Hartford HealthCare's 2024 Nightingale Awards for Excellence in Nursing Recipients


View photos from the 2024 Nightgale Awards presentation

Meet our awards recipients

Backus | Charlotte | Hartford Hospital | Hospital of Central CT | HHC at HomeHartford HealthCare Medical Group | MidState | Natchaug | RushfordSenior Services | St. Vincent's | System Support Office | Tallwood | Windham

Backus Hospital

Victoria Arico

Vicki Arico, RN

Vicki is the epitome of “above and beyond.” When a patient was being discharged on Christmas Eve, Vicki made sure she got the patient’s medications from the pharmacy before it closed for the holiday. She finds patients’ lost belongings. She buys patients items they need but can’t get themselves.

Emily Gadbois,

Emily Gadbois, BSN, RN

A labor and delivery nurse, Emily has used her skills and experiences to help make the NICU a well-run department from its inception and is always seeking staff and patient feedback to make improvements. She created a checklist to review with parents before discharge that asks "Are you comfortable with ...?” so parents can identify their needs for education.

Travis Rybarick

Travis Rybarick, RN

Travis had a patient with two young children who could not visit him on the floor because of regulations. To help facilitate the patient’s healing and develop a rapport with him, Travis facilitated FaceTime with his children. The patient looked forward to these daily calls during his stay and felt what Travis did made a difference in his recovery.

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Charlotte Hungerford Hospital

Rachel Decker

Rachel Decker, BSN, RN

When preparing a patient for a Cesarean delivery, the patient developed an anaphylactic reaction to an antibiotic. Rachel recognized the situation immediately and called a Rapid Response. She advocated for the safety of the baby and the need for a STAT Cesarean. It was her prompt, critical thinking and recognition of both patients that ensured an emergency delivery of a healthy baby and safe recovery of mom.

Eli Horowitz

Eli Horowitz, ADN, BA

With his vast 30 years of experience in the intensive care unit, emergency department and as a clinical lead, Eli never hesitates to volunteer to orient new nurses and train colleagues on new skills and technology. He provides high-quality, compassionate care to all his patients no matter how challenging their case.

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The Hospital of Central Connecticut

Renee Jacobson

Renee Jacobson, MSN, RN

Renee is one of the masterminds behind the student nurse pipeline. In collaboration with education teams, she developed a process that starts with patient experience associates and ends in the hiring of graduate nurses. She mentors student nurses and preceptor nurses, who follow a curriculum she developed.

Kathleen McKernan

Kathleen McKernan, MSN, RN

Involved in the care of up to 50 patients a day, Katie can tell you each one’s personal story and what comforts, scares or concerns them. Her daily focus is ensuring patients don’t stay in the hospital a minute too long or leave a minute too soon.

Jennifer Silva

Jennifer Silva, BSN, RN

A nurse navigator in the Limb Preservation Program, Jenn always has the patients’ best interest at heart and is very resourceful in helping them. Her actions, commitment and enthusiasm helped several patients preserve limbs. Her experience and in-depth knowledge has a tremendous impact on patients and colleagues.

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Hartford HealthCare at Home

Linda Bernard

Linda Bernard, BSN, RN

Linda’s vast experience in home and hospice care make her a resource for her team and fellow managers. Her entire career has been one of service. She has helped families through the passing of loved ones, and has guided clinicians, young and old, through medically and situationally complex cases.

Susan Haswell

Susan Haswell, BSN, RN

Susan cared for a 19-year-old hospice patient for two weeks. The night he passed, a different continuous care nurse was with him, but Susan made sure they called her to pronounce him and provide support to his mother even though it was the middle of the night.

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Hartford HealthCare Medical Group

Catina Jones

Catina Jones, LPN

Catina has worked in a plastic surgery office for 25 years, a career that has encompassed most if not all roles in the office. She regularly reviews the office schedule, contact patients and rearranges schedules to maximize office flow. This reduces wait times and improves patient experience.

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Hartford Hospital

Jenna Frederico

Jenna Frederico, BSN, RN

Jenna has helped create a unit culture that is safe, welcoming and nonjudgmental. She regularly checks in with colleagues, triages situations, helps transport patients and rounds on patients and families. She also rounds on colleagues to see if there is anything she can do to assist.

