For her exceptional achievements in nursing and advancements in geriatric care, Denise Lyons, DNP, APRN, AGCNS-BC, LSSBB, has been honored with the DAISY Lifetime Achievement Award from ChristianaCare.
“During her distinguished 30-year nursing career, Denise has impacted many lives,” said Patricia Curtin, M.D., FACP, CMD, chief of Geriatric Medicine at ChristianaCare.
“She is a dedicated, forward-thinking nurse who always offers a helping hand to her colleagues as they embrace projects to improve care for patients,” she said.
Dr. Curtin, who has worked alongside Lyons for 23 years and calls herself “the lucky other half” of a rewarding professional partnership, nominated Lyons for the award.
“When we design care in a way that addresses the specific needs of older adults, we create a better experience and better outcomes for everyone involved.”
The ‘go-to’ in nursing care for older adults
Lyons began advancing awareness of specialized nursing care for older adults at ChristianaCare in 2000. She has not stopped since.
In 2001 she brought to ChristianaCare the We Improve Senior Health (WISH) Program, a collaborative effort to improve care for seniors.
WISH was derived from a national initiative called Nurses Improving Care for Healthsystem Elders (NICHE), a nursing education and consultation program to improve geriatric care in health care organizations.
Through her leadership of WISH and NICHE at ChristianaCare, Lyons has educated thousands of staff on best practices in care for geriatric patients. She has served as a mentor for colleagues and as a preceptor for nurses seeking certification and advanced degrees.
“She is the go-to person for colleagues who want to advance their careers, especially with a geriatric focus,” Dr. Curtin said.
In her unwavering commitment to exceptional care of older adults, Lyons has co-chaired systemwide teams to improve clinical approaches to issues that commonly affect older adults including falls, constipation and delirium.
“She believes in the team approach yet serves as the role model, leading with love and excellence as we serve together,” Dr. Curtin said.
Advancing care for older adults advances care for all
Lyons’ wide-reaching efforts have impacted nursing education and expertise in the care of older adults and contributed to the clinical literature in geriatrics.
In 2007, Lyons introduced a geriatric certification review course to ChristianaCare. Since then, 400 nurses earned gerontological nursing certifications from the American Nurses Credentialing Center as of February 1.
Starting in 2020, Lyons became the driving force for the Institute for Healthcare Improvement’s (IHI) Age-Friendly Health System initiative at ChristianaCare, which focuses on the 4Ms (What Matters Most to patients, Medications, Mentation, Mobility) in the care of the older adult.
“ChristianaCare has always been at the forefront of excellent patient care, and this is another opportunity for us to advance care for our neighbors who are seniors,” said Lyons, who is program manager for ChristianaCare’s NICHE program.
“Through this initiative, we can share our best practices and learn what’s working for others to provide every older adult with the best care possible.”
Today Lyons is a nursing project lead for the Johns Hopkins Activity and Mobility Promotion Program at ChristianaCare. She works with nurses, therapists and other clinicians to improve mobilization of all patients, which can improve health outcomes and reduce rehospitalizations.
Her work has earned the highest national recognitions in the care of older adults.
In 2013 ChristianaCare earned NICHE Exemplar status, the highest honor for exceptional senior care, and has retained that status for consecutive years.
Under Lyons’ leadership, ChristianaCare has been recognized as an Age-Friendly Health System by The John A. Hartford Foundation and the IHI since 2020.
Service beyond the call of duty
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Lyons, in her trademark fashion, identified needs and found creative ways to meet them. She loaded amplifiers, reading glasses, newspapers, teddy bears, dolls, puzzles, books, playing cards and other items onto carts and made the rounds to patients who were not able to have visitors due to pandemic precautions.
‘Denise genuinely believes in the impact of the nursing profession on many levels and the need for nurses to advance, develop new skills and help transform care.’
believes in the team approach yet serves as the role model, leading with love and excellence as we serve together,” Dr. Curtin said.
During COVID-19 surges when staff were asked to move into clinical roles, Lyons signed up for the Capacity Assistance Program (CAP) at Wilmington Hospital.
Personally, and professionally, Lyons supports local causes and professional organizations, serving as a medical volunteer for the Chester County Medical Reserve Corps; advisory board member for the Wilmington University DNP Program; and advisory board member and assistant coach for Girls on the Run Chester County & YMCA of Greater Brandywine STRIDE.
She also is an adjunct assistant professor in Wilmington University’s Doctoral of Nursing Practice program and serves as a project advisor.
Taking continuous improvement to heart
Lyons began her nursing career in 1991 as a student nurse extern at the Medical Center of Delaware, the precursor to ChristianaCare, and served as a staff nurse on a medical unit before becoming a staff development specialist in 1996.
Lyons earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees and post-master’s certificate in Nursing at the University of Delaware. She was in the second class to receive a doctorate in Nursing Practice at West Chester University. She is board certified as an Adult/Gerontological clinical nurse specialist and holds a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt.
She has authored publications in peer-reviewed journals and presented locally and nationally as a sought-after speaker.
Her recognitions include the Hartford Foundation Fellowship Award, among other fellowships, and being named a Top Nurse by Delaware Today.
“Denise genuinely believes in the impact of the nursing profession on many levels and the need for nurses to advance, develop new skills and help transform care,” Dr. Curtin said.
“She has made such a difference in how we deliver care to our geriatric patients and in fact, to all our patients.”
Make a DAISY Award nomination.