“This is not an award for my accomplishments, but an award that tells the story of a team committed to excellence every day with every patient,” said Iacono when she received the GEM award. She pointed to North Shore University Hospital’s neurosurgical ICU unit winning the AACN Silver Beacon Award for Excellence and the process she and fellow nurses pursued as her proudest moments.
“Now they [the nurses] know the strength of the team is so much stronger than the individual,” Iacono said. She said the Beacon award confirmed her ability to encourage and empower her staff – and the staff in turn showed a positive attitude on the unit, even under difficult circumstances.
The decision to stick with what she knew best and what she enjoyed most—neuroscience nursing—has been instrumental in her practice. “It excites me, it drives me and inspires me every day,” she said.
Iacono offered some words of wisdom to new nurses: “Always ask questions of senior nurses, nurse leaders, physicians and NPs. You will not learn everything if you only rely on your bedside care to gain knowledge.”
With 30 years of neuroscience nursing behind her, Iacono recalled how strongly she felt about the specialty when she began her first position on a neuroscience unit, “I felt I was the luckiest nurse in the hospital.”
An early mentor, Beth Honan, was the educator who passed on to Iacono a depth of knowledge and later met with her and other nurses weekly in preparation for the neuroscience certification exam. “I would watch her talk to physicians about patients and see how the physicians respected her knowledge and judgment, and I knew I wanted to be just like her,” Iacono said of Honan.
Iacono offered some more practical advice: “If a manager, leader or mentor asks you to do something beyond your comfort zone or even outside of your area of interest, say ‘Thank you for the opportunity,’ then take that opportunity and work with it to the end. They may see something in you that you do not see in yourself. You will be surprised at what you can do.”