MSICU nurse's journey, work inspire her to give her best to patients and team

May 31, 2024
MSICU nurse Brooke Hiers checks on patient Dennis Knauer at MUSC Ashley River Tower. Photo by Sarah Pack

It can be said that medical-surgical intensive care unit (MSICU) nurse Brooke Hiers, R.N., BSN, is the epitome of the ideal nurse. Already in her 13th year as a nurse, she has demonstrated herself as a proven leader, patient advocate, tireless organizer and a spirited champion for her team.

So when she attended the May 5 MUSC Charleston Nursing Excellence Recognition Event and inaugural appreciation brunch with other nurse colleagues, she was both shocked and humbled to be selected as the 2024 Nurse of the Year (NOY) for the MUSC Charleston campus.

This event was an opportunity to gather MUSC Charleston’s nursing leaders, unit nurses and guests to celebrate nursing excellence as part of Nurses Week 2024.

The award was presented by Brenda Kendall-Bailey, DNP, R.N., MUSC Health Charleston’s chief nursing officer, who read Hiers’ nomination letter as she was recognized along with 10 other unit NOY honorees for outstanding nursing excellence.

“Brooke epitomizes the ideal nurse, demonstrating exceptional intelligence and proficiency across various aspects of our unit. Notorious for her advocacy on behalf of patients, she ensures their concerns receive immediate attention. With a proactive approach, she anticipates challenges based on clinical indicators and her extensive experience, exhibiting remarkable empathy and patience throughout. Brooke’s unwavering dedication to our unit and patients remains unmatched, earning her the admiration and gratitude of all who have the privilege of working alongside her,” said Kendall-Bailey.

It has been a worthwhile journey for the Lowcountry native. A 2011 nursing graduate from Charleston Southern University, Hiers was inspired to pursue a career in nursing after watching her mother and grandmother struggle to care for her grandfather, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.

“I’ve always had a passion for serving others and helping people, but nursing is hard,” said Hiers. Upon graduation and a quick stint working for two years as a medical infirmary nurse at the Charleston County Detention Center, she started her career at MUSC in 2013 working as a medical-surgical nurse at the Digestive Disease Center, 6th floor of MUSC Ashley River Tower. It was her interactions and work with the ICU nurses that led her to transfer to the medical-surgical ICU in 2017, where she has since remained.

“I was amazed at these nurses and their skills, knowledge and confidence and wanted to be like them,” she said. MUSC’s MSICU is an 18-bed unit whose patient population is varied and can include short- to long-term pulmonary, specialty surgery and cardiology patients, according to Hiers.

Hiers received the 2024 MUSC Charleston NOY Award and certificate from chief nursing officer Dr. Brenda Kendall-Bailey. 
Hiers received the 2024 MUSC Charleston NOY Award and certificate from chief nursing officer Dr. Brenda Kendall-Bailey. Photo by Marquel Coaxum Creative LLC

Like many nurses in recent years, she’s experienced both the highs and lows of nursing. Working through COVID-19 was among the toughest, she recalled. A mom of two children, she remembered caring for pregnant women struggling with COVID and its outcomes during those early days, which included patient deaths. “There are patients I’ll never forget and how we cared for them,” she said.

Alternatively, in spring of 2021, Hiers was touched when she cared for a patient with COVID on ECMO, or extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, who was the first to receive a double lung transplant at MUSC.

“The MSICU is one of the hardest ICUs to work in, but it is also very rewarding to see patient success and miracles. It’s amazing to me to have some involvement in that. Our team perseveres from staff crises, supply shortages, long difficult shifts, patient deaths and, still, we give 100% to our patients and their loved ones. In the end, our patients rely on us, and we rely on each other to get through the day. It’s the teamwork and knowing that someone’s there to help when one is struggling – it’s a standard that sets us apart,” she said.

