As a leader, Deborah Ayres-Harding, MSN, RN-BC, makes certain every nurse on her team has the resources to succeed. She supports nurses in furthering their education to advance their careers. And if her unit is short-staffed, she assumes the role of second nurse, encouraging a shift nurse to supervise.

“Nothing is beneath a nurse leader,” she said. “I am their backup, not their charge nurse. That gives them an opportunity to lead.”

Her hard work and mentorship have not gone unnoticed. Ayres-Harding, assistant nurse manager of 3N and Inpatient Psychiatry at Christiana and Wilmington hospitals, received the DAISY Leader Award at a Professional Nurse Council celebration on Feb. 23. She also provides supervision to Psychiatric Emergency Services located at Wilmngton and Christiana Hospitals.

“Through her leadership, Debbie provides a safe environment of care for patients and staff members,” said Chief Nurse Executive Ric Cuming, Ed.D., RN, NEA-BC, FAAN. “She sets the tone for high-quality care with excellence and love to provide care our patients and their families value.”

The DAISY Award is an international nurse recognition program that honors nursing excellence. The Professional Nurse Council oversees the successful DAISY program at Christiana Care, which honors individual nurses for exceptional care, and established the DAISY Nurse Leader Award in 2017.

This year, more than 35 nurse leaders were nominated for the honor, noted Tammy Layer, MSN, RN, OCN, nurse navigator, Supportive and Palliative Care, and Professional Nurse Council chair. Of those nurses, three finalists were selected.

The other two finalists are: Sarah Flanders, MSN, RN-BC, CEN, nurse manager of the Emergency Department at Wilmington Hospital; and Karen Swanson, BSN, RNC, ACRN, CCRC, nurse coordinator of Christiana Care’s Community HIV Program.

Ayres-Harding was nominated by Dusty Sweetman, RN, who said that when he was a new hire Ayres-Harding immediately encouraged him to start working on his Nurse II portfolio.

“When a need arises or if a large case load for psych crisis has presented itself, she will change her assignment to the location needed and assist in psychiatric evaluations, medication administration or patient care,” Sweetman said. “She is quick to be the advocate for patients to ensure they receive the appropriate medical care they need and that the family also receives care and comfort.”

Ayres-Harding has been a nurse for 30 years. She earned a degree in communications before she entered nursing school.

“I wanted to take care of my grandparents,” she said. “I soon realized that taking care of others was my true calling. I thank God for making this part of my life plan.”

Behavioral health patients and their families face a double challenge, Ayres-Harding said. “Not only do they have mental health issues, but they have physical problems as well.”

Ayres-Harding credits the team and Steve Beltran, MSN, RN-BC, her nurse manager, with giving her the support she needs to excel. “No one does it alone,” Ayres-Harding said.

The Professional Nurse Council at Christiana Care selects DAISY Award recipients using a blind selection process based on nominations from patients, families, staff and volunteers. All nurses — inpatient, outpatient and VNA — are eligible.