May 26, 2022

Heal Me Healthy

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Cooperman Barnabas Nursing Awards 2022

21 min read

During Nurses Week 2022, Cooperman Barnabas Medical Center (CBMC) presented our annual Excellence in Nursing Awards. “I am honored to lead a staff of over 1,665 nurses who have all made the decision to dedicate themselves to the care of others. Our nurses take the lead in ensuring the delivery of our mission to each and every patient by providing compassionate care in a setting of healthcare excellence and superior service,” said Sheila Collier, MSN, RNC-MNN, Chief Nursing Officer. “Congratulations to this year’s honorees. We are all thrilled to recognize our nurses who demonstrate excellence.”

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Daisy Team – 1 West Medical Surgical Step-Down

The DAISY Foundation recognizes that while an idea to achieve better patient and family outcomes may start with one individual, it often takes an entire team to implement it successfully. This award honors collaboration and teamwork of a group of two or more people, led by a nurse, who identify and meet the needs of the patients and their families by going above and beyond the traditional role of nursing.

“The word team, can be analyzed and broken down into several definitions, classifications, meanings, and taxonomies. Conversely, the one thing that perhaps may be a constant within those definitions, reflect on working together to somehow triumphantly achieve an interminable goal(s).

l am nominating 1 West, a Medical/Surgical Step-down Unit, led by Nelly Vitug, BSN, RN, PCCN, SCRN; for the Daisy Team Award. Back in 2020, when I transitioned as their unit educator, Nelly concurrently stepped up to officially take on the 1 West Clinical Director role. lt was amidst this time, when the unit continued to face several challenges and encounters, one of which was converting into an ICU COVID unit. The nurses of 1 West courageously received the training and education in order to support the ICU nurses having to work in a new and unfamiliar environment during unparalleled times. Under the leadership of Nelly, newly transitioned into her Clinical Director role, her staff received the support, provision, and most especially the guidance to be able to get through each shift and each week, which spun into challenging months.

Despite having to cross uncharted waters and trek unfamiliar roads, the unit remained steadfast while still striving to achieve unit and individual goals. lt was during this year that Nelly encouraged her team to participate and apply for clinical ladder. For the first time ever, through resiliency, exceptional communication, accountability, and professional integrity, 1 West had 4 approved staff members for the clinical ladder application. The interminable goals did not end there. 1 West’s UPC committee expanded in numbers as more members expressed interest and participation. To date, their committee has over 25 members, comprising of veteran and novice nurses all the while exemplifying the aspirations to contribute to the unit’s progress, successes, and functions as a well-oiled machine.

During 2020, 1 West’s HCAHPS scores on responsiveness were below the acceptable benchmark, which ignited the initiatives in committing to a Performance lmprovement (Pl) project. 1 West diligently sought out resources and guidance, in order to achieve a continuing goal, reflective of increasing responsiveness, in order to ultimately improve patient experience and satisfaction.

ln order to achieve this, a PDSA was established and evidence-based, scholarly articles were explored and implemented on the unit. The unit began to utilize call bell audits and encourage patients to use the bathroom/toilet during rounds. 1 West also implemented the odd/even alternate rounding times for RNs, CNAS and PCTs. The ‘no pass zone’ was utilized as well, ensuring that every staff held each other accountable in real-time. Vocera was used by unit leadership and charge nurses in order to broadcast hourly rounding reminders to the rest of the staff. Unit staff feedback/suggestions for improving responsiveness were included in huddles as well as the monthly UPC meetings. The data gathered on focus groups were utilized in practice, being cognizant to also include and continue the process on off-shifts and weekends.

Since the formation of the 1 West UPC during the third quarter of 2020, and the implementation of the mentioned methods, the patient experience has consistently improved on responsiveness. The data on responsiveness has shown positive outcomes, reflecting the benchmark for the first quarter of 2021 with 25 surveys in the 96th percentile and starting the third quarter of 2021 with 4 surveys in the 85th percentile. 1 West is tremendously proud of this achievement and want to continue to strive to improve and implement these methods in order to ultimately increase efficiency, and quality of systems on the unit.