And upholding this standard is an impressive mark set by previous MSICU colleagues, which Hiers now follows. In the past six years, three of the MUSC NOY award winners have come from her unit – Maggie Dillehay, R.N. (2018), Luc Gagne, R.N. (2019), and Noah Rosenthal, R.N. (2022).

“This award is an honor for me. I’m both humbled and privileged to receive this and feel undeserving of this because I work alongside such incredible, talented and fiercely dedicated nurses that I feel are equally deserving of this recognition. I want them to be recognized, too, because all of us are in this together,” she said.

In addition to the NOY Award, the Nursing Excellence event featured guest speaker Gwendolyn Hargett, a retired executive project manager and Fortune 500 company coach who serves as a volunteer patient-family adviser on the MUSC Health Adult Ambulatory Patient and Family Advisory Committee. Hargett drew from her experiences in the corporate world as well as her personal journey as a patient navigating her care managing two chronic health challenges.

From left, MUSC Charleston 2024 NOY unit nominees Claudia Miller, Nicholas Henderson, Allison Broomall, Brooke Hiers, Alexis Nation, Audrey Parish and Danielle Westerman.From left, MUSC Charleston NOY unit nominees Claudia Miller, Nicholas Henderson, Allison Broomall, Brooke Hiers, Alexis Nation, Audrey Parish and Danielle Westerman.

2024 MUSC Charleston Nurse of the Year unit award nominees:

  • Allison Broomall, Nursing Professional Development specialist
  • Audrey Figari, MICU
  • Samantha Gannon, Outpatient Radiology
  • Nicholas Henderson, Senior care unit-IOP
  • Brooke Hiers, MSICU
  • Emily Landrith, MH-7West
  • Claudia Miller, Oncology nurse navigator, HCC
  • Alexis Nation, 9W Neurosciences, Main Hospital
  • Audrey Fallon, ART CVICU
  • Danielle Westerman, ART Heart & Vascular Clinic

Other 2024 nursing awards presented:

  • Dawn Taylor, CVICU, Clinical Practice Nurse Expert Award
  • Josh Moran Jimenez, DNP, IOP – Certified Nurse of the Year 2024
  • Hannah Knight, ART 3W – Rising Star Nurse of the Year
  • Crystal Cronzier, ART 4E – Nursing Practice Excellence Award
  • Molly McArdle, MICU – Novice Nurse Award
  • Lauren Barlow, MICU – Experienced Nurse Award
  • Mental Health ICCE/IOP/DPOD – Daisy Team of the Year 2024 Award
  • Lynette Morris – HART Nurse Manager of the Year Award
  • Kyle Page, Nursing Professional Development – HART Emerging Nurse Educator of the Year Award
  • Virginia Walters, NICU – HART Emerging Nurse Leader Award
  • Abigail Connolly, SJCH Acute Care Unit 8 – Rising Star Nurse of the Year
  • Marina Snegova, Senior Care Unit/IOP – 2024 Rising Star Award
  • Sarah Johnson, Ph.D., R.N., General Adult Program/IOP – 2024 Nursing Practice Excellence Award for IOP
  • Judy Walling, Perioperative Services – Daisy Nurse Leader Award
  • Faith Crews, Perioperative Services – Sharon Bringewatt Peri-op Nurse of the Year Award
  • Anna Martin, Perioperative Services – 2024 Rising Star Nurse Award for Peri-op Division
  • Faye Connor, Perioperative Services – 2024 Nursing Practice Excellence Award for Peri-op Division
  • Lyndsay Ammerman – MUSC System Advanced Practice Nurse of the Year Award
  • Patricia Miller, North Charleston Moh’s Surgery Suite, LPN of the Year Award
  • Amandine Muller – 2024 Ambulatory Novice Nurse for 2024 Award
  • Catherine Philips – Nurse’s Week 2024 Ambulatory Nursing Practice Excellence Award
  • Jacquelyn Furlano – Nursing Professional Development Specialist of the Year for 2024
  • Janice “Jae” Arda, Main ED – MUSC-Charleston nominee, 2024 Magnet Nurse of the Year