Tag Archives: awards

ASID 2017 Commercial Award

January 18, 2018 by
Photography by Kipp Abresch & Paula Guerrero

The Nebraska/Iowa Chapter of the American Society of Interior Designers recently announced the winners of their annual design contest. Jessica Lindersmith of US Properties won Gold for this space, designed for The Tap Room at The Boiler Brewing Co. in Lincoln.

To reach this area, a person must descend a hidden staircase. A five-panel oak door then leads into the brewery of this 100-year-old building. Significant effort was made to retain and highlight all original elements, each with a story of its own. Original doors and marble were reused, and the boiler doors were hung on the wall. The wood panels of the custom bar mimic the original design of the building. Spotlights focus on the stainless steel tanks behind the bar and the tap tower with its handmade, unique taps. Furnishings were arranged to create a variety of conversational areas, including booths, moveable tables and chairs, and a raised lounge area.

Visit ne-ia.asid.org for more information.

This article appeared in the Winter 2018 issue of B2B.

Meet the Winners!

April 23, 2015 by

Cheryl Bohacek 
RN, MSN, OCN, Oncology Nurse
Methodist Hospital

Cheryl Bohacek remembers early on in her nursing career caring for a young woman with cancer who was dying. A group of the patient’s closest friends came to her room, opened a bottle of wine, reminisced, laughed, and cried with her. Then her husband came, laid down beside her and spent his final moments with his wife. It became a life-altering experience for Bohacek.

“I realized that I was not just passing medications, but I was a part of peoples’ lives,” she says. “I was caring for them during their most vulnerable moments, and I got to help them and their families get through it.”

Something touched Bohacek’s spirit that day, and she has never wanted to care for another type of patient population since.

“You become deeply vested in their outcomes, whether it’s by helping them through recovery, helping them deal with something they’ll have to live with for the rest of their lives, or helping them cope with end of life,” says Bohacek, who finds her profession very rewarding.

She balances the good days with the bad by always trying to start each day with a positive attitude.

“Even if you don’t feel good inside, if you keep smiling and have a positive outlook it presents a different feeling on the outside…and pretty soon, it becomes reality,” she says.

And it appears to be working. “Cheryl is our constant rock,” says one of her colleagues. “While many of my colleagues have burned out in oncology, Cheryl is always shining. She is the heart and soul of our oncology unit. She always greets people with a warm smile, and her presence is a calming reassurance to both patients and staff.”


Bridget Boeckman
RN, BSN, Staff Nurse, Cardiac Progressive Care Unit and Nebraska Biocontainment Unit
Nebraska Medicine

How do you handle stress and the emotional toll nursing can have on your life?

“I have some wonderful coworkers who are always supportive, comforting, and kind. Because we have had the opportunity to get to know each other well, we know just what each of us needs to get us through the tough days—be it a hug, some dark humor, tough love, or a break from our phone to eat lunch without interruption. We also hold each other accountable for caring for ourselves and celebrate each others’ lives outside of work. We have a Facebook group of nurses and care techs from our floor, which is a great forum for inviting each other to dinner after work, running in the park, or a day at the zoo. It is a great way to share parts of our lives outside of work through pictures and news posts. These are just a few ways I handle the stress of my job.”

Tell me about the importance of working as a team?

“I am glad to work on two units where teamwork is essential to our collective success and also ingrained in our culture. Often, it would be difficult to provide excellent care to our patients without the help of other staff members on our floor who assist with tasks large and small.”


Community Care/Ambulatory Care
Ira Combs
UNMC, College of Public Health
Center for Reducing Health Disparities

Giving back to the community. It’s something Ira Combs does well. He’s the community liaison/nurse coordinator for the University of Nebraska Medical Center’s College (UNMC) of Public Health, Center for Reducing Health Disparities. Combs’ job is to connect with the community by performing health fairs, screenings, and providing public education.

Combs is founder of a free clinic called North Omaha Area Health (NOAH), an independent, non-profit organization which provides free blood pressure tests, sugar and cholesterol screenings, and screenings for STDs. He also volunteers with the staff at the Charles Drew Health Center, the Lighthouse Wellness and Community Center, and Open Door Mission He regularly speaks to students about reducing health disparities and exploring health related careers. Combs can be seen at schools, grocery stores, churches, libraries—wherever people convene—to deliver his message of living healthy in mind, body, and spirit.

“Building relationships is just as important as giving medical advice,” says Combs. “Before you can help people, you have to get out there and meet them and develop a trust.”

Combs says he tried to empower people with knowledge so that they can take control of their health. “It’s not brain surgery or rocket science. You can talk about small things that can have a big impact on a person’s health.”

Combs recently traveled to the White House, where he was one of eight selected for President Barack Obama’s Champion of Change award in prevention and public health.

“I like what I do because I feel it’s making a difference,” says Combs. “It’s all about giving back to the community.”


Management/Nurse Executive
Tracy Doebelin
RN, BSN, Director of Maternal Child
CHI Health Bergan Mercy

How do you handle stress and the emotional toll nursing can have on your life?

“I have some wonderful coworkers who are always supportive, comforting, and kind. Because we have had the opportunity to get to know each other well, we know just what each of us needs to get us through the tough days—be it a hug, some dark humor, tough love, or a break from our phone to eat lunch without interruption. We also hold each other accountable for caring for ourselves and celebrate each others’ lives outside of work. We have a Facebook group of nurses and care techs from our floor, which is a great forum for inviting each other to dinner after work, running in the park, or a day at the zoo. It is a great way to share parts of our lives outside of work through pictures and news posts. These are just a few ways I handle the stress of my job.”

Tell me about the importance of working as a team?

“I am glad to work on two units where teamwork is essential to our collective success and also ingrained in our culture. Often, it would be difficult to provide excellent care to our patients without the help of other staff members on our floor who assist with tasks large and small.”


Lindsey Gross-Rhode
RN, BSN, Healthcare Coordinator, Head Start
Plattsmouth School District
Early Childhood Center

Lindsey Gross-Rhode wears many hats at the Plattsmouth Early Childhood Center, where she is the health and nutrition manager. She also serves as the school nurse and participates on the Head Start Policy Council and the Cass County Health Advisory Board.

Gross-Rhode goes over and above the call of duty, say her colleagues. She makes home visits to ensure children have healthy living conditions. She provides food, clothing, and personal care supplies to low-income families. She coordinates with other agencies to intervene when a child’s living conditions are dangerous. And she finds healthcare for those that can’t afford it. In the classroom, she teaches these young, impressionable children healthy eating habits, the importance of exercise, good hygiene, and preventive health habits. She also promotes healthy living in her workplace by coaching her co-workers on diet and exercise.

“Every day I am trying to break that cycle of poverty and help these children get the best start possible,” says Gross-Rhode, who recently obtained a master’s in health promotion to support her new multi-dimensional roles.

Over the past two years, she has worked to better the Cass County Head Start health and nutrition program to ensure continued funding from state and federal resources. “Working in this setting is a very different type of nursing than the hospital,” she says. “I realize how important it is for students to be healthy in order to learn and grow. What I am doing now will have an impact on them for the rest of their lives.”


Mary Jane Egan
RN, BSN, Flight Nurse, Charge Nurse, Emergency Department
LifeNet, Nebraska Medicine

What attracted you to trauma nursing?

“I never imagined being a trauma nurse until I spent six hours in Creighton’s emergency department while in nursing school.  A critically ill trauma patient arrived with a head injury. I was eager to help and was able to witness life-saving procedures right in front of me. I was amazed at the vast knowledge base the nurses and physicians had to care for in a wide range of ages and acuity. I was drawn to the fast-paced, adrenaline-filled atmosphere where you can perform a procedure to literally save someone’s life.”

What is the most rewarding part of your job?

“The most rewarding part of emergency nursing is witnessing life after a traumatic event. Seeing a patient making steps towards recovery and being successful is extremely rewarding. My patients are experiencing possibly the worst day of their life and they look to my partner and I for hope. The ultimate reward is providing a second chance to others and watching them overcome the challenges they are facing.”

What is the greatest challenge you face in your job?

