October 22, 2013 — Jonah Pierce, the head nurse of the HIV clinic at UNC Hospitals, has been awarded the 2013 Joanne Ruiz Achievement Award for Excellence in Clinical Practice in HIV from the Association of Nurses in AIDS Care (ANAC).
“Jonah’s understanding of treatment, medications, drug interactions and laboratory assessments is beyond every nurse I have worked with in my 25 years as a physician. He is hungry to learn more and incorporate new ideas into care,” said Dr. Joseph Eron, professor of medicine and director of the AIDS Clinical Trials Unit at UNC.
The award is named in honor of Joanne Ruiz, who was one of the first nurses in the United States to become infected with HIV disease through occupational exposure. The award recognizes individuals who have significantly improved the quality of nursing care received by patients with HIV disease, improved the working relationships among interdisciplinary teams, and assisted in the development of novel approaches to solving patient problems.
Pierce began working at UNC Hospitals in 2004 and at the HIV Clinic in 2006. Since then, he has helped to start a case manager program that identifies patients who are risk of falling out of the health care system. The program provides patients with intensive outreach, information about their medical options and general emotional support to help patients stay in treatment.
His hands-on experience in the clinic has also led to the implementation of a Guide to Healing Program, which supports HIV-infected women of color. Pierce noticed that these women had a harder time with HIV care and treatment, and he was concerned that existing clinic resources and approaches were somehow not meeting their needs.
“His level of empathy and concern for our patients is extraordinary and his ability to communicate with patients from all walks of life is remarkable,” said Eron.
The UNC HIV clinic oversees care for more than a thousand patients, but Jonah takes the time to personally reach out to those who are struggling with their HIV-positive status. From recommending smartphone apps that help them manage their medications to personally visiting patients in the hospital on weekends, Jonah forms unique relationships with his patients in order to deliver the most exceptional care possible.
Pierce will be honored for his achievements at the 2013 Association of Nurses in AIDS Care Conference in November in Atlanta, Georgia.