Tara Walczak-Daege

Tara is best known for her leadership skills and strong support for her team. It’s because of her dedication to her team’s growth that they have been celebrated with poster abstracts, presentations at conferences, and elections to national committees. As a board-certified nurse executive and operating room nurse, Tara has worked tirelessly designing a quality improvement project to implement intraoperative briefs encouraging communication between the providers and her team. She also completed her Doctorate in Nursing Practice in 2019, along with many other accomplishments that make her more than deserving of this award.


This resilient nurse executive leader holds herself and every team member accountable to living our values and adhering to the Workplace Expectations and Guidelines. As a result of her commitment to the team and her efforts, she was asked to speak at a statewide conference about her journey in nursing. This conference recognized influential women in leadership and the differences they have made in their career journey. This influential leader demonstrates honesty, accountability and integrity in what she teaches and instills in her team at daily huddles committing to zero harm to patients and colleagues, and implementing many new policies and procedures in her area of expertise. Two of these new policies were the Operating Room Dress Code Policy and the systemwide Universal Protocol Policy. Both policies have been instrumental in improving the safety and quality care in our perioperative patient population.


As a board-certified nurse executive and operating room nurse, she returned to school and completed her Doctorate in Nursing Practice in 2019. Always promoting others on her team to grow and develop, she supports and motivates her team to continue learning and sharing knowledge with others through conferences and abstract submissions. Our team has been celebrated with poster abstracts, presentations at conference, and elections to national committees, due to her encouragement and strong support for continued desire for excellence. Her own involvement at the health system level provides evidence of this; a few examples are listed here: Value Analysis Team, Perioperative System Governance, Perioperative System Operations Group, OR Optimization Committee, Sterile Processing Optimization & Learning Group, Research and EBP Council and Perioperative Clinical Practice Council. She made a poster presentation at the American Organization for Nursing Leadership titled: “Improving Perioperative Practice Environment through Inter-Professional Collaboration.”


The pandemic this year caused a need to decrease our current patient population at one point, and this insightful leader knew that the same planning and importance would be needed to bring our team back to full capacity, keeping in mind it would not be the same as before, but a new way to move forward. This nurse leader gathered her team and laid out a vision, “the true north” for the unit, worked with them to develop a need statement, objectives, and plans to get to these goals. She started with the “why’s, how’s, when’s, and who’s, and set forth expectations, plans for follow-up, and the importance of this to meet our goal of being the best place to give and get care. Her organization of this plan and process is an example that others across the platform have adopted to ensure we stay on track.


She collaborates well with all leaders within Surgical Services at Duke Raleigh Hospital, and with leaders across Duke University Health System Perioperative Services. Over the past five years, she has facilitated several committees and work groups. These initiatives have led to improved operational, safety and quality scores. She was a foundational leader for the 1 Duke Perioperative Strategy, which celebrated a second-year anniversary in May. The work continues daily through “Collab Labs,” which focus on improving communication and teamwork among different disciplines or departments. In addition to mentoring and growing her areas of responsibility, she has embraced the “Commit to Zero” Quality Management Program. She facilitated Gemba rounds for Finance, Environmental Services, Facilities, Orthopaedic and Security. During her collaboration with other units, she has embraced new ideas and brought them to her team for continuous growth opportunities.


Joining Duke Raleigh Hospital in 2015, she started her role by listening and getting to know her team. Demonstrating elements of Swanson’s Theory in her support for her leaders and their teams strengthens the practice and care each staff member translates to the patients entering our organization. This nurse led multiple units through TeamSTEPPS implementation, and continues to promote the collaboration with other departments to improve processes with standard work development. Leading through inquiry, believing in her team’s ability, and using “words that work” to show support for her team, this dedicated and thoughtful nurse leader sets the example daily for others to follow. Through Gemba rounding, this leader says, “This is helping me to help the unit understand and express how well they are doing, providing them with appreciation and promoting feelings of joy and gratitude, knowing they are making a difference to every patient.”


She is a passionate, powerful and influential leader who uses her knowledge to teach, mentor and inspire others to grow and be examples, as she has been for them.

Tara Walzcak Daege

Tara Walczak-Daege


Associate Chief Nursing Officer
Surgical Services
Duke Raleigh Hospital


Hill-Rom Award for Excellence in Nursing Practice
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Congratulations to our 2021 Friends of Nursing Excellence Award Winners and Nominees
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Congratulations to our students and alumni who are 2021 Friends of Nursing Excellence Award Winners



Friends of Nursing Gala 2021

Friends of Nursing Gala 2021

Friends of Nursing Gala 2021