Wei Low

Wei Low, BSN, RN

Wei exemplifies the epitome of nursing excellence. She assumed a pivotal role in nurturing the next generation of operating room nurses as a mentor and preceptor, instilling in them foundational principles and guiding them toward excellence in practice. Wei’s contributions are invaluable and her impact on the field of nursing commendable.

Patricia Luce

Patricia Luce, BSN, CEN

In the emergency department, Trish treated a victim of sexual assault, providing holistic and compassionate care. Inspired by this experience, she completed training as a sexual assault forensic examiner. She advocates for victims of sexual assault, providing expert care, compassion and support during such a difficult time.

Piros Mar

Piros Mar, BSN, RN

Piros often makes the “day before surgery” call to patients. She uses this call to help alleviate patient concerns and make sure they are prepared. Piros identifies those who need transportation to their surgical procedure and helps them set it up.

Alicia Perry

Alicia Perry, BSN, RN

Alicia began her career on the inpatient rehab unit when it was created in 2018. Because of her experience, she has become a valued resource across the hospital, coaching, mentoring and teaching new nurses and patient care assistants.

Elizabeth Reeve-Lewis

Elizabeth Reeve-Lewis, BSN, RN

Beth cared for a postpartum mother who was quite ill and struggling with grief because she could not hold her newborn after delivery. Beth organized a trip to the NICU so the mother could hold her baby for the first time. She then created a unique plan of care based on the patient’s emotional and spiritual needs.

Melissa Reynolds

Melissa Reynolds, BSN, RNC-OB

As a labor and delivery nurse for many years, caring for expectant mothers and newborns has become Melissa’s passion and patient safety her priority. She cared for a patient who needed extensive transfusions after losing a massive amount of blood in delivery, all while also coordinating the transfer to the ICU. Colleagues feel confident in the unit’s overall safety when Melissa is there.

Marianne Rizio

Marianne Rizio, BSN, RN

Marianne has excellent unit awareness and there isn’t a problem she can’t solve. De-escalating patients comes naturally to her and she does it professionally and compassionately. She intervenes quickly once she recognizes a patient displaying the first signs of crisis. Marianne brings a sense of calm to stressful situations while supporting patients and peers and maintaining safety.

Roberta “Kate” Robinson

Roberta “Kate” Robinson, BSN, RN

Kate comes to work every day as a leader and patient advocate who is often called the “unit mom.” Kate has fully precepted countless nurses and her presence as a resource has undoubtedly contributed to an average nurse experience level on her unit of more than six years.

Mario Rucci

Mario Rucci Jr., BSN, RN

Most transplant patients are in the ICU for months on mechanical heart pumps and IV medications while awaiting an organ. One commented how he enjoyed barbering and styling beards. Mario grew out his facial hair for a month and, one night after work, allowed the patient to cut and style his beard. Such a simple act made the patient so happy.

Alexander Thomas

Alexander Thomas, BSN, RN

Alex is like the roots of a tree on his unit. With him, everyone feels empowered to do their best work and push themselves to be better. He took on a surgical patient with unique needs that were outside the standard patient population, doing so with unmatched composure. The patient benefited significantly from Alex’s precise identification of needs.

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MidState Medical Center

Cauley Comerford

Cauley Comerford, BSN, RN

Cauley started “Petals for Hope LLC,” a service that provides flower donations from her huge garden that features hundreds of flower varieties. She creates hand-picked bouquets as celebrations for colleagues, patients and community events. 

Rabbinal Paul Rosale

Rabbinal Paul Rosale, BSN, RN

Paul’s 22 years of experience have made him invaluable in the emergency department He was in charge one evening when a patient was reportedly hit by a car at the entrance. He quickly orchestrated the team, gathered critical equipment and ensured ambulances were rerouted to a second entrance. When the patient arrived, Paul actively participated in resuscitation efforts while keeping the team calm and focused.