Although the unit has evolved and were forced to significantly adapt through many changes and challenges in the past year and a half, the unit has similarly developed and progressed in a short period of time. Through Nelly’s consistency in guiding and inspiring her staff, outstanding team collaboration, accountability, resilience, and professional integrity, 1 West has achieved those interminable goals. To date, 1 West started out with 4 approved clinical ladder applicants, which grew to 16 as of 2021. ln addition to clinical ladder application completions and approvals, their certification rates have increased from 5 to a new total of 13 staff members. Lastly, their UPC committee started out with 5 members back in 2020, to a current total of 26 members, with distinct goals in mind related to improving efficiency and quality of care.

Triumphs, victories, wins, goals, and achievements can sometimes be reduced down to a noteworthy goal that has been reached. That single moment is celebrated and then the expedition becomes a memory of the past. Most forget to remember the hurdles that had to be jumped over and successfully landed with both feet planted on the ground. I hope that 1 West will never forget this journey for the rest of their careers, and this journey will be memorialized by receiving the Team Award. 1 West without an ounce of doubt is so deserving of this award, because not only did they achieve a notable goal, but have also ripened from individuals, into an unwavering team that has grown into what I see as a close knit family, ready to tackle whatever challenges may come their way. I applaud and I tip my hat off to all of them.”

Daisy Leader – Sandra Johansen, BSN, RN, CWON, Program Director, The Center for Wound & Burn Healing and Inpatient Wound & Ostomy Services

The Daisy Nurse Leader Award recognizes nurse leaders who provide a safe, compassionate environment for the staff, and role model exemplary caring behaviors while working under tremendous pressure in a complex healthcare setting. These leaders inspire and motivate their staff with a shared vision and enthusiasm to achieve better outcomes for themselves and for their patients.

“Sandra has been a nursing leader at CBMC for 27 years. Throughout her career, she has demonstrated integrity, empathy, influence and respect. She is truly an expert in her specialty and has become a strong resource for our entire healthcare system. I especially would like to recognize Sandra for her extraordinary leadership throughout the pandemic. She was adaptive, resourceful and innovative as she took on new roles and challenges. Sandra and the Wound Team were instrumental in identifying the proper classification of COVID ‘Skin’ versus pressure injury. She created education that was then used throughout our system. She and her team worked tirelessly to meet the new needs of COVID patients. As an example, Sandra led an interdisciplinary quality improvement project to reduce tracheostomy-related pressure injuries after seeing an uptick in trached COVID patients. Additionally, Sandra assumed responsibility of running the Employee Testing Center. She did an excellent job collaborating with key stakeholders, such as laboratory, security, registration, and many others, to open the sites, ensuring the safety of employees and community members. Sandra worked day and night, and weekends too, to ensure that our employees and the community had seamless access to testing and timely notification of their results. Sandra has made a tremendous difference for our patients and colleagues. Sandra and her team always say yes when asked to step up and we are all very lucky to have them as colleagues.”

Marcia Reinfeld Samuels and Morton Abraham Samuels Nursing Award in honor of N. Peter Zauber, M.D.

Established in 1985, this award recognizes nurses who exemplify excellence in nursing by going above and beyond, standing out, possessing excellent clinical skills and being dependable. The continuation of this award is made possible through the generous support of Gail Lobel and family. Each honoree is celebrated for the significant and extraordinary impact they have had on the lives of their colleagues, patients and their loved ones. We thank them for all they do to inspire, innovate and influence the nursing profession.

Marissa Abesamis, BSN, RN, 4100/4700 Medical Surgical: “Transitioning from the Emergency Department to a position with Nursing Education as a Medical Surgical Clinical Educator left me with several learning curves in a time when we’d hired a lot of nurses and I was a novice. I met Marissa Abesamis on 4100/4700 four years ago and immediately connected with her style of precepting, professionalism, transparency and clinical expertise. She was not only positive in her demeanor, but also willing to coach to excellence and work with me to develop staff to the best of their ability. No one really understands the difficulties we may encounter during orientation when the preceptor, orientee and educator are not in sync. I can honestly say that Marissa’s easy style, attention to detail and clinical excellence stood out when we met four years ago as I looked for someone with whom I could connect and trust on the floor. I felt she was not only competent but someone who would be transparent when it was time to discuss progress with orientees and show what ‘right looks like.’ As a new educator, I had concerns about taking a new graduate and helping them become a nurse. Some may think this is simple; however, coaching wrapped in truth and true clinical competency across the spectrum along with professionalism and the best attitude I have ever seen despite tough situations . While this may not seem like an important issue, to me it was paramount.”