“The greatest challenge I face is witnessing the end of someone’s life. In emergency nursing, I see violence, fear, but also acts of love. It is humbling, emotionally tolling.  Nurses are instantly a support for the family and friends of those who may be having the worst days of their lives. I have learned that simple acts of kindness can mean the world to others. I leave work finding myself thinking of those I have cared for, but also realize how thankful I am to have life.”


Pediatrics: Non-Neonatal
Anisa Hoie
RN, Oncology Nurse
Children’s Hospital & Medical Center

“Sometimes there are things worse in life than death.” Those powerful words were spoken to Anisa Hoie by a physician colleague early in her nursing career. They were words that helped inspire her and cultivate a love for working with children and cancer.

“When I was in nursing school, one of the areas that I knew I didn’t want to work in was cancer,” she recalls. “I’m a cup half full sort of person and I thought this area would just be too depressing.”

But as Hoie became more exposed to this group of patients with her work on the medical/surgery floor, she soon learned that this was where her heart was. “These kids were living life and loving it,” she says. “They didn’t know they were supposed to be sick. These kids were going to be sick whether I was there to help them or not, so I decided that if I could be a part of their journey and make it a little bit better, then that would make it all worthwhile.”

Additionally, approximately 80 percent of these children will be long-term survivors whom Hoie says she gets to watch grow up and share in their life accomplishments.

Today, more than 30 years later, Hoie has become known by her patients, their families, and her colleagues on the cancer floor at Children’s Hospital as one that puts her heart and soul into every patient she encounters.

“I believe there’s a mission involved with nursing,” says Hoie. “You can make a difference in peoples’ lives, and sometimes that means it needs to be more than a job.”


Hospice/Home Health
Jennifer Kaluza
MSN, APRN, ANP-BC, Vascular Services
Nebraska medicine

What advice would you offer to patients?

“Ask a lot of questions and never settle for an easy answer. Always ask if there are alternatives to the treatment plan to make it more acceptable to your own goals and wishes. If a patient is active in decision-making and planning, they are more involved and more likely to follow the advice of their providers.”

What is your greatest challenge?

“Trying to balance my personal and work life. I am a lifelong learner and am always drawn to learning new things and working on new projects. As healthcare gets more complex and patients get sicker, it seems that every year we are asked to do more with less resources. I love the patients and families I work with, but it is very easy to work a lot of hours and not be fully present at home. I went to grad school when my children were just babies so that I would be able to be in a position to work standard day-shift hours and be able to spend quality time with them and my husband. As part of being a professional, I’ve had to learn how to stand up for myself. I found I was  in a position that was too demanding and my personal life was suffering. I had to make a change and find a position that stimulates me mentally and allows me to be a wife and mom.”


Acute Care/Family Practice
Jodeena M. Kempnich
MSN, RN, CNML, Advanced Nurse Administrator
CHI Health

Jodeena “Jody” Kempnich likes to think of herself as a change agent. She loves the nursing profession and is dedicated to helping the profession grow through education, research, and mentorship.

As a nurse administrator and member of the Research Council at CHI Health, Kempnich has had a significant impact in promoting research and the use of evidence-based practices by helping other nurses develop and strengthen their research skills. “When I was in nursing school, practicing nursing was often trial and error,” she explains. “That is not the case anymore. Through research, we can implement better nursing practices at the bedside by using evidence-based practices.”

Kempnich was recently awarded the Nursing Mentor Award by the Nebraska Organization of Nurse Leaders, an honor she is very proud to have. “I really enjoy mentoring other nurses and sharing my knowledge,” she says. “The nursing profession has a strong need to get younger nurses involved in leadership positions, and this is just another way I can have an impact on the profession.”

Kempnich helps facilitate change on a national level as an active member of the American Nurses Association (ANA), the American Association of Nurse Executives (AONE), and the HealthLeaders Media Council. She stays active locally with the Nebraska Organization of Nurse Leaders (NONL), Nebraska Nurses Association (NNA), and Nebraska Action Coalition–Future of Nursing (NAC).

“In nursing, we have to hold that bar high,” she says. “If I can play a role in that, then I’ve done my job.”


Medical-Surgical Nursing
Erin Merrill
RN, BSN, Lead Staff Nurse Orthopedics/Medical-Surgical Unit
Nebraska Medicine

What advice would you offer to other nurses?

“I would tell nurses to remember why they became a nurse: We are there to help people in need. There will be good days and there will be bad days. There will be easy patients and there will be tough patients…but we need to remember that we came into the nursing profession to help people. The field of nursing is one of the most trusted professions, and we get a chance every day to impact people’s lives.”

What are the rewards of being a leader?

“The most rewarding part of being a leader is seeing those around you achieve their goals. When I am working with a new graduate or a staff nurse trying to improve on skills, it is rewarding to see them achieve that goal. They get a boost in self-confidence. They improve in their nursing ability, and they gain in their ability to teach others.”

What is the most rewarding part of your job?

“Watching my patients improve and get to go home after a stay in the hospital is always a great way to end the day. However, there are times when difficult decisions have to be made and the outcomes are not always happy. Those tough times are when I can be there to support a patient and family. I can offer support, both medically and emotionally. That is also very rewarding.”


Women’s Health
Teresa Kenney
WHNP, APRN, Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner
Pope Paul VI Institute

A tender hand for women and new life are areas of care that have become Teresa Kenney’s passion. Her desire to help other women as well as her strong Catholic faith led her to Pope Paul VI Institute for the Study of Human Reproduction.

The institute is internationally recognized for its achievements in the field of natural fertility regulation and reproductive medicine. It treats women from all over the country and the world, says Kenney, who specializes in a new women’s health science called NaProTechnology. The focus here is on using natural fertility cycles to help women deal with such common women’s health issues as premenstrual syndrome, ovarian cysts, irregular cycles, painful periods, polycystic ovaries, premenopausal symptoms, infertility, and repeat miscarriage.

“I am extremely passionate about what I do because everything I offer my patients is healthy and works cooperatively with their bodies,” says Kenney. “So many women come to us with health issues they don’t understand. They have already been to many doctors for help, but have only been given a band-aid approach to medicine. We empower these women by helping them understand their bodies and, by using NaProTechnology, we are able to treat their underlying diseases without the use of harmful drugs.”

Kenney goes above and beyond the boundaries of her job to help patients, whether it’s staying after hours to make phone calls, comforting a grieving patient suffering with infertility or loss, taking the time to talk to patients that no one else can reach, or just taking a moment to pray with them. She also takes time to educate young women in the community, works at Sancta Familia family practice clinic one day a week, and also provides prenatal care for a local maternity home for homeless women.

“I feel that this is what I was called to do,” says Kenney. “To serve women and their families, and to treat them with compassion and dignity.”


Ellen Long
RN, BSN, ED Staff Nurse
Omaha VA Medical Center

“The first time I walked into the VA hospital, I felt a different presence there,” says Ellen Long. Maybe she felt the presence of her father and grandfather, who both were military veterans. Or that of her husband or three brothers who had also served in the military. Or maybe it was her mother who was a nurse at the VA for many years. Whatever the case, Long says that her love for taking care of patients has grown to a deeper level since working here.

“The patients here are so thankful,” says Long. “I’ve never felt more appreciated.”

And she’s never felt so moved. “The strength and courage they display, even when they come to the emergency room,is amazing.”

Long recently did a presentation with a colleague at a nursing conference for emergency nurses on post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury and how it affects veterans. After the recent changes in our healthcare laws that allow veterans to seek care at any hospital, Long saw a need to provide education and awareness to all nurses in hopes that it will improve care to our veterans, no matter what hospital they visit.

“Individuals with these diagnoses need a unique type of care, and I want to all nurses to be aware of their special needs,” she says. It’s just one of the many areas in which Long has taken a leadership role. She helped lead ebola preparedness efforts in her department as well as training for many types of medical and natural disasters, not to mention a number continuing education programs.

“I’m always looking for opportunities to make sure our staff is prepared and current,” says Long. “By being enthusiastic, it hopefully helps promote and encourage others to follow.”


Nancy Murray
RN, BSN, MS, Staff Nurse, and Director of Research and Special Projects, Neonatal Care, PC
Methodist Women’s Hospital

Describe an incident that has had the most impact on you in your profession?

