Jess Ferrin, Gwen Jensen and Greta Kennedy Honored with 2019 Palmetto Gold Award

April 25, 2019

2019 Palmetto Gold Winners Jess Ferrin Gretta Kennedy and Gwen Jensen from Providence Health



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COLUMBIA, SC – Each year the South Carolina Nurses Foundation recognizes 100 nurses who exemplify excellence in practice and commitment to the profession. Nurses are nominated across the entire state from a variety of practice settings to receive this Palmetto Gold Nurse Award. This year, three nurses from Providence Health received the award.

The following individuals now join the prestigious group of past honorees who continue to influence nursing and patient care in South Carolina:

“These three nurses have gone above and beyond to ensure the care their patients receive is first-rate. This award recognizes what we have known all along, that our nurses are beyond special,” said Maria Calloway, Chief Nursing Officer for Providence Health. ”It is a privilege to see them be recognized for their dedication to the care of others.”

Recipients will be recognized in a formal ceremony at the Palmetto Gold Gala, Saturday, April 27, 2019 at the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center. The proceeds generated from this gala contribute to a scholarship fund for nursing students.  In May, during National Nursing Week, Providence Health will ceremoniously hang portraits of each of its 2019 recipients on dedicated “Walls of Fame” in its hospitals.

For more information on the Palmetto Gold program, go to


Jessica Ferrin

Senior Charge Nurse, Cardiac Surgical Step Down Unit, Providence Health

Jess Ferrin, Senior Charge Nurse at Providence Health, began her career in health care as a unit secretary and monitor tech as she worked her way through school. Because of this experience, she is able to connect with staff at all levels and genuinely understand their role. Though she credits many for their influence, she remembers one patient in particular for whom she cared on two different hospital admissions: first when he had extensive surgery for a hernia and one year later when she helped him recover after coronary artery bypass grafting surgery. "I had the opportunity to care for him during his sickest times in his life," she remembers. He and his family continue to stay in touch with her, and the experience taught her that what she does at the bedside impacts patient and family with long-term effects that leave a lasting impression. “It is up to me to make that impression a positive, healing experience.” 

Today, Jess is the senior charge nurse on a busy, nationally-recognized cardiac step down unit. Valuing the need for nurses to be involved in hospital and patient-care decision-making, Jess is the Chair of the Quality Committee on the Shared Governance Council at Providence Health. Under her leadership, this committee is taking on several major projects, assessing procedures and policies to determine if there is a better standard. She is also helping to identify and implement additional safety features for high alert medications. Jess is an advocate for best practices, and reinforces this daily to her staff in order to remain compliant with policies and procedures. Each month she creates a staff monthly newsletter with "Back to Basic" information to pertinent nursing topics. Under her leadership, retention of nurses in her unit is at an all-time high and the unit is fully staffed. Physicians and staff recognize Jess as an exceptional leader who inspires confidence and respect.

Gwen Jensen

Clinical Director, Medical/Surgical Unit, Providence Health-Northeast

Gwen Jensen always talked to her patients, whether they talked back or not.  Once, while caring for an elderly woman whose chart stated that she was ‘non-verbal,’ the patient looked at her and said “thank you.” Since then, one of her mottos has been “Invest in People.” That’s exactly what she does in her community and everywhere she goes.

Gwen is blessed to be the first in her family to attend and graduate from college. She went on to serve as Director of Orthopedics, Med/Surg, ICU, and Daytime Supervisor for a 74-bed hospital. Today, Gwen is the staff advisor for the Shared Governance Committee, working to boost nurse influence in patient care and hospital decisions. Even though she has a leadership role, she can always be counted on to roll up her sleeves and dive in to help. She played an integral role in opening a Cardiovascular ICU in a large metropolitan hospital and managed an Interventional Cardiology Unit. Under her direction, inpatient hospital admissions increased by 77.21% (in the last year alone), and service lines grew and surgeries increased by 24%. She also piloted an initiative resulting in a 6% decrease in length of stay, and the supply expense per adjusted admission under her leadership decreased by nearly 30%. All of this growth and efficiency occurred without sacrificing quality -- orthopedic services were ranked one of the nation’s best for total joint replacement.

Greta Kennedy

Director Surgical Services, Surgery Unit

Greta Kennedy has a strong faith and realized at a young age that God’s purpose for her in life is to serve others by being a nurse. To truly know your purpose and to receive recognition is always extremely humbling to her. At 12 years of age, Greta was inspired by watching her mother work hard as a health care provider. She developed, early on, a strong work ethic and an enthusiasm to serve others. While working in healthcare and making her way for a successful future, Greta met a homeless teenager that was pregnant. Shortly after meeting this young woman, she opened her home to offer food, shelter and encouragement. During this time the young woman had a traumatic experience and Greta was able to offer support and finally able to contact the young woman’s family. Later, she sent a letter to Greta telling her how much of an inspiration she was to her and that she had decided to become a nurse herself. 

At Providence, Greta continues to be an inspiration to nurses and future nurse leaders by encouraging growth and creating collaboration through challenging task. She is always willing to work side by side with her teams to help complete the care that is needed for the customer. Greta was instrumental in the development of Urology and Gastroenterology service lines, facilitating a Surgical Retreat to foster collaboration between departments through team building exercises and developed the Safe Surgery Checklist to insure quality and safety before & after any surgical procedures. Greta’s surgical area is recognized by the American College of Surgeons within the elite 10% in the country and the only hospital in South Carolina for quality and safety measures. To top things off, her units maintain a consistent patient satisfaction rate in the 90th percentile. She’s a physician-liaison, a nurse-colleague, and a patient care provider.

Interested in a Nursing Career at Providence Health? Visit our Online Nurses Station here