Peter Foglio, BSN, RN, PCCN, 1 West Medical Surgical Step-Down: “While I can think of many individuals who are deserving of this award, Peter’s name comes to mind first. His personality, skills and ability to help others and admirably work through challenging situations are more than deserving of recognition. His actions as a nurse and a leader are inspiring and exemplary to myself and my colleagues. As a leader, Peter always takes initiative to make sure that my colleagues and I are providing the best care possible to our patients. He always offers feedback that brings to light our strengths and areas of improvement, and phrases it in a way that encourages us to be better nurses and create positive change. Peter also makes it a point to help whenever possible to ensure that none of us are struggling, or to lighten our load of nursing duties throughout the day and night. There have been plenty of times where I have struggled through a shift, and Peter has always been reassuring and helpful in navigating situations with difficult patients.

Nursing requires a person to be kind and sincere, and Peter certainly demonstrates these traits. He is very approachable, always willing to answer our questions and teach us a new skill if needed. When he rounds on our unit’s patients, he always speaks to them as people, not just as patients, and offers his time to help them with things like assisting them to the bathroom or refilling their water pitchers. I have had multiple patients tell me what a ‘great guy’ he is. He is a very down-to-earth person, and just a great person to talk to in general. His enthusiasm, especially during morning huddles, helps lighten the mood during some especially tough days, and sets a positive tone for the unit.

Lastly, Peter’s work ethic is unlike anything I have ever seen. He takes on the many responsibilities as a Patient Care Coordinator and is constantly helping out on both day and night shifts. He is always ready to put in extra hours at a moment’s notice, and does so without a complaint. As the night PCC/Charge Nurse, he has also had to take on the responsibility of caring for patients when there are not enough nurses to do so or the patent acuity is high. He does all of this with a calm and professional attitude that is truly inspiring. We are all lucky to have him as a part of 1 West.”

Angela McCall-Brown, MSN, APN, NP-C, SCRN, Stroke Center: “Angela epitomizes the mission of CHESS. On a daily basis her approach is one that is collaborative with the patient, family and interdisciplinary healthcare team. Angela believes that in order for patients to be successful in overcoming challenges associated with their disease, they must have the knowledge and tools to do so. Whether she is providing self-care recommendations or referring them for other services, they leave the office with what they need in order to embark on a journey for wellness. During follow-up appointments, she tirelessly educates patients and families on Stroke prevention which includes risk factor stratification, lifestyle changes and medication management. Angela demonstrates compassion and empathy during all interactions with patients. Any patient that is under her care is sure to receive superior service without question. Angela is a team player, and she places the needs of the team above her own. Her ability to listen and provide well-thought out feedback is one of the characteristics of mentorship that I love most about her. Our patients are blessed having a practitioner of her caliber caring for them and the Stroke Program is even more ecstatic to have Angela McCall-Brown on our team.”

Maria Elena Seron, MSN, RN, OCN, Infusion Center: “Maria sets the benchmark for kindness and positivity inside and outside the profession. She embodies a genuine selflessness which she channels into effective and efficient work. She finds ways to support patient care in the workload of nurses in and outside of her team. She helps bring up the level of those around her to be equally generous with their time and efforts with her infectious go-getting attitude. While she is generous with her time, it is never wasted. Maria has consistently shown a high sensitivity to accepting critical responsibilities and tasks not expected of her in order to preserve her peers’ ability to offer the best care they can. She helps ensure smooth department operation by taking charge of the unit when needed. In addition to supporting her fellow nurses, she empowers other nurses to embody the core values of nursing. A natural mentor and preceptor, Maria has a sharp insight in teaching and being patient with both new and experienced nurses, elevating their confidence in themselves to radiate kindness and compassion in the care they gift patients. I have personally experienced this kindness from Maria through our time working together as a close pair, supporting each other directly and indirectly. Even with her busy schedule, Maria finds time to volunteer in the community and to join hospital wide professional organizations, including the fall prevention and sepsis committees. I’m grateful to be among her colleagues.”