“As a new graduate I took care of infants who had chronic illnesses and who required long-term hospitalization. I quickly realized that the infants with good growth had a better chance of survival. Together with Dr. Jon Vanderhoof, a pediatric gastroenterologist, and other interested professionals, a pediatric nutrition support team was developed. I was the first nurse on the team. By 1981, babies with long-term nutritional needs were being cared for by their parents at home, and were thriving. The program was one of the best in the country. Those first infants changed the course of my career, as I have always viewed myself as a pediatric nutrition nurse. Although my current job is more encompassing, feeding remains a large component of the care I provide in the NICU.”

What advice would you offer to patients?

“If they would listen, I would tell the babies to sleep during the night! Instead, I would like their parents to know their most important role is to love and cherish their miracle babies. They must do what is right for their family, whether it is breastfeeding, formula feeding, staying at home, or using daycare. Do what is right for you and your child, and don’t try to live up to anyone
else’s expectations.”


Lesha Murphy
BSN, Rehabilitation Nurse
Methodist Hospital

Treat others with respect. It was a simple life lesson taught by her parents when she was growing up that helped lay the foundation for Lesha Murphy’s nursing career.

Murphy works in Inpatient Rehabilitation at Nebraska Methodist Hospital. This area of patient care involves working with a wide variety of patients who have suffered various problems, such as stroke, heart attack, amputations, or brain and spinal injuries. Her role is to help patients attain their maximum function and capability to participate in life.

It’s a job that takes patience, respect, compassion, and empathy, says Murphy. “It’s definitely challenging at times, but that makes me a better nurse,” she says. “Just seeing that I can make a slight difference in anyone’s day is rewarding. And while I hope that I can have an impact on their lives, they touch my life in many, many more ways.”

Says one of her colleagues, “Lesha embodies the Methodist mission of being the ‘meaning of care.’ She is truly genuine and heartfelt with each patient she encounters and always has a smile on her face.”

Murphy says taking care of patients is “an honor and a privilege. Nursing is my passion and I can’t imagine doing anything else.”


Neurology/Psychology/ Behavioral Health
Crystal Pearon
RN, MSN, CNRN, Nebraska Epilepsy Center
Nebraska Medicine

What attracted you to this area of nursing?

“My mom was a nurse for over 40 years and I saw how much she loved her work. I also have two younger brothers and found that helping to take care of them gave me a lot of fulfillment and made me feel important. I love being a nurse for my own selfish reasons—I have a need to give to others and to feel needed!”

What advice would you offer to other nurses?

“Take care of yourself first. You will be more effective at your job if you feel good.”

What advice would you offer to patients?

“Don’t be afraid to get a second opinion or find a provider that is a good fit for you. It could be life-changing.”

What advice would you offer to students?

“Participate in something fun that you love while you are in school. There is a reason for old sayings that still ring true today, such as, ‘All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.’”

How does your profession help complete the circle?

“Nursing is everywhere. Taking care of others is nursing. At some point in our life we require ‘nursing’ from someone, so I think that it is something that we can all relate to.”


Intensive Care
Kimberly Sieck
MSN, RN, CCRN-E, Director of eFocus/eICU
CHI Health Lakeside

Overseeing a critical care team that supports up to 111 critical care patients spread among 13 hospitals at any one time is no easy task. It’s a job Kim Sieck’s colleagues say she does with professionalism, poise, and skill.

Sieck is director of the eFocus/eICU at CHI Health. ICU nurses provide bedside monitoring and assessments while the eICU team helps monitor patients 24/7 from a central monitoring unit. The eICU ensures there is a critical care physician monitoring the patients at all times and, ultimately, improves overall care.

“It’s set up like an air traffic control center,” says Sieck. “We can often see changes in a patient’s status more quickly than the bedside nurse because we are focused solely on things like vitals, ventilator data, and labs.”

Sieck started the eICU program at CHI in 2007, and it has been a success from the start. “We have decreased ‘never events’ like blood clots and infections, and last year we decreased length-of-stay through better ventilator management and saved the hospitals more than $3 million,” says Sieck.

“The eICU allows us to spread our expertise over many hospitals, and rural hospitals as well, who otherwise would not have access to the same resources,” says Sieck. She enjoys the challenge of staying current with new nursing practices and the satisfaction of seeing the impact good nursing practice can have on patient care. “In healthcare, we often see miracles every day,” says Sieck. “In the ICU, it’s even more rewarding because we see them faster and on the sickest of the sick.”


Angela Pfeiffer
MSN, APRN-CNS, ACNS, BC, Clinical Nurse Specialist, Medical-Surgical/Orthopedics
CHI Health

Describe an incident that has had the most impact on you in your profession.

“The incident that was a life-changing event for me was actually saving my mom’s life. She suffered a brain aneurysm while my husband and I were visiting at my parent’s home one weekend. She collapsed right in front of me. I had to pull from all my knowledge as a nurse while at the same time being in a family crisis. My mother is alive today, beat the odds of 50 percent survival, and leads a normal life, for which I will be forever grateful. I experienced first-hand how it felt to be a family member of someone who was critically ill. The nurses were so comforting and brilliant, and cared about my mother and our family very much. I later developed a talk titled ‘Families in Crisis: The Waiting Room Warriors,’ and shared my experiences with other nurses so they would understand what families often go through when they have a loved one who is ill, and what they as nurses can do to provide comfort and support to families.”

What are you most passionate about in your profession?

“I am most passionate about being able to bring evidenced-based care to the bedside. This is really about bringing the best proven care to our patients who need it. I always get excited when there is something out there that can make a big difference in patient’s lives.”


Senior Services
Dawn Truckenbrod
RN, BSN, Director of Nursing
Brookestone Meadows

The first time Dawn Truckenbrod stepped foot into a nursing rehabilitation center for seniors nearly 30 years ago, she knew this was her vocation. “Something clicked and I realized that I really enjoyed being around the elderly population,” says Truckenbroad. “I have a deep respect for their experience and knowledge. They come from all avenues of life and have been through so much more than any of us. Eventually, it will come full circle. Some day I will be in their shoes. So right now, I figure it’s my turn to help them.”

Truckenbroad also enjoys working with the patients’ families and helping them get through a difficult time. “It makes you feel so good when you go home and you know that you’ve done something beneficial for someone else,” she says. “It puts a smile on my face.”

Truckenbrod is Director of Nursing at Brookestone Meadows, a facility that provides short-term rehabilitation and skilled nursing services to seniors. Her colleagues respect her patience, dedication, and leadership skills. Says one of her colleagues, “Dawn is a very dedicated, responsible, high achieving nurse whose heart is always with those she serves, whether they are patients and residents or the team members she is responsible for growing and developing.”

“As a seasoned nurse, there is so much we can teach other nurses and so much they can teach us,” says Truckenbrod. “We can learn and grow from each other.” Her colleagues say that it is the selfless attitude and mutual respect for those she serves that is indelibly inscribed in the outcomes and the culture at Brookestone Meadows.


Elizabeth Lynn Beam
BSN, MSN, PhD, Director of Education, Nebraska Biocontainment Unit

What drew you to this area of nursing?

“I was drawn to infection control research by peers who trusted me and supported me. The cool thing about the biocontainment team in 2014 is that we all had different strengths and were willing to work collectively to solve problems as they arose. I remember driving to work the morning the first patient arrived, my mind racing thinking about keeping my peers safe and sound while asking them to do something only a few people had ever done in the United States.  They are truly ordinary people who stood up to help a fellow healthcare worker when it was terribly frightening to do so. I hope in some small way I soothed their fears and gave them peace of mind.”

What is your biggest pet peeve in nursing?

“Nursing has become too automated and we need a return to our basic skills using new technologies available with critical thinking at the bedside. Healthcare provider education needs to interlace the wisdom of early nursing practice with evidence-based research in the many allied health professions. Our family had a miraculous birth of a little boy during this exciting time in history. That little boy feeds my passion, as well as the love of my husband, Shad Beam, and other supportive family and friends.”


