Alumna Receives National VA Award for Health Care Excellence
University of Iowa College of Nursing alumna Mary Ann Nihart (BSN ′77 and MA in ′81) APRN, PMHCNS-BC, PM, was recently presented with the 2018 Department of Veterans Affairs’ John D. Chase Award for Executive Excellence in Health Care.
“While I was so humbled to receive this award, I’m proud of my nurses and those I work with every day to provide the best health care for Bay Area Veterans. This award is about all of them,” said Nihart.
Nihart received the award during the Association of Military Surgeons of the United States’ (AMSUS) Annual Meeting at the National Harbor in Maryland. The prestigious honor recognizes sustained VA executive leadership by an individual from any health care discipline who exhibits significant demonstrated accomplishments that support the agency’s mission through high professional performance. Since her appointment to associate director for patient care services/nursing executive at the San Francisco VA Health Care System in March 2018, Nihart has addressed critical issues with the health care system’s nursing service, including developing and guiding two task forces to address nursing staff shortages. Her efforts led to a 2 percent improvement in nursing staff turnover within an eight-month period.
“Ms. Nihart’s leadership has helped position our organization to be on the forefront of delivering high-quality, innovative and compassionate care to military Veterans,” said Bonnie Graham, director of the San Francisco VA Health Care System. “In addition to serving as the nursing executive for the health care system, Mary Ann provides care once a week to our Veterans as a nurse practitioner in a mental health setting. She’s a leader whose vision and compassion are evident to all who work with her.”
Nihart’s sense of service to those around her and pride in her community began as a child growing up on the family farm in Mount Pleasant, Iowa. She said the long days and nights of toiling on the farm during harvest time taught her the value and importance of self-reliance and working with others toward a common goal. The lessons of her youth drove Nihart to pursue a nursing education at UI’s College of Nursing, where she earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees. She also went on to also earn a master’s degree in clinical psychology from Alliant International University.
In 2010, Nihart joined the San Francisco VA Health Care System as a nurse manager. Since then, she has held positions as chief nurse for mental health, critical care services and Cath lab and clinical director/chief nurse for ambulatory care for the health care system’s six community-based outpatient clinics and the Telephone Linked Care Program. She also currently serves as the chair of the Clinical Psychopharmacology Institute for the American Psychiatrics Nurses Association.
Additionally, Nihart’s sense of civic duty led her to serve as a city council member for the City of Pacifica in 2011. In 2014, she was elected as the city’s mayor. She said her desire to help others comes not only from her upbringing, but also by the example set by family members who served in the military.
“I come from a family of Veterans, particularly Navy,” she said. “My great uncle and a cousin who was like a brother to me both served in the Navy. Those are the people who I admired when I was growing up. It’s all about serving others.”
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