Pediatric ICU Nurse Honored With 3 Employee Awards

A passionate leader of nurses’ self-care and resiliency, an enthusiastic advocate of continuing education, and a dedicated caregiver to critically ill children in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU).

Ali Orlandi, MSN, RN, CPN at Stanford Medicine Children's Health

Meet Ali Orlandi, MSN, RN, CPN, who was honored last year with three of Stanford Medicine Children’s Health’s employee awards.

The 11-year employee, affectionally known as Ali, was the first nurse to receive all three awards honoring staff. She said she was humbled and grateful to receive the Grace Award, given to the employee of the year; the Annual Gold Rose Award; and the Nightingale Excellence Award for Excellence in Nursing Innovation.

“I was really surprised and very much appreciate it,” said Ali, the day-shift charge nurse in the Pediatric ICU. “I would not be where I am if it wasn’t for this organization. I owe all my opportunities to Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford.”

Ali was also recognized for her tireless energy and spirit, as well as for helping to shape nursing practices and patient care services. She was lauded for giving back to the field of nursing and for helping colleagues excel at their jobs, both professionally and personally. Among the many ways she gives back is by co-chairing the Nurse Executive Council, co-chairing the HEART Council, and initiating the Heart Carts project, which makes self-care more accessible for nurses by offering comfort measures, resiliency tools, and resources to reduce stress during their shifts.

A dedicated leader

“In Allison, we find a shining example of dedication, leadership, and a deep commitment to community service,” said Jesus Cepero, PhD, RN, NEA-BC, senior vice president of Patient Care Services and chief nursing officer, in presenting the award. “She embodies the very spirit of the Employee of the Year Award (Grace Award), and we are privileged to celebrate her outstanding contributions. Her journey from a patient companion to a Clinical Nurse IV is an inspiration to us all, and her unwavering dedication to nursing is truly exemplary.”

Nursing is a second career for Ali, who started out as a fashion designer but felt unfulfilled and wanted more. “My cup just wasn’t filled,” she said with a smile. She returned to school to earn her second bachelor’s degree in nursing, graduating with a bachelor of science degree in 2015. She then went on to complete her master’s degree in 2022. While she was in school full-time, she also worked as a patient companion and nursing assistant at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford. She is grateful that the organization helped with tuition.

“When I was applying to nursing school, I wanted some experience in the field and applied to be a patient companion,” she said. The daughter of a nurse, Pamela Orlandi, who co-leads the Children’s Surgery Quality Program with the Stanford Medicine Children’s Health surgeon in chief, Karthik Balakrishnan, MD, Ali said she always knew she wanted to work at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford. “I grew up at Packard. It was like family to me. I was inspired by the nurses. It is an incredible profession.”

An advocate for self-care

Ali encourages others to have incredible careers and advocates for nurses to practice self-care to minimize fatigue and burnout.

“I always advise my colleagues to remember why they wanted to be a nurse. It’s easy to be overwhelmed, especially here, because the kids are so sick, and treatment is complicated. It can weigh on you,” she said. “I encourage nurses to remember that they’re going to learn, and to lean on their colleagues. We want you to succeed.”

She continued, “We’re lucky here because we have a lot of support. We’re taking care of such sick kids, and the acuity is a strain that can weigh on people. I always encourage colleagues to take the time to take a breath, utilize the Heart Cart. Seek opportunities you are passionate about to give back, such as community service, as it supports well-being and builds resiliency.” Ali also expressed her gratitude to the PICU leadership for supporting her Shared Governance activities.

In her role as a nursing champion, Ali is always the first to help plan nursing recognition and events, including Nurses Week, wellness fairs, and awards programs like the DAISY Award, which she also has to her credit. “Nurses do extraordinary things and do not even realize that they are doing it. These programs allow us to take a minute to pause; to take space and care for ourselves.”

Ali is grateful to work with so many supportive colleagues and mentors, especially those who nominated her for her awards: Luanne Smedley, MHA, BSN, RN, executive director and associate chief nursing officer; and Gilleen Del Rosario, MSN, RN, CCRN, a clinical nurse IV in the Pediatric ICU.

A champion of giving back

Ali continues to partner with Kristine Taylor, DNP, MPH, RN, CENP, executive director, and Mari Olmos, MA, programs coordinator, from the Center for Professional Excellence & Inquiry, to get funding and grants that support nurses, including the continuation of the organization-wide Heart Carts and the Heart of Nursing Award to promote professional excellence in nursing by working in underserved communities around the country. Giving back in this way, she said, builds resiliency. Ali volunteered at Camp Heart + Hands in Santa Cruz, a program for children and families facing cancer, and has served on its planning board. “A study out of the camp showed how participating in a camp setting outside a hospital increases nurse resiliency,” she said.

Her current extracurricular projects include studying to work on the ski patrol and advancing her knowledge in wilderness medicine to help others in and out of the hospital setting.

When she’s not at work, Ali enjoys the outdoors, especially skiing, surfing, trail running, and backpacking with her husband, Ian, and their Australian shepherd, Yeti. “It keeps me balanced, recharged, and motivated,” she said.

As she looks back on how far nursing has advanced over the years, Ali feels satisfaction that nurses have become more valued partners of clinical care teams and are relied on by the interprofessional care team members. “Nurses are the people at the bedside all the time. They are the face of the care team. When the clinical team leaves and the family has a question, nurses are the ones they ask. There are many blessings in these moments. To be able to have these experiences is extraordinary.”

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