By Sarah Wengert
Johnny Tazbir’s starting to feel like the Michael Jordan of DAISY Awards. With a long, successful career as a critical care RN, a massive stack of heartfelt DAISY nominations, and now three DAISY Award wins, who wouldn’t begin to channel MJ? But the truth behind the trophies is that Tazbir’s just an easygoing, unassuming, humble son of Polish immigrants, dedicated to his work, patients, and family.
“I’m a people person — and I love taking care of patients first and foremost,” Tazbir said. “You don’t get [DAISY Awards] by just showing up to the room and throwing meds at a patient. I communicate with my patients, and develop a rapport with the families as well as the patients. I think that’s what leads to [the recognition].”
In addition to receiving hundreds of DAISY nominations and glowing patient satisfaction forms, Tazbir’s earlier DAISY Award wins came in February 2016 and October 2018, while he was a staff member at UChicago Medicine. He says his third DAISY Award, earned in mid-2022, is special because it’s his first as a travel nurse.
“This one’s kind of unique because I won as a traveler,” said Tazbir. “But it’s almost like homefield. I almost feel like core staff because I’ve been here at Banner since June 2022.”
Every Patient is Special
The patient who nominated Tazbir for his 2022 DAISY has been fighting cancer since 2013 at “some of the best hospitals in America” and has “learned over the past nine years what excellent medical care is,” according to his nomination.
“Johnny is at the top of the mountain of the hundreds of wonderful nurses that have cared for me since my illnesses began,” the nomination read. “Not only are his clinical skills above par and his patient care exemplary, he possesses great compassion and listening skills. On his break time he would stop by my room for a moment to discuss the situation we were dealing with just earlier. He cares. He’s compassionate. He’s skilled. He knows how to lead.”
Tazbir was genuinely moved by this nomination, as he is by every nomination, patient, and accolade.
“They’re all very touching — from the simple ones to the very eloquent ones, they’re all special,” Tazbir said. “All patients are special and unique, regardless of if I get a DAISY nomination from them, and I treat them like each family.”
Tazbir’s core specialty is critical care cardiac surgery, but he has also floated to ER and worked in PACU.
“I think it takes a unique talent to care for somebody that’s pretty sick,” Tazbir said. “It’s a special calling and you have to have a passion for it. I really feel for my patients and try to make them feel at home outside of the home. Most often they do get out of the hospital, but sometimes they don’t make it. It’s an honor and a privilege to be there at the bedside, sharing some of the toughest moments of their lives, sometimes their last moments.”
A Family Man of Many Talents
So, how did Tazbir’s incredible career in nursing start? Unlike most clinicians, his career path began with an accounting degree. Despite graduating in 1987 and going to work in finance, Tazbir said he felt drawn to work that involved interacting more with people.
“I kind of veered off after I had my accounting degree and went back and got my bachelor’s degree in nursing,” said Tazbir, who graduated from Indiana University in 1991 and has worked as a nurse ever since. “I also love fitness and athleticism, admire how the human body works, and I love honest work. Nursing is just an honest profession, and I kind of knew that’s kind of where I’d wind up… taking care of patients.”
This honest work has become the family business, with Tazbir’s wife, Janice, daughter, Jade, and sister, Margaret, all working in nursing. Janice, also an accomplished healthcare educator and author, has been in nursing since 1985. Interestingly, the Tazbirs’ other daughter, Joule, followed her dad’s original path and works in accounting for Ernst & Young.
Tazbir was born in 1964 in East Chicago, Indiana, and his first language is Polish. He was a high school athlete in football, track, and basketball, has run the Boston Marathon, and now enjoys hiking. Tazbir’s math mind remains on full display, his conversation peppered with completely natural references to mathematicians and physicists, including his daughter’s namesake, James Prescott Joule. Family means a lot to Tazbir, whose work ethic clearly comes in part from his immigrant parents.
“I applaud my wife and children for supporting me, and my mom and dad prior to my wife,” Tazbir said. “My wife’s been a great mentor, and she’s been at my side for 28 years. She’s phenomenal, and I have two great kids.”
Tazbir expressed similar gratitude for the managers, physicians, nurses, and others he’s worked with over the years. He believes it takes a village and a lot of communication between the greater team.
“I try to do the best I can for the patient, and that just spreads its wings out to everyone,” Tazbir said. “Here we are talking about this award I got, and it’s a good thing for everyone — not just for Medical Solutions and not just for the patient, but for the hospital, the physician, myself, and for other nurses to see. It’s pretty neat. So, I always want to acknowledge my family, as well as the medical community and folks that surround me, besides the patient, that gives me this opportunity.”
For Love of Travel
Tazbir’s currently on assignment in Phoenix, Arizona, a location he fell in love with during his accounting internship there in the ’80s. When he decided to try travel nursing, he knew the southwest was his prime location, and his recruiter, Morgan, helped him return to Phoenix where he’s been able to extend his original assignment. After his assignment ends in late April, he plans to visit Europe, before returning to traveling nursing in June.
“Aside from travel nursing, I want to travel in general, and travel nursing allows me that opportunity — to travel as an employee and travel more and see the world,” Tazbir said. “You know, I’m Polish and I have family in Europe. That’s where I’m heading in May, to Poland, Slovakia, Czechoslovakia, and Hungary. That’s what’s neat about travel nursing, you can do stuff like that — you can take a month off or two weeks off after assignments and or even longer if you want.”
For this DAISY-winning G.O.A.T., his genuine love for people and reverence for the human body, mind, and spirit seem to be the secret to his Michael Jordan-esque, slam-dunk approach to patient care, and ultimately his legacy as an RN.
“It’s a blessing to be there for my patients, the way I look at it,” Tazbir said. “Just to help them and share in their moments. Sometimes it’s grief, and sometimes it’s happiness. It varies on a spectrum from good to bad. I always try to make the best of it for them, even the bad situations. And it’s been a great calling. I really enjoy it.”
Sarah Wengert is a senior content writer for Medical Solutions.