Kristin Visentin, BSN, RN, Pediatric Intensive Care Unit: “Kristin came to the PICU just a few years ago from a med-surg unit at CBMC. ln the short time that Kristin has been here with us in the PICU, she has demonstrated and represented everything that this award is intended to recognize as a professional registered nurse. Every day I work with Kristin, I witness her care for her patients and their families in the most compassionate way. Always attentive and willing to listen, even when I know she has so many other tasks to tackle. I will see her sitting in a patient room with a parent, actively listening to any concerns and questions they may have. Sitting and feeding a baby so the mom can rest. lf Kristin does not have an answer, she will work tirelessly to find one for the family.

Kristin is an active member in the PICU’S Shared Governance and co-chairs the Professional Nurse Practice Council. She is also going to school full time for her NP and will graduate next year, all while still working full time, never missing a day or coming in to work in a bad mood. She is always the first to offer a friendly greeting and a smile; it really can turn your day around. Kristin is involved with the unit’s and hospital’s many nursing initiatives, helping to promote health care excellence. She is the first to volunteer and offer help without being asked. Her positivity is infectious and I know that our team benefits from it greatly.

Kristin works tirelessly to provide superior service to our PICU families. The PICU launched an initiative over the holidays called the ‘Polar Express.’ ln this, we provided a holiday experience for children and their families hospitalized in the month of December. Kristin helped with organizing and putting the ‘train’ together along with our Child Life department. She was instrumental in getting pajamas, slippers and candy donations. She also helped with organizing the days designated for the ‘Polar Express’ experience, along with providing hot chocolate, cookies and books to our patients. It was a big hit and children of all ages loved and enjoyed the experience. I am very grateful for having Kristin as part of our PICU family. Our patients and families benefit from the experience of her care and the team is better because of her presence.”

Mary Ann Zielke, ADN, RN, Float Pool: “I had first met Mary Ann before even becoming a nurse at this hospital. I was an EMT and did inter-facility transport and had on several lucky occasions transported patients of Mary Ann’s. Even then, I knew she was kind and professional. When I finally became a nurse and got an interview at CBMC, I was pleasantly surprised to have her as one of the peer interviewers, and even more surprised when she said she recognized me and welcomed me. Though l am a night nurse and have not worked directly with her, Mary Ann’s reputation precedes her. This is evident in the words of her patients who would rejoice when she returned for another shift, and in the positive reactions of the daytime nurses on other units when seeing Mary Ann is the float nurse assigned there for the day. My first year as a nurse was during the first outbreak of COVID, and I had many a rough shift. Several times, Mary Ann was the nurse taking my assignment after, and before even asking about any of the patients, she first asked how l was and would talk with me about what had happened, offering both her nursing knowledge and emotional support when it was needed. She had a hard year, but never once did that come through in the care she provided to her patients and the support she provided to her co-workers. Not to mention, her good-natured sense of humor. For all these reasons and more, I believe Mary Ann exemplifies the mission of this award and is more than deserving of it.”

Lizbeth and David Straus Caring Hands Award

This award symbolizes the genuine caring and generosity of spirit that was the very essence of both Lizbeth and David Straus. They were optimistic in spirit, intelligent, charitable and just fun to be around. The fund was initially established in 2002 in memory of Mrs. Straus, in appreciation of the care she received as a patient. With the loss of Mr. Straus in 2007, the family renamed the fund to honor this deeply loved and respected couple whose devotion to each other, family, friends and community was an inspiration. The award recognizes outstanding Nursing Assistants who exhibit empathy and responsiveness; cooperate well with members of the whole health care team; possess exemplary skills; and display strong initiative in all situations. The fund is sustained through the generosity and support of Lizbeth and David Straus’ daughters, friends and family.

