Mary Smellie-Decker Award Recipient Announced

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The Hydrocephalus Association (HA) with the American Association of Neuroscience Nurses (AANN) created an annual award in 2010 to honor Mary Smellie-Decker, RN, MSN, PNP, for her work as a staff neuroscience nurse, nurse practitioner, and member of the Hydrocephalus Association Medical Advisory Board. As one of the first neuroscience nurses in the country, she had a proven record of mentorship. The scholarship not only honors Mary, but aims to inspire others to continue her legacy of excellence in patient care and professional mentorship.

This year the Mary Smellie-Decker award goes to Nadine Nielsen, ARNP, Division of Pediatric Neurosurgery, Seattle Children’s Hospital. Nadine was presented the award by current AANN president Linda Littlejohns, who is also the President and Executive Director of the Integra Foundation and Vice President of Corporate Clinical Development at Integra LifeSciences.

Nadine embodies the qualities that Mary stood for – mentorship, teaching and leadership. As a pediatric nurse practitioner for neurosurgery she exemplifies care and passion for children with hydrocephalus. Her colleagues find her a wonderful resource for up-to-date evidenced based information on hydrocephalus, which she is always willing to share.

Nadine Nielsen receives the Mary Smellie-Decker award from current AANN president Linda Littlejohns.

Nadine is also an active member of our community. She helped to translate About Hydrocephalus: A Book for Families from English to Spanish and is a lead author of chapter: Nielsen N, Pearce K, Limbacher L, Wallace D (2007) Hydrocephalus. In: Cartwright C, Wallace D, (eds) Nursing Care of the Pediatric Neurosurgery Patient. Springer, Berlin Heidelberg, pp 29-66. Chapter revised in 2012 for revision for new edition in June 2013.

Nadine is best described by her colleague Mandy, whose words beautifully demonstrate why Nadine is this year’s award recipient. On behalf of all of us at the Hydrocephalus Association and our community, we extend our thanks and congratulations to this inspiring individual and her tireless efforts on behalf of her patients and all of us.

“Thirty years of pediatric nursing, with a focus on critical care and neurosurgery in particular, form the backbone of Nadine’s extensive clinical knowledge and expertise. She was the first nurse practitioner in a surgical role at Seattle Children’s. She formed strong partnerships with the surgeons, developed expertise in the management of complex diagnoses, and honed an ability to translate the goals of care to patients and families. Nurses at the bedside look to her as the first point of contact for immediate patient care issues, and she built a role that created continuity for patients and consistent approaches to care.

Over the years, she has trained and oriented many other new (and experienced) nurse practitioners, and has a wonderful style as a mentor. She takes time to allow the individual to practice in her own way while still guiding each NP closely, ensuring that patient safety and high standards are maintained. Nadine is the de facto contact for neurosurgery for referrals coming in with new diagnoses, she is the primary resource for medical students and fellows, and she maintains an endless level of patience for the many questions she deftly and confidently fields, all day long.

Nadine is a true leader and innovator in the field of neurosurgery. This might sound unusual given that she is not a neurosurgeon. However Nadine’s knowledge of these patients, her experience with these diagnoses and her incredible relationship with the neurosurgeons has made her a legend in this field. She has authored text book chapters (specifically in Hydrocephalus), is a frequent speaker at the national neurosurgery nursing meetings, and is a well-recognized figure when we go to conferences. She is seen as an expert in hydrocephalus and is up to date on the latest information on hydrocephalus. It is not often in a surgery field that you will find the surgeon asking “where is Nadine” so that a clinical question can be answered.

When I saw the call for nominations for this award, I knew I had to find a way to be sure that Nadine would be recognized. In addition to my first hand observations, I interviewed several health care leaders. Our chief NP related a common story. When departments are interested in adding an NP to their team, they will often say, “Can you find me someone just like Nadine?” Dr. Richard Ellenbogen, chief of neurosurgery at Harborview/UWMC said, “Nadine has been an essential member of the neurosurgery team for as long as I can remember. She can be proud that the design, implementation and perfection of the NP model in neurosurgery are because of the fruits of her thoughtful contributions. She did it first, and she did it best, and it is a model copied throughout the world”.

Nadine has been a phenomenal influence on my career and many others. I think she is very deserving of this award.”

 Congratulations Nadine!

Mary Smellie-Decker Award
The Mary Smellie-Decker Award is made annually to an American Association of Neuroscience Nurses (AANN) member. The criteria for selection are:

  • Excellence in Neurosurgery, specifically hydrocephalus
  • Dedication to patients
  • Communication
  • Teaching and educating about hydrocephalus
  • Inspiring others
  • Leadership
  • Passion and nurturing


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