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Outstanding nurses honored with DAISY, McMillan awards for excellent patient care

Outstanding nurses honored with DAISY, McMillan awards for excellent patient care

By Staff reports on May 10, 2024

Al Fernandez, RN, takes the time to get to know his patients. 

That was the feedback from one patient’s daughter, who described how Fernandez helped her mother get outside in a hospital bed after learning how much she loved the feeling of warm sunlight and the sight of fluttering birds. 

“To know that our nurse saw my mother as important, just as a person, not only as a patient, was all we needed to rest and enjoy the time with her!” Fernandez’s patient nomination read.

Fernandez, who works in the Post-Acute Division, was named the Jo Ann McMillan Outstanding Nurse of the Year for Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System in May. He found nursing as a second career and grew to love it, taking part in 11 medical mission trips in addition to his work at the Spartanburg Regional Hospice Home. 

“Some days are harder than others," Fernandez said after being presented with his award. “At the end of the day, our job is to try to make somebody’s day better. We give them dignity and just a little bit of peace for the family. That’s our goal.”

Hear from Al Fernandez on his heart for bringing comfort to patients

Fernandez was one of five nurses across the system recognized for their dedication and commitment to caring for patients. 

Held May 10 at the Spartanburg Regional Foundation, the recognition ceremony was part of the national DAISY Award program for nursing excellence.

One DAISY award winner was selected from each campus and received $500. Fernandez received an additional $500 as the system-wide winner. Both are made possible through the Spartanburg Regional Foundation’s Jo Ann McMillan Fund. 

The 2024 campus winners were: 

  • Abree Fontana, RN – Cherokee Medical Center 
  • Necoia Gaskins, RN – Pelham Medical Center 
  • Al Fernandez, RN – Post-Acute 
  • Charlotte Andon, RN – Spartanburg Medical Center 
  • Lacie Yarbrough, RN – Union Medical Center 

Winners were chosen through a selection committee after patients and colleagues nominated them from the previous 12 months. More than 500 nominations were received. 

Chief nursing officers from each facility presented the awards to each winner and read from their nominations. 

The system-wide Outstanding Nurse of the Year award presented to Fernandez is named after Jo Ann McMillan, who began her career as a bedside nurse and later became the first executive director of the Spartanburg Regional Foundation. 

“These nominations came from families, patients and friends who recognized the compassionate care that these nurses provide and actually touch their hearts and minds,” said Mary Jane Jennings, vice president and chief nursing officer for Spartanburg Medical Center. “We are very proud and excited to celebrate these magnificent nurses.” 

This year, McMillan was presented with her own DAISY Lifetime Achievement Award. 

“What an honor. I could not be more proud to be a nurse than I am right now,” Jo Ann McMillan said to the room of nurses and nursing leaders. “Just continue what you’re doing and spread the word about what nurses do and what nurses accomplish every day.” 

Jennings delivered congratulatory remarks for Jo Ann McMillan, who first became a bedside nurse in the early 1970s. Each chief nursing officer also presented her with items to signify her lifetime achievement as a champion for nursing, health care and philanthropy. 

“Jo Ann will be the first to tell you that bedside nursing remains her passion today,” Jennings said. 

If you have received outstanding care, send a letter or ask about DAISY nominations at the nursing unit. You can also nominate online at:

To donate to the Spartanburg Regional Foundation in honor of a caregiver, please visit