Daisy Foundation Interview With Nurse Kelley

Daisy Foundation Interview With Nurse Kelley

Nurse Kelley Sits Down with Co-founder of the DAISY Foundation, Bonnie Barnes

 I have been in awe of The DAISY Foundation for a very long time. As a nurse, I have seen first hand what this incredible organization and Award has done for our profession. It is my honor to share my interview with Co-founder, Bonnie Barnes, with you all. Enjoy!

 How would you explain the DAISY Award and The Foundation to someone who has never heard of it before?

The DAISY Award honors nurses for their extraordinary compassionate care.  We started it in late 1999, when my husband, Mark’s, son, Patrick died of complications of the auto-immune disease, ITP.  We were extremely touched by the compassionate care Patrick’s nurses gave to him and to us in his family throughout his 8-week hospitalization. So when he died, we felt compelled to say Thank You to nurses!

We created The DAISY Foundation, standing for Diseases Attacking the Immune System, since that is what took Patrick from us.

To express our gratitude to nurses, we designed an on-going recognition program so patients, families, and co-workers could nominate their nurses by sharing their stories of extraordinary compassionate care.  A committee of nurses would then black out the names of the nominees and review the nominations, choosing a nurse to be honored frequently throughout the year.  Criteria are set by each participating organization to ensure a sustainable fit to each one’s mission, values, culture, and way of talking about nursing excellence. We ask that criteria focus on compassion.

A celebration of each Honoree takes place in the nursing unit of the hospital, in front of the Honoree’s peers, and often as a surprise.  The nomination story is read aloud, providing an exemplar of how our participating organizations view extraordinary care.  We provide gifts to the Honorees – including a DAISY Award certificate, pin, and a beautiful piece of stone sculpture we call A Healer’s Touch – and supportive training on how to make the program most successful, based on best practices we have collected from our participating organization.

Never in our dreams did we imagine that today, there would be over 3,000 healthcare facilities in 18 countries committed to honoring nurses with The DAISY Award month in and month out. Over 100,000 nurses have been celebrated so far, and even more important, more than 1 million times, a patient, family member, or co-worker has shared their story of the impact a nurse has had on them. (Clearly, we are not the only family eager to say Thank You to nurses!)

What is your specific role in nurse recognition through the DAISY Foundation?

Mark and I serve as co-CEOs for The DAISY Foundation and full-time volunteers.  In addition to setting strategy, working with industry partners and supportive nursing organizations, running the financials, and doing all that chief executives do in not-for-profits, we have the gift of saying a very personal Thank You to nurses. We visit organizations that honor their nurses with DAISY, meeting their Honorees and Nominees, hearing their stories, sharing Patrick’s story, presenting DAISY Awards, and most important, delivering DAISY’s mission – saying Thank You to nurses for their extraordinary compassionate care.  Also, for those celebrations we cannot get to in person, I create personal video messages of gratitude that may be played when we are not there.

Do you feel the DAISY award is important to nurse retention? If so, why?

Absolutely! There is a growing body of evidence describing the impact The DAISY Award is having on organizations’ environment, nurse engagement, and the patient/family experience.  We have a study that demonstrated that nurses who are nominated for DAISY have lower compassion fatigue, higher compassion satisfaction.  Being thanked provides emotional energy that helps nurses come back to work every day. The American Association of Critical-Care Nurses’ work included meaningful recognition as one of the 6 elements required for a Healthy Work Environment, which is imperative for retention. For more information about the evidence of DAISY’s impact, please visit  Perhaps the most important evidence we have is the number of nurses whom, when honored with The DAISY Award, say, “Thank you for reminding me why I became a nurse.” DAISY centers them on their calling to nursing.

What are you most proud of accomplishing within DAISY since the beginning in 1999?

I am proud of so many things, it’s hard to choose just one: I am wildly proud of the team we have built who share our passion for honoring nurses, support the addition of new organizations to our DAISY community, and work with our partners to make their DAISY recognition programs the best they can be.  Thanks to our regional program team, we have more than 3,000 DAISY partners and a 96% retention rate.  I am extremely proud that I get to work with my husband, Mark, who provides the focused vision that has made our mission come to life. And I am so very proud that we are accomplishing what we set out to do – to do something positive to help us keep Patrick’s wonderful spirit alive. He would have loved this work!

What do you hope for the future of the DAISY Foundation?

As we get closer to 20 years since we started, we are looking hard at how The DAISY Foundation may continue to influence healthcare on the importance of meaningful recognition and compassion in care delivery. This way, many more nurses may be nominated for The DAISY Award and reap the many benefits of being honored.

Tell me about the DAISY In Training Program.

A few years ago, out of the blue, students at the University of Iowa College of Nursing sent us a full-blown presentation about a recognition program for nursing students they called The DAISY in Training Award.  They asked if we would support the creation of this program as a reminder to nursing students that nursing is so much more than tasks and technology. No matter how hard this work is, they must remember there is a human being in that bed or that chair who should be treated with respect and kindness. So we piloted the program at the University of Iowa and at UPMC Shadyside School of Nursing, recognizing students for their compassionate care delivered during their clinical rotations. We are delighted at the impact and scope of this program – the perfect accompaniment to our DAISY Faculty Award.

If you had to describe the impact the DAISY Award has made on nursing in ONE word what would that word be?


(Mark and I came up with the same word, independently. But sometimes, we just cannot believe what The DAISY Award has become – oh so much more than we ever imagined when we started it.)

If you could personally say something to each nurse who has been awarded the DAISY Award what would that be?

Thank you for being a nurse. You make the world a better place! Please don’t ever take the work you do for granted.  Your patients and their families go home thinking about you. We never forget you. The big life-saving things you do and the little things you do to make patients more comfortable make a tremendous difference in our experience when we are in your loving hands. So please know how very grateful we are for your dedication to taking care of us.

 Bonnie Barnes, FAAN, Co-founder, President

The DAISY Foundation


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