Omaha Magazine’s 2015 Excellence in Nursing Finalists


Acute Care/Family Practice

Jodeena Kempnich
CHI Health

Kim Hayes
Nebraska Medicine

Bianca Meehan
Omaha VA Medical Center



Bridget Boeckman
Nebraska Medicine

Kim Robison
Methodist Hospital

Jenny Strawn
Children’s Hospital & Medical Center


Community Care/Ambulatory Care

Ira Combs

Carolyn Carr
CHI Health Lakeside

Sarah Martensen
CHI Health Midlands



Elizabeth Lynn Beam

Joyce  Black
UNMC College of Nursing

Kathleen Zaijic
College of St. Mary



Mary Jane Egan
Life Net and
Nebraska Medicine

Ellen  Long
Omaha VA Medical Center


Hospice/Home Health

Jennifer Kaluza
Nebraska Medicine

Jena Ann Fosdick
Saint Jude Hospice

Diane McGee
Nebraska Medicine


Intensive Care

Kimberly Sieck
CHI Health

Kelly Renee Goetschkes

Keri Kennon
CHI Health Lakeside


Management/Nurse Executive

Tracy Doebelin
CHI Health Bergan Mercy

Dr. Katherine  Girard
National American University 

Linda Norton
CHI Health Lakeside


Medical-Surgical Nursing

Erin Merrill
Nebraska Medicine

Alexei  Boettcher
Methodist Hospital

Blake Kevin Smith
Methodist Hospital


Neurology/Psychology/Behavioral Health

Crystal Pearon
Nebraska Medicine

Monica  Bentzinger
Nebraska Medicine

Amy Jo Patten
Nebraska Medicine



Cheryl Bohacek
Methodist Hospital

Whitney  Knuth
Nebraska Medicine



Angie Pfeiffer
CHI Health Lakeside

Chris McLouth
Nebraska Orthopaedic Hospital



Nancy  Murray
Methodist Women’s Hospital

Jamie Jensen
Methodist Women’s Hospital

Catherine Stanton
Nebraska Medicine


Pediatrics: Non-Neonatal

Anisa  Hoie
Children’s Hospital & Medical Center

Kristie Schwab
Children’s Hospital & Medical Center

Susan  Steinke
Children’s Respite Care Center



Lesha Murphy
Methodist Hospital

Katie  Pearson
Methodist Hospital



Lindsey Gross-Rhode
Plattsmouth School District

Bridgette Laney
CHI Health Midlands

Jillian Sisson
Nebraska Methodist College


Senior Services

Dawn Truckenbrod
Brookestone Meadows

Shannon Dobey
Omaha VA Medical Center

Kathleen Wooley
Life Care Center of Elkhorn


Women’s Health

Teresa Kenney
Pope Paul VI Institute

Sharon McArdle
Methodist Women’s Hospital

Ann Smith
CHI Health Bergan Mercy


Excellence in Nursing National Judging Panel

Hazel Chappell, MSN, RN
Director, Nursing Continuing Education
University of Kentucky

Thad Wilson, PhD, RN, FAAN
Executive Associate Dean, College of Nursing
The University of Iowa

Rebecca Payne McClanahan, MSN, RN
Missouri Nurses Assocation

Robert Rosseter
Chief Communications Officer
American Association of Colleges of Nursing

Excellence in Nursing WebFeatureImage 2015

NE/IA Chapter of ASID 
Project Awards 2013

December 9, 2013 by

Environments, spaces, rooms—it doesn’t matter what they’re called, but integral to their existence are interior designers. Professional designers conceptualize, coordinate, and execute their visions to create projects that are stunning, exciting, and functional. The ASID (American Society of Interior Designers) Nebraska/Iowa Chapter recently submitted design projects to be judged by the South Florida ASID Chapter. The following pages illustrate a sampling of the award-winning designs for business projects produced by the NE/IA Chapter ASID professional designers this year.

Ballantyne Strong Corporate Offices
Lori M. Krejci, AIA, Allied ASID

 This open office plan reflects the future direction of the organization, a transition from traditional thinking toward a more modern method of working with increased employee interaction.

Riverfront Place Tower II Lobby
Lisa B. McCoid, AIA, ASID
Brianne Wilhelm, Allied ASID

Contemporary, bold, and modern, a foundation of neutral gray and taupe features pops of red. Rectilinear forms blend with organic, flowing shapes, and a commissioned wall sculpture, inspired by the changing levels of water, reflects the building’s proximity to the river.

Holiday Inn, Mercy Campus
Marilyn S Hansen, FASID
Nikki Skomal, Allied ASID

Dramatic colors reflect the city lights of red, green, blue, violet, and saffron. Art was selected for scale, contemporary design, and colors that unified the complete project. A local artist created a night scene of the city’s skyline for the project.

NE/IA Chapter of ASID Project Awards 2013

November 2, 2013 by

Environments, spaces, rooms…It doesn’t matter how you refer to them, interior designers are an integral part of the very best examples. Professional designers conceptualize, coordinate, and execute their visions to create projects that are stunning, exciting, and functional. The NE/IA Chapter of ASID (American Society of Interior Designers) recently submitted design projects to be judged by the ASID Florida South Chapter. These amazing projects are a sampling of the award-winning work produced in the past year by designers of the NE/IA Chapter of ASID.

Residential over 4,000 sq. ft.
Lori M Krejci, AIA, Allied ASID
Avant Architects
3337 N. 107th St., Omaha

Family, friends, and food are at the core of this progressive home of a young family that enjoys modern art and entertaining.


Photo by Joseph Vavak

Residential over 4,000 sq. ft.
Lori M Krejci, AIA, Allied ASID
Avant Architects
3337 N. 107th St., Omaha

Mid-Century Modern provided inspiration. Ample built-in storage  allows the owners to easily maintain a clean and uncluttered home.


Photo by Lisa Louise Photography

Residential under 2,500 sg. ft.
Marian Holden, ASID
Erin Svoboda, ASID
Designer’s Touch
2085 N. 120th St., Omaha

The goal of this project was to turn this unfinished basement into a space for entertaining, fitness and children’s activities.  The color palette remained neutral and sophisticated with rich shades of gray accompanied by cream trim, dark alder doors, and a variety of textures. All of the client’s wish list was achieved in this project, and they were elated with the outcome.


Photo by Jeffrey Bebee

Residential over 4,000 sq. ft.
Michele Hybner, Allied ASID
Shawn Falcone, Allied ASID
D3 Interiors
3918 N. 138th St., Omaha

Falcone Homes

Spaces of this home evoke a comfortable and approachable feeling while still looking stylish, sophisticated, and classically modern.


Photo by Tom Kessler

Residential over 4,000 sq. ft.
Nancy Pesavento, ASID
Lisa Cooper, Allied ASID
Interiors Joan & Associates
13130 W. Dodge Rd., Omaha

Love of French architecture and a sophisticated European look is the core inspiration of this home, reflecting the clients’ appreciation for the balance of refined elements with accents of a rustic nature.


Photo by Tom Kessler

Residential Singular Space
Diane Luxford, ASID
D-Lux Interiors

This outdoor area becomes very cozy and semiprivate with the ability to close off the space with outdoor draperies and motorized screen shades. All furniture and fabrics are rated for outdoor use. Heaters tucked under the eaves and a gas fireplace warm the space on cool fall nights.


Photo by Tom Kessler

Residential under 2,500 sq. ft.
Lisa B. McCoid, AIA, ASID
D3 Interiors
3918 N. 138th St,. Omaha

The objective of this project was to create a functioning man-cave for watching football games and entertaining.  A glass transom creates a light and airy feeling in two spaces. No man-cave would be complete without a bar, so cabinetry was added to match the TV projection canopy.


Photo by Tom Kessler

Residence over 4,000 sq. ft.
Beth Settles, Allied ASID
Interiors Joan & Associates
13130 W. Dodge Rd., Omaha

The design concept for this project stemmed from the 
client’s desire to transform their home with traditional elements into a more modern 
transitional design.


Photo by Long-Shots Video Creations

Residential Singular Space
Victoria Pierce, ASID
Paul Daniels Interiors
4333 S 70th St., Lincoln

Aesthetically pleasing in a timeless and sophisticated style. Sufficient storage and display from custom- designed furniture of clean lines and smooth surfaces, a combination of color, textures, and patterns provide a rich and elegant feeling to a room that is now functional 
and beautiful.


