Phares Wins District Award


Like everyone else in the audience of the District 15 meeting of the Missouri Nurses Association (MONA), Dianna Phares, Ph.D., APRN, BC, assistant professor of nursing at Maryville University, listened attentively as the emcee began to read a biography of the district’s 2007 Nurse of the Year award recipient. As the emcee continued, Phares realized that the recipient was starting to sound very familiar. The recipient was she.

“They said my name and I thought, ‘Do they want me to come up and introduce the winner? Then I realized, I was the winner,” said Phares, who received the award March 26 in St. Charles County, which is the area covered by MONA’s District 15.  The biggest surprise, Phares said jokingly, was that her family was able to keep the award a secret from her.

Phares was nominated for the honor by a MONA colleague, J. Keith Hampton, professional practice and nursing standards coordinator, and associate director of patient care services for University of Missouri Health Care in Columbia. In his nomination letter, Hampton praised Phares for her leadership efforts in District 15. But he was especially laudatory of Phares for her role in creating a statewide program for nurses and other licensed professionals who are addicted to alcohol and/or drugs, whether they be prescription or illegal.

“Dianna has collaborated with her physician colleagues to develop and implement an impaired nurse program,” Hampton’s letter states. “This has been an ingenious, innovative, pioneering and groundbreaking effort.” The program, which started in February 2006 and which has the support of MONA, is based at CenterPointe Hospital, a private  psychiatric hospital located in St. Charles that treats children, adolescents and adults with behavioral health problems through in-patient and outpatient programs. The program has the support of Dr. David Ohlms, M.D., a psychiatrist and addictionologist who serves as medical director of CenterPointe’s chemical dependency program.

Phares said her latest campaign is to purge from the records of nurses, citations for substance abuse after treatment has been completed. “Currently, reports of substance abuse remain on a nurse’s permanent licensing record for life with no hope of expungement,” she remarked. “Addiction is a disease, not a punishment. Nurses should not be punished for a disease.”

Phares believes her latest award will have a positive impact on her Maryville nursing students. “This is an opportunity for my students to see that one person can make a difference by getting involved,” she commented. “I think they’ll see that I’m not just standing there, lecturing from a book; that I’ve been in the field, and that nursing is about service. You can’t be a nurse and not care.”