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Sharon Pappas receives statewide Hospital Hero Award from Georgia Hospital Association
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Janet Christenbury
GHA photo of Sharon Pappas

Sharon Pappas, chief nurse executive of Emory Healthcare, accepts her 2022 Hospital Hero Award from the GHA for for her outstanding contributions to the field of nursing.

— Photo credit: Georgia Hospital Association

The Georgia Hospital Association (GHA) presented Sharon Pappas, PhD, RN, FAAN, chief nurse executive of Emory Healthcare, with the prestigious Hospital Hero Award for her outstanding contributions to the health care field, particularly the field of nursing. Pappas was one of five individuals to receive the statewide award this year during a recent celebration.

“Emory and the entire health care industry are fortunate to have Sharon Pappas’ expertise and her passion for the well-being of nurses and patients,” says GHA President and CEO Earl Rogers. “Her efforts and support have benefited Emory’s recruitment and retention efforts, and she has made an indelible impact. She is a most-deserving recipient of this award.”

Pappas joined Emory Healthcare in 2016. As chief nurse executive, she leads Emory Healthcare’s nursing workforce, which consists of more than 8,000 nurses across the organization’s 11 hospitals and more than 250 clinic locations. A Georgia native, her nursing career spans more than 40 years. And with it comes a deep passion for nursing.

Pappas’ hands-on leadership has been instrumental to the Emory nursing team during the COVID-19 pandemic — from making sure nurses stay safe and take care of themselves so they can take care of patients, to helping ensure the resilience of her team members, to rebuilding an exhausted team after months and months of being on the front lines.

“Sharon provides exceptional leadership to our nursing team and also serves as a well-respected leader across the entire organization,” says Dane Peterson, interim CEO and president and COO of Emory Healthcare. “She brings her passion for patient care to the center of all our decisions. Sharon has embraced and built upon our foundation of nursing excellence and is leading our nursing team to next level. She is very deserving of this Hospital Hero recognition from the Georgia Hospital Association.”

Since early 2020, Pappas has kept Emory Healthcare’s mantra of “improving lives and providing hope” the focus of her daily work. While nurses cared for patients and their families, she worked tirelessly to implement resilience and well-being programs to keep the nursing workforce healthy. In collaboration with chief nursing officers at each Emory hospital, she supported nursing operations to make sure nurse staffing was optimized throughout the system, sometimes innovating as needed.

Pappas’ expertise in strategic workforce planning and leadership has been and will continue to be important in the months and years ahead. With a depletion of nurses during the pandemic, she is engaged in rebuilding the nursing workforce at Emory, both physically and emotionally. Long-term sustainable strategies with a focus and commitment to the growth and well-being of team members is key, says Pappas, while continuing to create a great work environment for clinicians.

Pappas leads and fosters the Magnet culture, a reflection of nursing professionalism, teamwork and superiority in patient care, across Emory Healthcare. The American Nurses Credentialing Center’s Magnet Recognition Program is the most prestigious distinction a health care organization can receive for nursing excellence and quality patient outcomes. Four Emory hospitals and the Emory Clinic outpatient practice have achieved Magnet recognition, and Pappas has an ultimate goal of Magnet designation for the entire system. Nationally, she serves as vice-chair of the Commission of Magnet.

In 2021 and 2022, Pappas also served as an Emory Healthcare spokesperson at several joint media briefings/press conferences with other metro-area health care systems during the pandemic that made national headlines. She highlighted issues impacting health care including the nursing shortage, clinician burnout and clinician resilience during extremely difficult times. 

Additionally, she has worked with the American Organization for Nursing Leadership (AONL) and the American Hospital Association (AHA) to support advocacy development to reach legislators regarding the financial and workforce impacts in the nursing profession.

Prior to the pandemic, Pappas served as one of the authors of the National Academy of Medicine’s 2019 consensus report, Taking Action against Clinician Burnout. The knowledge gained during this experience has greatly served Emory Healthcare clinicians. Additionally, Pappas was part of a team that measured the level of burnout of critical care clinicians (physicians, nurses, advanced practice providers and others) across Emory Healthcare. The information gleaned from this interprofessional burnout study is being used by leaders to improve work environments.

Pappas has authored multiple publications which contributed to the international body of knowledge on how improving health care cultures through inclusion in decision-making, respect and leadership, contributes to patient care. One of these publications, Quantum Leadership, is a textbook commonly used in Doctor of Nursing Practice programs across the U.S.

“I am so appreciative of this honor from the Georgia Hospital Association, and I share this recognition with my fellow nurses who have demonstrated strength and resilience throughout the pandemic,” says Pappas. “I am grateful to all of our nurses at Emory Healthcare, and thank them all for the leadership and excellent care they provide to our patients.”    

Congratulations to Sharon Pappas for being named a 2022 GHA Hospital Hero! She is the perfect example of a hero in the field of nursing.

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