Photo by Tom Kessler

Residential Singular Space
Julie Odermatt, ASID
Kayla McClure, Allied ASID
D3 Interiors
3918 N. 138th St,. Omaha

Designed to make the ranch home appealing to all ages. The juxtaposition of the creamy white and rich chocolate cabinetry inspired the use of neutral warm colors with pops of bright white.  The layout of the space creates a room that could be used for entertaining and also day-to-day living.


Photo by Tom Kessler

Residential under 4,000 sq. ft.
Stacie Muhle, Allied ASID

Contemporary spaces that are warm and inviting. Custom-made items were used to achieve a unique style.

Iraq War Vet Jacob Hausman Battles PTSD and Finds Peace

June 20, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann and Scott Drickey

Growing up in Beatrice, Neb., Jacob “Jake” Hausman harbored a childhood dream of serving in the U.S. military. Both his grandfathers and an uncle served. He volunteered for the Army in 2002 and upon completing the rite of passage known as basic training, he finally realized his long-held dream. He made it as an infantryman, too, meaning he’d joined the “hardcore” ranks of the all-guts-and-no-glory grunts who do the dirty work of war on the ground.

By the time his enlistment ended three years later, Hausman earned a combat service badge during a year’s deployment in Iraq. He participated in scores of successful missions targeting enemy forces. He saw comrades in arms, some of them close friends, die or incur life-threatening wounds. He survived, but there were things he saw and did he couldn’t get out of his mind. Physical and emotional battle scars began negatively impacting his quality of life back home.

Headaches. Ringing in the ears. Dizziness. Nightmares. Panic attacks. Irritability. Depression. Anxiety. Certain sounds bothered him. He felt perpetually on edge and on high alert, as if still patrolling the hostile streets of Mosul or Fallujah. With his fight-or-flight response system stuck in overdrive, he slept only fitfully.

A relationship he started with a woman ended badly. He lived in his parents’ basement, unemployed, isolating himself except for beer-soaked nights out that saw him drink to oblivion in order to escape or numb the anguish he felt inside. No one but his fellow vets knew the full extent of his misery.

With things careening out of control, Hausman sought professional help. Hardly to his own surprise, he was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Anyone who’s endured trauma is prone to develop it. Sustained exposure to combat makes soldiers particularly vulnerable. Not all combat veterans are diagnosed with PTSD, but nearly one-third are.

What did surprise Hausman was learning he’d suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI). In retrospect, it made sense because the Stryker combat vehicle he was in absorbed an IED (improvised explosive device) blast that knocked him unconscious. Studies confirm ever-stronger charges like that one caused many more such injuries as the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts wore on. Injuries of this type often went undetected or unreported in the past.

“In combat and war, no one’s playing music in the background. It’s not passionate; it’s pure survival instincts.” – Jacob Hausman

It was because of these diagnoses that Hausman became a casualty among returning veterans. Some estimates put their numbers with PTSD and/or TBI at a quarter of a million. Statistics alone don’t tell the story. In each case, an individual experiences disruptive symptoms that make adjusting to civilian life difficult. The suicide rate among this group is high.

The scope of this health care crisis has strained U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ resources. In some locales, benefit claims are months behind schedule. Nebraska’s VA system has largely kept pace with demand. Hausman’s own claim was expedited quickly. He was found to be 90 percent disabled.

Six years after starting a VA treatment regimen of counseling and medication to address his PTSD issues, along with physical therapy to mitigate his TBI symptoms, his life has turned around. He earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Bellevue University. He’s gainfully employed today as a veterans service representative at the Lincoln VA. He also does outreach work with vets. He recently married the former Kendra Koch of Beatrice, and the couple reside in a home in Papillion.

They adopted a Lab-Golden Retriever mix dog, Lucy, from a rescue animal shelter. Kendra’s an animal lover like Jacob, who with his mother, Gayla Hausman, and his friend, Matthew Brase, own and operate the foundation Voice for Companion Animals.

Throughout his active duty Army tenure, Jake carried inside his Kevlar helmet a photo of his favorite adolescent companion, a Chihuahua named Pepe. Not long after Jake’s return from Iraq, the dog took sick and had to be put down.

Jacob and Kendra are seriously considering starting a family.

Emotional and physical challenges persist for him, but he now has tools to manage them. No longer stuck in the past, he lives one day at a time to the fullest and looks ahead to realizing some dreams. Contentment seemed impossible when he was in the depths of his malaise. His is only one man’s story, but his recovery illustrates PTSD and TBI need not permanently debilitate someone.

He’s certainly not the same Jake Hausman who joined the Army a decade ago. “I came back a completely different person. I had so much life experience,” he says. Good and bad. If nothing else, it matured him. His views on the military and war have changed. He’s not bitter, but he is wizened beyond his 28 years, and he wants people to know just how personal and final the cost of waging war is. He also wants fellow vets to know the VA is their friend.

Jacob, age 7, playing soldier at his childhood home in Beatrice, Neb. Photo provided by Jacob Hausman.

Jacob, age 7, playing soldier at his childhood home in Beatrice, Neb. Photo provided by Jacob Hausman.

Soldier Boy

Like a lot of young people, Hausman had a romantic view of soldiering. He saw it as a ticket out of his small town to find thrills and see the world.

“People live in Beatrice for a 100 years. It’s like my grandpa lived here, my mom lived here, and I’m going to live here, and I didn’t want that for myself. I struggled at school, I didn’t succeed, I was in trouble with the law, I didn’t have a bright future. And the Army at least promised adventure, intrigue. I just thought, Gosh, I want to be part of a story that can be told from generation to generation. I want to be part of something greater than myself.

“I didn’t feel connected [before]. I mean, I was social, I had friends and so forth, but I didn’t feel I belonged anywhere and I really craved that. I craved being a part of something bigger than what I was, and [the infantry] really gave it to me.”

You might assume the catalyst for his enlistment was the 9/11 terrorist attacks, but you’d be wrong. Long before then he’d made up his mind, he would enlist as soon as he could. He wanted it so badly that he was only 17 when the Army took him with his parents’ written consent. He completed high school early.

“I craved being a part of something bigger than what I was, and [the infantry] really gave it to me.” – Hausman

“Since I was like 5 years old, I wanted to be a part of the infantry. My mom’s father was in the infantry during the Korean War, and that’s why I ultimately joined. So I was always allured by the infantry because they’re the hardest, the best, the whole thing. I was beyond motivated.

“The struggle, the fight, well, that’s all true. You actually get to experience those things, and it’s not pretty and glorified. What I always tell people is that in combat and war, no one’s playing music in the background. It’s not passionate; it’s pure survival instincts. And when you’re in those situations, you’re not doing it for the flag. You’re doing it for your friend to the left and right of you.”

He couldn’t know the hard realities of war before experiencing it. He only thought about the excitement, the camaraderie, the tradition.

“Well, I got all those things, and I got a little bit more than I bargained for.”

Jacob, age 20, ready for action in Fallujah, Iraq, 2004. Photo provided by Jacob Hausman.

Jacob, age 20, ready for action in Fallujah, Iraq, 2004. Photo provided by Jacob Hausman.

You’re in the Army Now

His service almost got shelved before getting started. Weeks before leaving for basic training, he and some friends were out cruising Beatrice in his car. Open alcohol containers were within plain view when they got pulled over by local police. Jake was behind the wheel. Already on probation for underage-drinking violations, Hausman “freaked out” and fled the scene. He later turned himself in. Authorities could have used the pending charges to prevent him from going into the Army. A probation officer became his advocate.

“She went above and beyond for me,” he says. “She saw something in me and just really pushed for me and got it dropped. Two weeks later, I left [for basic]. About three years later when I came back, I told her what that meant to me and who I am now because of it. If it wasn’t for her, this story would have never happened.”

So off he went for the adventure of his life. Rude awakenings came early and often at Fort Benning, Ga., for this “spoiled only-child” who’d never done his own laundry.