Whitney Brown, Float Pool: “Whitney Brown is a float CNA with whom I have had the pleasure to know and work with on several units since she began working at CBMC. Initially, she caught my attention on 4100/4700 as she interacted with the staff and patients. What made me take notice was how she was collaborating and actually discussing the patient’s care with the primary RN and how they could work together to move through the shift efficiently. I was surprised and remember asking who she was as this is how it should be every day with our staff; collaboration, communication and follow through. I remember this interaction vividly; I cannot remember who the nurse was, but Whitney made a huge impression on me! Imagine my surprise when I found out she did not work on that floor alone, but was a float! Whitney’s modeling of her role and what ‘right looks like’ makes her my first choice when I consider who would be a good preceptor for new RNs during ‘Walk a Mile in My Shoes.’ I have been pairing nurse and CNAs for some time to enculture teamwork and new relationships. This pairing results in new nurses learning not only the CNA role, but also learning the best in hands-on care with our products and procedures. Whitney is always friendly and welcoming, and the orientee nurses always report a positive experience in being exposed to and sharing in her knowledge and experience. As a partner to our nurses, she cannot be beat and I appreciate her positivity whenever she is on the floor. She is empathetic to patients and their needs. She embraces new nurses and in turn is embraced by the nursing staff. I truly believe she represents the best in care and teamwork and wish I could impart her enthusiasm, kindness, and communication skills to everyone in her position.”

Lisa Burbank, Kidney Transplant: “Lisa has been such an enormous help to me as I am new to Cooperman Barnabas and new to my current position as transplant coordinator. Lisa always makes sure our patients have all appointments booked and the prescriptions they need. She is always a step ahead of me, which has made my transition so much smoother than it would have been otherwise. She never hesitates to jump in and help and, most of the time, I do not even have to ask. Thank you Lisa”

Aira Descallar, Hemodialysis: “Aira exemplifies every aspect of the CBMC’s mission to provide compassionate care, healthcare excellence and superior service. Aira delivers care to the dialysis population with a warm and sympathetic personality. She will help to explain dialysis to new patients and sit by them until they feel safe and comfortable during their first treatment. She reacts to their needs in a calm and professional manner with her lively and bubbly personality. Aira always goes above and beyond for her patients as well as her co-workers. She assists all team members with their assignments, without being asked. Nurses have spoken often regarding her strong work ethic and willingness to help everyone, which makes their day so much easier. She will take on any task given to her to ensure we provide excellent care. Aira took it upon herself to post machine disinfection schedules around the unit, which has made it easier for all staff to ensure compliance with state regulations. The staff can be assured that we are providing safe dialysis to our patients due to this one small task that she did.”

Jennifer Harris, OBY/GYN Ambulatory Health Center: “Jennifer has been a valuable medical assistant in the OB/GYN Ambulatory Health Center for 18 years. She is a reliable and dependable employee who is always on time and ready to work despite commuting to work each day via public transportation. Jennifer consistently demonstrates compassionate care, health care excellence and superior service to patients, families and peers. Jennifer always goes above and beyond to ensure she provides high quality care, advocates for patient safety and promptly communicates patient information to nurses and physicians. We have witnessed multiple times how Jennifer performs phlebotomy; she is conscientious, mindful and knowledgeable in the technique and process while providing patients with a comfortable and reassuring environment. She is a skilled seamstress which make threading a vacutainer needle or butterfly seem effortless. Jennifer anticipates the needs of physicians, patients and co-workers; she ensures all exam rooms are cleaned, stocked and decluttered each day. We receive positive feedback from patients indicating how supportive and professional she is during interactions as she performs vital signs. Jennifer displays a great sense of humor, has a positive attitude, and most importantly, loves what she does. We recognize Jennifer as a valuable asset to our High Reliability Organization and highly recommend her for this distinguished award.”

Mabel Reyes, 1 West Medical Surgical Step-Down: “Mabel exemplifies the organization’s values of exceptional communication, outstanding teamwork, professional integrity, and accountability. During Nurse Leader Rounds, Mabel is often recognized by her patients for excellent care. I recall one of our patients recognized Mabel for not just doing her tasks, but for taking the whole patient into consideration. The patient shared, ‘Mabel is consistent in doing her duties of vital signs and blood sugars, and she goes far well above and beyond that. Mabel will knock before entering and make sure that it is okay to come into the room. She’ll ask about how my pain is doing. She won’t wait for me to ask if I can be cleaned, but rather asks if I want to be cleaned as she will provide the time for me. She will communicate what she is about to do, will relay any message I need sent to the nurse, and says when she will return to the room.’ Mabel is also a team player on our unit, as I have observed firsthand how she will offer help to other nursing assistants on the floor if the patient is too heavy to lift. She will also offer to stay overtime due to staffing, and has come in numerous times for our patients for an overtime shift. This is all while trying to balance her time and schedule as she is going back to school to be an RN.”