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Natchaug Hospital

Steven Bachiochi

Steven Bachiochi, RN

Steven is a strong advocate for his patients and colleagues. He will often collaborate with nursing leadership to better understand application of policy into practice and identify any educational opportunities.

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Jessica Smith

Jessica Smith, RN

Jess took over the garden project for adult residential clients in Middletown, often bringing in supplies and volunteering personal time to assist clients with this recovery project. She also volunteers time in other client-focused projects like arts and crafts groups and provides essential oil diffusers in quiet spaces to help clients struggling through withdrawal.

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Senior Services

Michelle DiLorenzo

Michelle DiLorenzo, LPN

Michelle creates an atmosphere of happiness at work, making students laugh, singing to them, joking with them and finding ways to reach them. Students are non-verbal but she knows all their communication methods and usually understands exactly what they are telling her. Families know they can trust her with the care of their children by the details she give and the love they hear when she speaks about them.

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St. Vincent's Medical Center

Gregorio Castellanos

Gregorio Castellanos, RN, BS

It takes a special kind of person to be an oncology nurse and Greg is that person. New cancer patients starting treatment desperately need support and reassurance and he is one of the first people to offer both. At the first treatment, he says the simple and powerful words: “I’ve got you, my friend.”

Andrea Leon

Andrea Leon, BSN, RN

Andrea stayed beyond the end of their shift one day to console a distraught patient who had no family present. Despite their workday ending, they remained, offering solace through attentive listening and emotional support.

ill McTighe

Jill McTighe, BSN, RN

One chaotic night as Jill’s shift ended, word came that an ambulance was on its way with an abandoned infant. There was nowhere in the department to assure safe care for the child until someone from the Department of Children and Families arrived. Jill offered a solution that provided safety, security and love, then left and returned with a stroller, car seat and baby carrier.

Patrick Murray

Patrick Murray, BSN, RN

One night in the emergency department, Patrick received critical lab results after a pediatric patient had been discharged. Patrick was unable to contact the family or pediatric office so he drove to the pediatric office to deliver the lab results in person to ensure the patient had appropriate follow-up care.

Herb Noisette

Herb Noisette, BSN

Herb has created a safety-focused community on his unit. In 2023, the unit had an increase in patient falls so he trained all his colleagues on setting up and using the wireless alarms used to alert them when patients who are at high risk for falling get out of bed.

Colleen Sylvia

Colleen Pecka Sylvia, BSN, RN

Colleen is a resource for her peers. She is an effective collaborator, as demonstrated by her willingness to help with coverage and special projects and her skill managing high-acuity patients and crises.

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System Support Office

Pravina Khant

Pravina Khant, MSN, RN

A gastroenterology quality leader, Pravina has spearheaded efforts to enhance patient outcomes by addressing quality standards in endoscopy. Her creation of a physician’s scorecard that focuses on physician quality metrics such as meeting national benchmarks in endoscopy quality, has been instrumental in driving improvement in patient care standards.

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Tallwood Urology & Kidney Institute

Elizabeth Reynolds

Elizabeth Reynolds, APRN

Elizabeth has set a high standard for care and is often recognized by patients for making them feel comfortable and easing their embarrassment over conditions like erectile function. Her demeanor and expertise set patient minds at ease and make them feel comfortable expressing their concerns.

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Windham Hospital

Heather Sanchez

Heather Sanchez, RN

Heather is a strong patient advocate. One patient noted: “Heather embodies the best qualities of our healthcare system - compassion, positivity and unselfishness. Heather made a scary situation calming.”

Darlene Saucier

Darlene Saucier, APRN, WOCN

Patients and their families consistently say how much they appreciate Darlene’s expertise and kind, compassionate way. She helped grow and expand Windham’s Wound Care Clinic into a thriving program. Patients say they refer friends and family to the clinic because of the quality care Darlene provides.