“You grow into a man really fast. It kicked my ass.” Mental and physical toughness are required of infantrymen, and he had no choice but to steel himself for its rigors.

“You adapt fast or you suffer,” he says, “and I was one who adapted fast. The infantry is so hard. There’s a lot of hazing. It’s survival of the fittest.”

Hazing and all, he says, “I thought basic training was the best thing I’ve ever done. The reason why it was powerful for me is that it was all about the mission. There was no individualism; we were all a team. I really loved that.

“You grow into a man really fast. It kicked my ass.” – Hausman

“My master’s is in leadership, where the focus is on what can you do for the team, and that’s what the infantry is. No matter if you show up with a shaved head or dreadlocks, you get your head shaved. No matter if you’re clean-shaven or you have a beard, you get your face shaved. It’s just part of it. They strip you down to your very bare minimum, and it’s all about coming together as a team, being a man, learning how to get along with others, and learning different cultures.

“You’re talking about someone who, as a kid, had one black person in his class and now I had blacks, Hispanics, [and] Jamaicans in my barracks. I’d never dealt with that. I learned so much from other people; it was fantastic. They treated me like everyone else, I treated them like everyone else.”

Infantry training is largely about endurance. “The whole infantry thing is walking and running while carrying a 50- to 75-pound rucksack,” he says. “Can you walk a long ways with all that weight?”

Before making it into the infantry, one must pass a final crucible. Hausman recalls it this way: “They have this legendary walk that’s like 25 miles of water, hills, and so forth. It’s like your final capstone test at the very end. You know you’re an infantryman if you pass this thing. It’s hell on earth. I had to duct tape my thighs so they wouldn’t rub together. You walk through a river, and your feet are wet. One entire foot was rubbed raw. I mean, it was the most painful thing I’ve ever done.

“It’s just a whole mental thing—Can you get through the pain? It was so great getting that done. I was so proud.”

He then joined his unit in Fort Lewis, Wash., to await deployment. He says everything there was even more intense than at Fort Benning—the training, the hazing, the brotherhood, the partying. He felt he’d truly found his calling. “I became very good at being an infantryman. You really felt a part of the team; you bonded. I mean, you just had a lot of brothers.”

He says the drills he and his mates did in the field, including playing realistic war games, made them into a cohesive fighting force.

“We were a killing machine.”

Jacob, right, receiving his Combat Infantry Badge from Lieutenant Blanton in Mosul, Iraq, 2004. Photo provided by Jacob Hausman.

Jacob, right, receiving his Combat Infantry Badge from Lieutenant Blanton in Mosul, Iraq, 2004. Photo provided by Jacob Hausman.

Desert War

A downside to barracks life, he says, is all the alcohol consumption. “Drinking is the culture—I’m talking excessively. In the military, you’re drinking hard liquor, and you’re just drinking till you curl up. That’s the path that started going bad for me there.” But a substance abuse problem was the least of his worries once in Iraq in 2003.

His company was assigned to the new Stryker Brigade, which took its name from the 8-wheel Stryker combat vehicle. “Something in-between a Humvee and a tank,” Hausman describes it. “After Somalia, our brass decided we needed a vehicle that could put infantry in the city, let us do our thing, and get us out fast.”

It carried a crew of six.

“We built cages [of slat armor] on the outside to stop RPGs (rocket-propelled grenades).” The cages proved quite effective. However, Strykers had a problem with rollovers, a defect Hausman would soon experience to his horror.

“We had a lot of good intelligence from special forces initially. Every day, we would kick someone’s door down and take out a terrorist. We’d either arrest him, kill him, do whatever. We killed a lot of bad guys.

“Once the intelligence stopped, we kind of ran out of operations to do.” Then his squad’s duty consisted of doing presence patrols. “It basically was to show the Iraqis we were around, but in all reality, it was walk around until we got shot at so we could kill [the shooters].”

Draw fire, identify target, engage.

“You’re still seeing a human being face-to-face; you’re still pulling a trigger on someone; you still have that you’re-dead-or-I’m-dead reality. You cannot shake that experience.” – Hausman

Hausman was a specialist as the squad’s designated marksman. “I had an extra weapon—a snipe rifle. I’d go out with the snipers, and we’d do recon on special missions,” he explains. “We’d take fire here and there, but we’d maybe only get in a firefight every three weeks.”

He was part of a Quick Reaction Force unit that responded within minutes to crises in the field. That sometimes meant coming back from a long operation only to have to go right back out without any sleep.

“Once, we got into an 18-hour firefight when we were called to secure two HET (Heavy Equipment Transporters) vehicles hit by RPGs and abandoned by their transportation team. It was a residential district in Mosul. We got there and RPGs start blasting and IEDs started popping. It was just an ambush. The enemy had us surrounded 360 degrees. We were pinned down taking gunfire. This was life or death. At a certain point, you’re not thinking; it’s pure survival animal instinct.

“I turned the corner at a T-intersection, and there were muzzle flashes from windows. There were four of us versus about six muzzle flashes. It was just who could kill who fastest. A guy came across the roof, and I fired my 203 grenade launcher, BOOM, dead. A squad member got shot and paralyzed. Another got wounded by an RPG, his intestines spilling out. He was EVAC’d out.”

He says in situations like these you confront the question: “Are you really committed to killing another human being? And I have killed another person.” Despite today’s automatic weapons, he says, “You’re still seeing a human being face-to-face; you’re still pulling a trigger on someone; you still have that you’re-dead-or-I’m-dead reality. You cannot shake that experience.”

In the aftermath of such intense action, he says, “You’re hiked up; you can’t sleep.” Indeed, he “couldn’t let down” for his entire nine months in Iraq. “You just can’t let your guard down.” Even on leave back home, he was so conditioned by threats that “driving back from the airport,” he recalls, “I was looking for IEDs on the road, scanning the roofs for snipers.” When he could finally release the pent-up stress, he slept three straight days.

From left: Specialist Mower, Specialist Crumpacker, and Specialist Hausman, 19, in Samarra, Iraq, 2003. The photo was taken the day after the horrific Stryker accident that killed three soldiers. Photo provided by Jacob Hausman.

From left: Specialist Mower, Specialist Crumpacker, and Specialist Hausman, 19, in Samarra, Iraq, 2003. The photo was taken the day after the horrific Stryker accident. Photo provided by Jacob Hausman.

A Tragic Accident

As bad as firefights got, Hausman says, “The worst thing I’ve experienced in my life occurred about a month after I got to Iraq.” It didn’t involve a single gunshot or explosion either. It was his turn operating the Stryker. His team, followed by another in a second Stryker, were on a muddy backroad near Samarra heading to do recon. A ravine on their side of the road led to a canal. Suddenly, the road gave way and both Strykers overturned into the canal. The ensuing struggle haunts him still.

“We’re upside down, water starts running in, it’s miserable cold. I’m thinking, ‘Oh no, it’s over.’”

He recalls hearing his father’s voice telling him not to panic.

“I don’t know how I got the hatch open, I just muscled it, and the water rushed in. I took a deep breath and went down in it. My body got pinned between the ground and the vehicle. I’m struggling, I’m drowning. I thought, ‘Is this how I’m going to die?’ I escaped from the bottom somehow and got on the side,”…only to find himself trapped again. He began swallowing water.

“My body got pinned between the ground and the vehicle. I’m struggling, I’m drowning. I thought, ‘Is this how I’m going to die?’” – Hausman

“I looked up and I could kind of see the moon. I started clawing, clawing, clawing, and gasping for air. I made it. I gathered my thoughts, climbed on the vehicle, and saw one of my buddies had gotten flung out. We went to the back,” where they found their mates trapped below, desperate for escape. “We were all fighting to get the hatch open. It was just terrible. We get the hatch open, and everyone’s there.”

A roll call accounted for all hands. Except in the rush to get out, a team member got “trampled over” and drowned. “We got his body out and did CPR, but it was five minutes too late.”

Hausman was “really good friends” with the lost squad member, Joseph Blickenstaff.

The driver and the squad leader in the second vehicle also died. Hausman was friends with the driver, J. Riverea Wesley. Staff Sergeant Steven H. Bridges was the squad leader lost that day.

