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University of Phoenix College of Nursing Student and Graduate Honored with Nurse of the Year Award from Community Health System

By Michele Mitchum

Nou Heu and Susan Thorn recognized for outstanding contributions to employee health

University of Phoenix celebrates College of Nursing student Nou Heu and College of Nursing graduate Susan Thorn, on receiving Nurse of the Year awards from the Association for California Nursing Leaders’ San Joaquin Valley Chapter. The awards highlight the exceptional dedication, skill, and compassion shown by Heu and Thorn while providing healthcare services to patients and fellow employees. The Nurse of the Year award is an annual recognition given by the nursing association. Both nurses work for Community Health System, a leading healthcare organization committed to delivering high-quality care to communities in central California. This prestigious honor celebrates nurses who have demonstrated an outstanding commitment to care, along with innovative contributions to their profession.

"I am incredibly honored and grateful to receive the Nurse of the Year award,” shares Thorn. “I went into nursing leadership because I wanted to take care of the caretakers, and create a culture where people feel joy when they come to work. Nursing has always been my passion, and I am fortunate to be in a role where I can help empower others. This recognition further motivates me to continue making a positive difference in the lives of those I serve."

Thorn, director of employee health services for CHS and a graduate of the University of Phoenix's Bachelor of Science in Nursing program, has been praised for exceptional nursing leadership. According to CHS, her work touched over 10,000 caregivers’ and supported employees’ lives during the COVID-19 pandemic. Thorn has led several projects related to increasing efficiency by reducing response times within CHS Employee Health Services from several days to 24 hours. Her exceptional clinical and administrative skills, strong leadership abilities, and genuine compassion have made a profound impact on the lives of her patients and colleagues.

Expressing her gratitude for the award, Heu shares, "I am deeply honored to be named Nurse of the Year. Nursing is not just a profession for me, it is a calling. Coming to work every day is a gratifying experience because I have the chance to help support my fellow healthcare workers. I feel lucky to have a great support system behind me here at Community and I’m looking forward to being here for a long time.”

Heu began her healthcare career more than 20 years ago as a licensed vocational nurse and has demonstrated a lifelong commitment to the nursing profession. As an RN on the Employee Health Services team at CHS for the past 16 years, Heu has helped lead efforts to use innovative technology to improve quality metrics, on-the-job efficiencies and the healthcare worker’s patient experience. She was also instrumental in the integration and adoption of electronic medical record technology, which allowed for improvements in safety, compliance and operating costs.

“Both Susan and Nou are exceptional leaders in their field and have provided outstanding contributions, leadership and commitment to advancing the nursing profession,” said Daniel Davis, RN, senior VP, chief nursing officer at Community Health System. “They truly are superstars, and we are lucky to have their expertise in our facilities.”

University of Phoenix College of Nursing Dean Raelene Brooks, Ph.D., RN, commended Heu and Thorn for their accomplishments. "We are thrilled to celebrate this remarkable honor alongside Nou Heu and Susan Thorn,” she shares. “Recognition as Nurse of the Year is a testament to the dedication, professionalism, and commitment to excellence that we seek to foster in our students. We are proud to have played a role in their educational journey and congratulate them on this well-deserved honor. Nurse leaders influence, motivate, and inspire others to achieve through ongoing learning and development."

The University of Phoenix College of Nursing recognizes that flexible and relevant educational programs are essential to prepare students for contemporary nursing practice. Nursing students with the College will encounter teaching and learning strategies that encourage progression as well as options including the availability of:   

  • Concurrent Enrollment Programs (CEP), which provide nursing students the opportunity to complete coursework towards a baccalaureate nursing degree while enrolled in a community college associate degree nursing program;  

  • a traditional track of the Registered Nurse (RN) to Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN); and  

  • University’s master’s and doctoral level nursing programs. 

The University’s College of Nursing offers students access to faculty that possess an average of 29.6 years of professional experience. The current faculty includes four chief executive officers, two chief nursing officers and 17 Directors of Service. 

Learn more about the university’s College of Nursing programs here. 

About Community Health System

Community Health System has grown to include: Community Medical Centers’ four hospitals, which provide the majority of Fresno County’s hospital care and expertise typically found only in larger cities; Community Provider Network, our physician support division that includes Community Health Partners, a fast-growing medical foundation consisting of primary and specialty care providers; and Community Care Health, one of the region’s largest HMO health plans. 

About University of Phoenix  

University of Phoenix innovates to help working adults enhance their careers and develop skills in a rapidly changing world. Flexible schedules, relevant courses, interactive learning, skills-mapped curriculum for our bachelor’s and master’s degree programs and a Career Services for Life® commitment help students more effectively pursue career and personal aspirations while balancing their busy lives. For more information, visit