For her extraordinary accomplishments during 40 years of nursing, Nora Katurakes, MSN, RN, OCN, has been honored with the inaugural DAISY Lifetime Achievement Award from ChristianaCare.
Katurakes has profoundly touched the lives of many in the field of cancer and through community outreach, while advancing the nursing profession as a caregiver, mentor, educator and researcher.
“Nora has spent her nursing career as a dedicated advocate for patients receiving inpatient and outpatient cancer care,” said Lydia Butcofsky, MA, BSN, RN III, CEN, immediate past chair of the Professional Nurse Council, which established the award. “I was moved by the love, admiration and respect her colleagues had for her. In nominating her, colleagues described her passion for quality patient care and advancement of the role of our professional nurses and her dedication and effect on our community, patients and our nurses.”
An early, progressive focus on cancer
A native Delawarean, Katurakes graduated from the University of Delaware School of Nursing in 1978 and began her career at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Texas. Drawn to cancer care early on, she participated in an oncology nurse internship and worked as a staff nurse on a surgical unit and with head and neck cancer patients.
She was part of an education team that developed tools, programs and standards for community education while mentoring staff on all three shifts in providing quality care to surgical patients. She was instrumental in developing the first process for post-mastectomy patients to safely go home with drains when otherwise the expected length of stay was at least two weeks.
She presented at MD Anderson conferences and established her commitment to community organizations as a volunteer for the American Cancer Society. She received a Master’s in Oncology and Administration in 1984 from the University of Texas Health Science Center.
A champion of community health
Katurakes returned to Delaware to begin work with ChristianaCare HomeHealth, where she launched a successful study group for nurses pursuing oncology nursing. She was a proponent of nursing certification, having obtained her Oncology Nursing Certification in 1994, which she maintains. She earned one of the first certifications from the the Harold P. Freeman Patient Navigation Institute.
In 1998 she became the manager of Community Health Outreach and Education at ChristianaCare’s Helen F. Graham Cancer Center & Research Institute and since then her focus has remained on community education, risk assessment and reduction, cancer screening, patient navigation and access to care for disparate populations.
She was appointed as a founding member of the Delaware Cancer Consortium in March 2001, a group formed to advise the governor and legislature on the causes of cancer incidence and mortality and potential methods for reducing both. She continues to be an active member of the consortium, representing nursing, nurse navigation, legislation and action for disparate populations. Through her work she has influenced statewide legislative decisions such as raising the age for cigarette purchase and use of tanning beds.
“I have been in the cancer field for close to 35 years and I have never worked with an individual so committed to making a difference in peoples’ lives as Nora Katurakes,” said Nicholas Petrelli, M.D., FACS, Bank of America endowed medical director of the Helen F. Graham Cancer Center & Research Institute. “Population health is the ‘in thing’ today but Nora and her team have been involved in population science and health for two decades.”
She was a champion of Twistle technology for use with the Cancer Outreach community program Story of BRENDA, a collaborative program with Oncology Genetics and the Graham Cancer Center’s Breast Center team, which had the goal of increasing awareness of Triple Negative Breast Cancer, access to genetic counseling, mammograms and financial assistance.
She has fostered a unique relationship among nursing, ChristianaCare and our community. She had developed ongoing, trusting relationships with the Latinx and Asian communities through the use of navigators and Spanish-speaking promotoras. Prior to her interactions with the local Asian community these Delawareans were traveling to New York City for health care, that being the only known and trusted community to them. She broadened the reach of her department by including a Mandarin-speaking staff member and worked intimately with the community to build a level of familiarity and trust with ChristianaCare and the nurses in her department.
With trademark energy and compassion, Katurakes goes the extra mile when it comes to cancer. “Cancer can be life-changing,” said Katurakes. “At the Graham Cancer Center along with our dedicated community partners, our outreach and education have built trust and relationships within the communities we serve, reaching thousands of individuals with health education, information and cancer screenings.
Nurse leader, advocate and mentor
Katurakes has been a longstanding member of the national Oncology Nursing Society and its local chapter; throughout her career she has held every office from chair, treasurer, secretary and membership chair. She has presented at the society’s annual Congress on the Advances in Prevention of Cervical Cancer and on shared decision-making with the American Society of Preventive Oncology with a presentation on Factors Affecting Colorectal Cancer Screening Decision Stage.
She is a longstanding member of the advisory board for Delaware Technical and Community College. She has mentored a number of students, from nursing and allied health programs seeking Hispanic and other community education experiences.
She was the first facilitator of ChristianaCare’s Oncology Nurse Practice Council which along with council chairs and team members provided the foundation for the development of the highly successful council today. Under her leadership the Council gained increased prominence and respect in the cancer service line by championing nurse engagement and empowerment.
She has been widely recognized for her leadership in shining a light on cancer in the community. Among Katurakes’ professional awards:
- American Cancer Society Award for Community Mission Delivery.
- The Light of Life Award from the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Philadelphia Affiliate.
- The Wilmington Mayor’s Award for Health/Science.
- The Delaware Breast Cancer Coalition Shining Light Award.
- The ChristianaCare Way Awards Strategic Partnerships Award for the Healthy Latinas Program: Improving Access.
- The Spirit of Women – nominee for Health Hero through Community Center of Excellence in Women’s Health American Cancer Society Hometown Hero Award.
Paying it forward
Her many publications have added to the body of nursing knowledge. She has mentored nurses in the completion of applications for continuing education credits and professional development. She has also been active in recruiting speakers for nursing conferences held by ChristianaCare.
As a project manager for the Delaware Quit Line smoking cessation program she has recruited several nurses to be smoking cessation coaches. The role offers an opportunity to learn more about the struggles of those with nicotine addiction and to better understand and support the change process allowing for a change in the patient-nurse relationship – one with less judgment and more compassion in the care of those in need. She continues to be a smoking cessation coach herself, another example of her dedication and commitment to this worthwhile cause.
Katurakes is a successful grant writer, helping to ensure funds are available to meet community needs. She has won grants from funding sources including the Susan G. Komen Foundation, American Cancer Society Breast Cancer Disparities Grant and Avon Foundation for Women–Breast Health Outreach and Education.
“It is with awe that day after day I see the trust that our community members have in Nora and her team,” read one DAISY nomination letter. “It is a testament to her accepting, loving kindness approach to all. Nora is an inspiring nurse and has truly earned the DAISY Lifetime Achievement award.”
Make a DAISY Award nomination.