Assessing what happened, Hausman says, “It was chaos; it was tragedy. That really shattered me for a while. I won’t let it ruin my life—I’ll go swimming and stuff—but it was just traumatic. It is hard to deal with—getting over it. There’s some parts of it I will never get over.”

OMAG cover OM1212-City-f_spread

The Aftermath Comes Home

War being war, there’s no time or support for processing tragedy and trauma. “It was shove everything inside, shut up, move forward,” says Jake. Those unresolved feelings came tumbling out like an “avalanche” when he got back home in 2004.

“I was just a trainwreck. I was miserable, destroyed. My emotions ran wild. I couldn’t sleep. I was just so anxious. I couldn’t take deep breaths, I would sniff, just like a dog panting. Like a 24-hour panic attack. You’re uncomfortable being you every second of the day. You’re not in control, and that’s what you’re afraid of. Just freaking out about stuff. I was so afraid at night I would get up nine or 10 times and check the lock on my door. The nightmares are incredible.”

Excessive drinking became his coping mechanism. The more he drank, the more he needed to drink to keep his demons at bay. “You’re in a vicious cycle, and you can’t get out of it,” he says.

“At one point, I contemplated suicide because I was like, ‘What is the point of living when I am this bad, this miserable? Is it ever going to get better than this?’”

His family saw him unraveling.

“Mom and Dad were worried, deathly worried, but they didn’t know how to handle it. They didn’t know if it was a stage or my turning 21. They didn’t know what to do with me.”

“Usually in this population, patients turn to drinking or to other substance abuse and the number one reason they tell me they do it is because they can’t sleep or to fight off nightmares,” says Omaha VA social worker Heather Bojanski. “They don’t want to come in for help, they don’t want medication, and drugs and alcohol are easy to get a hold of. They’d rather try to cope themselves before they come in for help or actually have to face [that] there is a problem.”

Omaha VA Hospital counselor Heather Bojanski.

Omaha VA Hospital social worker Heather Bojanski.

Jim Rose, a mental health physician’s assistant with the Lincoln VA, says recovery has to start with someone recognizing they have a problem and wanting to deal with it. “If they’re still reluctant to accept that as a problem, then it makes it very difficult. Help’s out there, but it is difficult with this group who by nature tend to be more self-reliant and have the world by the shoulders, and then to have something like this happen kind of turns things upside down.”

There’s no set timetable for when PTSD might present in someone.

“They’re all on a continuum,” says Bojanski. “Two veterans can come back who have seen and been through the same exact thing, and one will seem perfectly fine and the other may immediately start struggling. That all depends on a few things—what was going on in their life when they came back, and how much family support they have. It’s all going to depend on them and their family and what’s going on and how honest they are with themselves.

“If they come back and they have great family support and their family’s in tune and really watching them, then they’ll do well. But if nobody’s really paying attention and they’re just doing their own thing and they start isolating and drinking, then those are big issues to look at and people really need to encourage them to come in.”

Hausman says, “There’s a threshold of stress. It’s going to come out eventually if you don’t take care of it. For me, it came out real early. I was a boy; I was not equipped for getting used up in the war machine.”

“[Some veterans] would rather try to cope themselves before they come in for help or actually have to face [that] there is a problem.” – Heather Bojanski, social worker

Rose says PTSD tends to be suppressed among active duty military because they’re in a protective environment around people with similar experiences. But once separated from the military, it becomes a different matter.

“They feel isolated, and the symptoms will probably intensify,” he says. “It’s usually a couple years after discharge people reach a point where they just can’t cope with it anymore and something’s going to happen—they’re going to get in trouble or they’re going to ask for help, and that’s when we see them.”

That’s how it was for Hausman, who concealed the extent of his problems from family and friends and tried coping alone.

“I didn’t want to burden them with that…My friends, they thought it was just old Jake because I’m a partier, I’m gregarious, so they enjoyed it. But they didn’t see the dark side of it. They didn’t understand the mega-depression and anxiety. When I was drunk, I could shield it.

“But there’s usually one or two people in your life that know you. Robert Engel is probably my best friend to this today. He was in my unit. He lives in Kansas City, Mo. He recognizes when I’m down; I recognize when he’s down. We kind of pick each other up. He’s seen me at my lowest point but he accepts me for who I am, and I accept him for who he is, and we sincerely care about each other.”

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Getting Help

“When I decided I wasn’t going to kill myself, I resolved to figure this out,” says Jake. “I started reading spirituality, I started studying psychology.”

Most importantly, he sought help from the Veterans Administration. He and a fellow vet in Lincoln, Mike Krause, talked straight about what he needed to do. Like any vet seeking services, Hausman underwent screenings. He had all the classic symptoms of PTSD.

The intake process works the same for all vets. Bojanski says, “We sit down with each of them individually and decide what level of care they need.” In the case of Hausman, she says, “He came to the VA, and we started to treat him. Then when he started to take medication, he stopped drinking, and it was like an eye-opening experience to him that, ‘Oh my God, I’ve been suffering all this time.’ He started to go to groups, he talked to other people and realized, ‘Wow, I’m not the only one suffering.’ Other people he knew from his unit were going.”

Rose says the medications commonly prescribed for PTSD are “a mixed bag” in terms of effectiveness. He emphasizes, “There is no medication that cures these symptoms, but we have got things that can help people lead better lives, including anti-depressants and anti-psychotics.” To supplement the meds, he says, “We try to steer people to cognitive-therapy counseling.”

A holistic mind-body-spirit approach has worked for Hausman.

“That’s why exercise is important, counseling is important, and you have to supplement it with medication,” he says. “It’s not just a one trick pony. You can’t just throw some meds at someone and expect them to get better, you have to do all those things.”

Rose salutes Hausman and anyone who embraces recovery. “It’s a fairly lengthy process, and it involves commitment. It’s not a passive act. Jake’s a testament to people that, if you really want to get through it you can.”

Lincoln VA substance abuse counselor Mary Ann Thompson admires him for getting sober and “remaining clean and sober and productive.”

“He easily could have succumbed to all those issues and who knows where he’d be at now, but I’m so proud of him for moving forward.” – Kendra Hausman, Jacob’s wife

Bojanski sees a new Jake, saying, “He has a much better outlook on life. He’s very proactive.”

More than most, Kendra Hausman appreciates how far her husband’s come: “I’ve seen a lot less anxiety. Overall, he’s more calm, more level-headed, he’s able to handle situations better. He doesn’t get as angry or as worked up about small things like he used to. He easily could have succumbed to all those issues and who knows where he’d be at now, but I’m so proud of him for moving forward. He’s very determined. Once he puts his mind to doing something, he’ll get it done no matter what. He’ll figure out what he needs to do, just like he did with his school and career.”

Jacob, himself, says, “I’ve come a long ways. Life is so much better.” What he’s realized, he says, is “There are just some things you cannot [do with] will power; you just have to get help from people. I’ve had a lot of good people in my life that have helped me. And that’s what I’ve learned—you have to ask for help, you have to be willing to get help. The VA is there to help people. They’ve helped me so many times.”

Bojanski says the VA’s more responsive to veterans’ needs today. “The VA realized we did a lousy job welcoming Vietnam veterans back home, so when this war started, we wanted to be proactive and make sure we welcomed our veterans home. We didn’t want them to have a stigma with mental health, we wanted to make sure everything was in place. So we created these clinics (OEF or Operation Enduring Freedom and OIF or Operation Iraqi Freedom), where we work very hard with veterans. It’s very confidential, so not everybody in their unit is going to find out. We have an ER open 24 hours a day.

“It’s not like it used to be when you just had to soldier on, or if you reached out for help it wasn’t confidential.”

She says there isn’t as much stigma now about seeking mental health care.

“It’s getting better; we’re still not where we need to be, but I will say the armed forces, the Department of Defense, and our population in general are changing their views about that. We also do a lot of outreach, a lot of speaking to communities to make sure people are aware it’s okay to get help.”

Hausman does outreach himself as a way of giving back. He says when he addresses audiences of freshly returned vets, he commands their attention.