Joi Mann Mentorship Award – Nicole Baker, MSN, RN, CMSRN, 1 West Medical Surgical Step-Down

Joi Mann was the Nurse Manager for the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at CBMC. She was a dedicated, passionate nurse who loved caring for the children who were admitted to her unit as if they were her own. She cared for her nurses just the same. She mentored them from novice nurses into independent, strong clinicians and made every effort to celebrate their successes. She was a true nursing leader. Joi’s young life ended before its time in 2011. CBMC lost a dedicated professional, a friend and a dear part of our family. This award was created in her honor to recognize a nurse who exemplifies the mentorship and leadership qualities for which Joi is remembered.

“One year ago as a new graduate nurse, I was scared and nervous. Starting my nursing career on such a challenging floor like 1 West was intimidating. But, I was fortunate enough for Nicole Baker to be one of my preceptors. Nicole’s energy, positive attitude, and confidence made me excited to come to work every day and learn from her. Even when she has had the busiest day, Nicole still finds the time to help all of us with any questions or challenges that we have. She is the one that everyone knows they can go to for any question, big or small, and she will help you find the answer. Nicole has helped me personally on so many occasions that I can’t even count them all. A few weeks back, I had been having a difficult day. It was almost change of shift when my patient had an emergency. I had never had this type of situation happen with one of my patients before. Without hesitation, Nicole came to help. The situation lasted almost 2 hours and Nicole stayed the entire time to make sure everything was ok with the patient and myself. Nicole is so hardworking and always willing to lend a hand, but one of my favorite things about her is that she can always make us laugh no matter how hard our day might have been. I will always look forward to the end of the day sitting next to her charting and talking about our day and laughing together. Nicole truly exemplifies what it is to be a great nurse, mentor and friend.”

Susan Governale Emergency Department Nurse of the Year – Sheryl Turla, RN, Emergency Department

This award allows Cooperman Barnabas Emergency Department staff members the opportunity to recognize an exceptional nurse who acts as a true team player and creates positive interactions with colleagues and staff.

The Kathleen “Katy” Hanf Making a Difference Award – Stephanie Trstensky, BSN, RN, OCN, Cancer Center and Nico Ignozza, BSN, RN, PCCN, 2300 Telemetry

2012 marked the inaugural year of these two awards created to memorialize the legacy of Kathleen “Katy” Hanf through the generosity and support of her loving family and friends. Katy was a patient in the Cancer and Infusion Centers since 1995. In her last days, which were spent in 2200 and 2300, Katy often remarked about the professionalism, skill, compassion, and most importantly, willingness of the staff to give their all to ensure each patient received the best care. The first award is given to a member of the 2200 or 2300 team and the second award is given to an employee in The Cancer Center or Infusion Center in recognition of their highly compassionate care and their ability to make a difference in the lives of both patients and their families at even the most difficult times.

Jane Benjamin Memorial Scholarship/Award – Pierina Jijon, BSN, RN, 2 West Oncology and Janet Mutinda Kiteta, MSN, RN, OCN, 2 West Oncology

Established in 2010, The Jane Benjamin Memorial Scholarship/Award recognizes the compassion and expertise of employees who wish to further their education through college courses or a work-related educational seminar, conference or class. This award is given to employees of the Oncology Unit and Hospice. The fund was established through the generosity of friends and family of Jane Benjamin including her longtime devoted companion Frank Goodman and her two dearly beloved sons, Peter and Jim.

George H. Steisel Pulmonary Fund Scholarship Award – Taylor Barnes, BSN, RN, 5200 Pulmonary

Established in 1997, the George H. Steisel Pulmonary Fund Award recognizes employees who exemplify excellence in caring for pulmonary patients.

The Janice M. Gamper, RN Nursing Scholarship Award – Melissa Weekes, ADN, RN, Operating Room and Mabel Reyes, 1 West Medical Surgical Step-Down

This scholarship was created and is sustained by Janice M. Gamper, RN. As a nurse herself, Mrs. Gamper understands the plight of nursing students and, as was her intention, the scholarship provides financial support to help them accomplish their dreams. As one of Cooperman Barnabas Medical Center’s first scholarship programs, first presented in 2003, the award offers nursing students the opportunity to gain nursing knowledge and experience which are crucial for success.

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