‘I wanted to make a difference’: La Jollan gets UC San Diego Nurse and Team of the Year awards

La Jollan Quinn Quackenbush was named one of UC San Diego Health's 2021 Nurses of the Year.
(Courtesy of Quinn Quackenbush)

La Jolla nurse Quinn Quackenbush is driven to provide better results for patients, and for that she landed two of UC San Diego Health’s Nurse of the Year awards.

Quackenbush won the 2021 award for Empirical Outcomes as a Nurse Consultant for her work on teleretinal exams, and her team won Overall Team of the Year for leading the COVID-19 vaccination superstation at Petco Park.

There were six awards in all: five individual honors and the team award.

Quackenbush, a clinical nurse educator at UCSD Health for the past two of her 11 years in nursing, said winning the awards — bestowed during a virtual ceremony May 6 — is “overwhelming.”

“I’m very honored that I got this, but by no means was this me doing all the work. Everything that we do, we have help out there,” she said.

“UCSD is just filled with educated and compassionate and passionate nurses,” Quackenbush said. “For me to be recognized out of all of them, it’s pretty amazing.”

Quackenbush, an educator for all of the various UCSD clinics spread throughout San Diego County, said much of her typical workday is spent in one-on-one training — often online due to the pandemic — and providing information to clinic leaders and staff.

Quackenbush’s supervisor, Stacie Banister, assistant director of ambulatory nursing and professional development, nominated Quackenbush, who Banister said took on “nursing projects that had a measurable impact on patient care,” such as creating education and training programs to improve flu vaccination rates.

Quackenbush serves as project manager for teleretinal exams, educating staff on a procedure in which cameras for diabetic eye exams are placed in primary care doctors’ offices, transmitting the images to an ophthalmologist and eliminating the need for a second appointment to perform an exam.

“There’s a whole host of things that diabetic patients have to do based on their multiple comorbidities,” from checking lipids to the status of their feet, Quackenbush said.

Quinn Quackenbush lives in La Jolla with her 5-year-old son, Cade, who attends La Jolla Elementary School.
(Courtesy of Quinn Quackenbush)

Traditionally, she said, “we have really low compliance [attendance] with our eye exams for multiple reasons,” one being a lack of places to conduct diabetic eye exams, another being a lack of patient knowledge of the exams’ importance.

“Unfortunately, diabetic retinopathy — what they check for with these eye exams — is a leading cause of blindness in the United States,” Quackenbush said.

Quackenbush also took the lead on encouraging clinic patients to take the teleretinal exam. “By offering our patients the opportunity to get these tests done in their regular office visit, we really increased our compliance numbers for our patients,” she said.

Banister said Quackenbush “really led that whole initiative and measured all of the success and presented it across our organization.”

Quackenbush also led the team that set up the COVID vaccination superstation at Petco Park and later at UCSD’s RIMAC arena. “That was really exciting,” she said. “We were tasked with a lot of the COVID operation education [and] produced a class for our own staff to teach about the COVID vaccine,” among other things.

Quackenbush said setting up the training, which involved 100 nurses for Petco Park, took place over a five-day lead time. “We had to shift so quickly, and we produced some other education that we did all online.”

Quackenbush said she “lived at Petco” for the first couple of weeks of its operation “to make sure that everything was working properly. I can’t tell you how many times we changed the workflow and the standard works that we created.”

Quackenbush, who grew up in La Jolla and lives there now, said she got into nursing because “I wanted to make a difference. I am really passionate about helping people.”

When she was a child, she said, “whenever my brother was sick or anybody else was sick … it was like Christmas for me because I got to take care of them. Even from that young age, I wanted to help.”

“I love to see great patient outcomes,” she added. “I’d love to be able to affect people, to provide a better life.” ◆