Dawn Gonzalez
2021 Nurse of the Year Awards: Home Care, Midwest

Dawn Gonzalez, MSN, RN, APN, FNP, CRRN

“Super Nurse” might seem like an exaggerated title, but BrightStar Care of Schaumburg Director of Nursing Gail Fusz says that’s the best way to describe Registered Nurse Dawn Gonzalez. Gail says that Dawn is an excellent all-around nurse for clients of all ages and with a wide range of medical needs. Not only is she an energetic and compassionate care provider, she’s also an active community volunteer and the widowed mother of three grown children. Learn more about Dawn and her clients in the glowing nomination letter Gail shared below. 

Nomination Letter

Written by Gail Fusz, Director of Nursing, BrightStar Care of Schaumburg 

Words that come to mind when I think of Dawn: friendly, reliable, very hard-working, compassionate, a good communicator, a patient advocate, clinically versatile and amazing. In fact, I often call her “Super Nurse!” Dawn has been an excellent all-around nurse for our office in Schaumburg. She has done just about every type of case from clinical trials to home infusions to wound care and nothing we propose seems to faze her. Currently she sees six different children for Lupron injections every month. This is in addition to working a full-time job at Lutheran General Hospital as a Nurse Practitioner and, most recently, serving as a clinical instructor for Chamberlain School of Nursing. The students there will be very lucky to have Dawn as their instructor with her wealth of knowledge and experience. 

Dawn quickly forms relationships with her patients. She has a friendly demeanor and a warm, caring approach. She has a very special relationship with one little girl, Faiza, who asks her mom when Dawn is coming to visit for her Lupron injection. You would think she would be afraid of getting a shot, but not when Dawn is giving her the injection. She brings a toy to Faiza every time she visits and Faiza’s eyes light up every time Dawn comes in the door. Faiza is so comfortable with Dawn giving her the injections, that she doesn’t even mind getting them, and Dawn has done every injection for her every month since October 2019! 

Another client where Dawn made a difference in their life is Angie, a very independent Greek woman, who at 67 years of age was hospitalized for a thyroidectomy that ended up being a very large goiter with a possible tumor involving her sternum. Angie also had double pneumonia, suspected to be from COVID-19 when she entered the hospital in May 2021. She also suffers from multiple co-morbidities, such as diabetes and a history of blood clots, to complicate her diagnoses even more. Angie went home with a tracheostomy and her sons (who run a restaurant) asked BrightStar Care of Schaumburg to provide nursing care for Angie when she first arrived home. They asked for a nurse to instruct them on how to do the trach care, dressing change, inner cannula change and suctioning. To anyone, this can be a daunting task, and Angie’s sons were very nervous. They were also concerned that running a restaurant business left their mother alone most of the day and they were afraid they could not be there when she needed them. Dawn went to see this client and her sons on the Saturday after she got home from the hospital. She eased their fears and showed them how to do the suctioning and trach care. They felt so much better after her visits that weekend. She went back another evening and found that the Medicare Home Health nurse had shown them a different way to do the trach care and Dawn had to tactfully explain why it was not exactly the “right” way to do the care. The sons were soaking Angie’s inner cannula in soapy water and it was supposed to remain sterile! Angie was also not using a humidified trach collar, which had caused her to have thick mucus stuck in her tracheostomy and she could not cough it out. This can be life threatening. Dawn saved the day and made sure Angie got the correct trach collar and she probably saved Angie’s life. If Angie was home alone and her sons could not get to her home quickly if she had a problem like this, she could have stopped breathing. That is how important nursing can be and how Dawn has made a difference in clients’ lives many times over. 

Dawn, herself, has had healthcare issues and tragedy in her family. She was married to her husband of 26 years, who had COPD and was on oxygen at home, while raising three children all about one year apart in age. She was always the sole breadwinner due to his illness. One day, the most shocking and tragic thing happened: he had a respiratory arrest and died. This must have been so devastating to Dawn and her children. Dawn kept herself busy while grieving the death of her beloved husband. She kept working full time as a nurse and put herself through school to become a Nurse Practitioner. Such an achievement while balancing work, her kids and going to school! Meanwhile, she picked up all kinds of extra work at BrightStar Care to help pay the bills and the mortgage. Today her children are in their early 30’s and one of her daughters is a nurse. I am sure that Dawn set an example for her to become a nurse. She has large shoes to fill! As I said at the beginning of this letter, one of the words that comes to mind when I think of Dawn is AMAZING! 

There are countless more stories of Dawn intervening on behalf of a client, such as the woman enrolled in a clinical trial, through BrightStar, for a medication. Dawn thought she might be pregnant and went out to buy a pregnancy test to be sure that the client would not take the medication and cause harm to a fetus. She has performed complicated wound care treatments and actually saved a clients’ limb from amputation by preventing infection and communicating with the physician to treat the wounds until they healed. 

I have no idea when Dawn has any spare time, because I am always calling her to take more assignments! However, she is a member of the Elks Lodge, which raises money for veterans and children in the community and she serves on the Board of the Des Plaines Junior Warriors Football and Cheerleading team. She loves children and it is obvious through her nursing care and her volunteering, that she is contributing to the health and welfare of children every day. That is why I call her Super Nurse! She should be the Nurse of the Year at BrightStar Care.