“They believe in me because I’ve seen it, I’ve done it, and I’m working for the VA. I’m 90 percent service-connected; I’ve got a combat infantry badge. Seeing them is like seeing my reflection. I’m motivated to get them right before they take the wrong path. Someone got me over the hump, and I want to get them to that point, too. I want to help veterans get the services they need. It’s just so rewarding.”

Hausman with wife Kendra and dog Lucy.

The War that Never Ends, Moving on with Life

His PTSD still flare-ups now and then. “Recently, I had a little struggle for a while, but I didn’t fall back into the past because I’ve got good people in my life today.” He says he has combat veteran friends who still struggle because “they don’t have the support system.”

He accepts the fact he’ll always be dealing with the effects of war.

“There are some things I would change, but it’s made me who I am even with all the disabilities and struggles and everything I face. I think through all the suffering I’ve come to know peace. There’s some breaking points where you feel sorry for yourself and you have little pity parties, but then again I look around me and see what I have—a great support system, a wonderful wife.
It’s made me stronger.”

“I think through all the suffering I’ve come to know peace.” – Hausman

Finding Kendra, who works as a speech pathologist with the Omaha Public Schools, has been a gift. “She is the light of my life; she changed my life. Her enthusiasm for life is just breathtaking. She’s smart, beautiful, loving. She’s the greatest teacher in my life. She doesn’t need to understand everything I go through, but sometimes I need her to help me get through it.

“I was going through a low point, and she said something to me that no one else could say to me without offending me: ‘You got through war, now you can get through this, so suck it up.’ From her, that meant a lot. She knows me at that fundamental level to tell me what I need to hear sometimes. We’re really good together.”

Flareups or not, Jake’s moving on with life and not looking back.

If you have a concern about a veteran or want more information, call 402-995-4149. The VA’s local crisis hotline is 1-800-273-8255. For the latest findings on PTSD, visit ptsd.va.gov/aboutface.

Read more of Leo Adam Biga’s work at leoadambiga.wordpress.com.

Courtney Stein

November 25, 2012 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

If all the world’s a stage, then 25-year-old actress, dancer, and choreographer Courtney Stein is definitely a player.

While performing in the musical Once On This Island at the tender age of 5, Stein, who was born and raised in Omaha, says she got “the itch” for theatre. “I grew up in the Ralston Community Theatre, taking part in numerous summer musicals throughout my adolescence,” she adds.

After she graduated from Ralston High School, Stein headed out to southern California for a year to join the Young Americans, a touring performance and music education outreach program. She then returned to Omaha to study vocal music education at the University of Nebraska-Omaha. Shortly thereafter, she went to New York University, where she created her own program of study in various culture, dance, theatre, and music, but then returned home once more to graduate from UNO in 2010 with an individualized degree in interdisciplinary studies—specifically, anthropology with a focus on music, dance, and theatre.

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Today, Stein earns her living as a freelance choreographer and dance instructor, and she also teaches yoga, tai chi, and tap dancing at Bellevue Senior Center. Beyond her freelance work, Stein is involved with several nonprofit organizations, including WhyArts? and Arts for All, Inc. “I teach at a multitude of elementary schools in the metro, through both the Artery’s Dancing Classroom program and through the Omaha Community Playhouse’s educational outreach program. I [also] choreograph several area high school musicals and show choirs, as well,” she says.

But just teaching performance wasn’t enough for Stein; she wanted an outlet to continue the passion for performance her 5-year-old self had felt so long ago. That’s when she looked into the community theatre scene in her hometown.

“We don’t act for the money, we don’t sing for our supper, and we don’t dance for a dime.”

“Omaha is special,” she says. “It is home to so many artists—starving and otherwise, who are lucky enough to share their passion in a welcoming environment…We are privileged to have such wonderfully diverse yet mutually supportive theaters.”

One such theater is the Omaha Community Playhouse, the largest community theatre in the nation. The theater opened in the 1920s after a group of Omahans—including Alan McDonald, architect of the Joslyn Art Museum, who later became president of the Playhouse—wanted stage performances to return to a community increasingly dominated by the rising popularity of films. In April 1925, the Playhouse’s very first play, The Enchanted Cottage, opened and was directed by Greg Foley, starring Dodie Brando, mother of actor Marlon Brando. The theater later saw the acting debuts of Henry Fonda (father of actress Jane Fonda), Marlon Brando, Dorothy McGuire, and Julie Wilson. For Stein, having the chance to stand on the stage where these legends once stood was an aspiration.20121031_bs_1664-Edit copy

“The first show I auditioned for at the Playhouse was Urinetown, and I actually wasn’t cast.” But Stein was stubborn and auditioned for the Playhouse’s next big musical, Thoroughly Modern Millie, in 2007, where she was cast as a tap-dancing stenographer. During that role, Stein believes she must have done something the directors liked because she was then cast in the next show, A Christmas Carol, as fun-loving and energetic party girl Lucy.

Though she’s played Lucy for the past five years, this November and December, Stein plays Millie. “[Millie] is married to Scrooge’s nephew, Fred,” Stein explains of her character. “This is the first year since I have been a part of the Carol that I will not be Lucy, [who] is the slightly crazy, very energetic younger sister of Millie.”

Stein is slowly building a solid performance reputation with the Playhouse, as she has been involved in at least two musicals/plays each year. Her list thus far includes:

  • Thoroughly Modern Millie (as stenographer), 2007
  • A Christmas Carol (as Lucy), 2007-2012
  • The Cocoanuts (as Polly Potter), 2008
  • Batboy (as Ruthie/Ned), 2009
  • Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (as chorus member), 2009
  • All Shook Up (as Lorraine), 2010
  • Fiddler on the Roof (as Chava), 2010
  • Footloose (as Wendy Jo), 2010
  • Nunsense (as Sister Mary Leo), 2011
  • Hairspray (as Amber Von Tussle), 2012

This past year, Stein was even nominated for the Omaha Theatre Arts Guild’s awards for her supporting actress role as Amber Von Tussle in Hairspray. Though it was exciting, Stein says she was somewhat shocked about the nomination. “I’ve played several sweet, ingénue-type roles and never received as much recognition. But I was cast as Amber in Hairspray, a horribly mean-spirited—albeit charming and funny—young girl and WHAM! I’m nominated for a TAG award and an OCP award!” she laughs. “Perhaps I’m not as innocent as I thought!”

Though she has been nominated for several other awards for her performances in Fiddler on the Roof, All Shook Up, and The Cocoanuts and received the Charles Jones Director’s Award from the Playhouse in 2010, Stein feels humbled by awards and tries not to put too much stock into them, as the performance is her true honor.

During her time with the Playhouse, Stein has developed a new ambition beyond just acting, singing, and dancing in the shows—she also wants to work behind the scenes as a choreographer.

Stein as Amber Von Tussle in the Omaha Community Playhouse's production of Hairspray.

Stein as Amber Von Tussle in the Omaha Community Playhouse’s production of Hairspray.

Last year’s Carol was the first year that Stein was asked to co-choreograph the play with Michelle Garrity. “[We] used a divide-and-conquer strategy to teaching the choreography. The show is such an institution at the Playhouse, and the choreography has remained true to the original, so it was intimidating to say the least.” And this past summer, Stein helped choreograph Hairspray with Kathy Wheeldon. “It was a wonderful experience to see some of my own original choreography onstage at such a prominent theater,” she adds, hoping she’ll have more opportunities to have her choreography in Playhouse shows.

Although it may seem like a career in performance is difficult to get with all of the fierce competition, Stein feels like community theatre doesn’t work that way. “We don’t act for the money, we don’t sing for our supper, and we don’t dance for a dime. In fact, we sacrifice time, energy, and sanity for one reason—an undying passion to tell a story, to convey a message, to leave the world a little different than before. We want to reach an audience.

“In the whirlwind of everyday chaos, theatre provides an outlet for release, a platform for expression, and a vehicle for social commentary. I believe that arts education is essential to the growth of a well-rounded human being and community.”

A Christmas Carol runs from Nov. 16 through Dec. 23 at the Omaha Community Playhouse (6915 Cass St.) and will be followed by Yesterday and Today, which runs from Dec. 7-31, and Deathtrap, which runs from Jan.18 through Feb. 10. For more information, visit omahaplayhouse.com or call 402-553-0800.