transferred to serve in an outpatient pediatric clinic in New Mexico. Although it’s a huge shift in practice, George is already applying her management skills to improve patient care.

When she arrived, the clinic suffered from a crippling appointment backlog for sick visits and wellness checks. By scheduling each patient’s next appointment at the end of their visit, the clinic has improved patient access by 70 percent, and patients can be seen within a few days rather than three weeks.

George advises new graduates to cultivate their network of trusted friends and colleagues who they can turn to for advice.

“Talk to your providers, talk to your pharmacy staff,” she said. “Ask your leadership. There’s so many good resources out there, you’re not doing it by yourself.”

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