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Past award recipients

2023 Nightingale Awards

Backus Hospital

Alysha Medina, BSN, RN, CCRN

Sometimes it’s the little things that make the biggest impact for patients and colleagues. Alysha Medina, BSN, RN, CCRN, takes special care to treat patients with dignity at Backus Hospital. She is known to spend extra time brushing and styling a patient's hair to prevent tangles and give the patient a sense of normalcy in a trying time. Her compassion is not limited to the bedside. Medina is always working to keep spirits and morale up on her unit, creating interactive recognition boards and evidence-based educational materials for colleagues. With an exceptional level of enthusiasm, creativity and dedication to nursing, her upbeat nature has a positive impact on patients and coworkers alike.

Chelsea Voelker, RN

Chelsea Voelker, RN, is recognized at Backus Hospital as a tireless advocate for patients and colleagues alike. She is always willing to impart her knowledge as a preceptor to nurse residents, but also takes time and effort to expose nursing students to new learning opportunities. At the bedside, Voelker puts patient care above all else, as illustrated when a patient was nearing the end of life with no immediate family present. Voelker made sure her other patients were tended to and then stayed with the dying patient, holding a hand until the patient passed. She is a role model of what every nurse should aspire to be.

Cheryl Plecan, RN

Cheryl Plecan, RN has spent her more than 30-year career at Backus Hospital, currently as a nurse in same-day surgery. She has earned the respect and admiration of both patients and colleagues and is known for fearlessly advocating for her patients. When a patient’s condition worsened after a procedure, Plecan identified the early warning signs and advocated to have the patient admitted. Outside the hospital, Plecan is very active in her community and her church, where she is a Sunday School teacher, choir member and volunteer.

Emma Rooney, BSN, RN

Emma Rooney, RN, BSN, is regarded as one of the most patient and enthusiastic preceptors in her department at Backus Hospital. In her time as a charge nurse, she has led her team with calm, confident and sound decision making. When teachable moments arise, Rooney makes sure to include other nurses, educating and informing them on the situation, resulting in maximized learning potential. She loves to teach other nurses, coaching and mentoring from the beginning to the end of their journey, and always takes the initiative to resolve problems before they arise, all while precepting and managing her busy workload.

Kathryn Wyland, BSN, RN

At Backus Hospital, Kathryn Wyland, RN, BSN, breaking the stigma of mental health. Her dedication to patients knows no bounds. Wyland has washed and braided patients’ hair, and provided clothing, shoes and bras for patients who have none. By understanding and treating the “whole person,” she raises their self esteem and confidence, setting the stage for improved outcomes. She has taken it upon herself to make sure patients being discharged to domestic violence shelters and DCF custody are equipped with outfits, better preparing them for the journey ahead. Her kindness and understanding of the correlation between self-worth and mental health has impacted countless patients.

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Charlotte Hungerford Hospital

Ashley Cole, BSN, RN

At Charlotte Hungerford Hospital, Ashley Cole, RN, BSN, is quick to lend a hand and guidance to anyone who needs it. When the Emergency Department faced an unprecedented volume of patients this winter, Cole's supervisory workload also increased. Between the daily challenges and a seemingly endless stream of phone calls, she did not stop. She made her way to the ED whenever possible to offer help, whether that was patient care, transport or anything that was needed. When a critical situation occurred on the inpatient behavioral health unit during off hours, Cole led the team to a safe patient outcome and secured the patient environment.

Linda Gryniuk, RN

As a clinical leader in the operating room at Charlotte Hungerford Hospital, Linda Gryniuk, RN, has a strong sense of responsibility when it comes to supporting, mentoring and developing the next generation of OR nurses. She has worked tirelessly to listen to her team and advocate in their best interests. Her work in a community hospital means that Gryniuk often cares for patients who are neighbors and friends. If she doesn’t know them, patients leave feeling like old friends. Gryniuk's commitment to her community is the foundation of her entire nursing practice.

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The Hospital of Central Connecticut

Catherine Santarsiero, MSN, RN, APRN

Catherine “Catie” Santarsiero, RN, MSN, APRN, serves as regional director of nursing quality at The Hospital of Central Connecticut. Santasiero's extensive nursing background is the bedrock of a career based on compassion, empathy and a desire to provide the best in patient care. She is credited with creating Hartford HealthCare’s first peer support program for physicians, advanced practitioners and nurses. During COVID, Santasiero led the charge to activate a systemwide Colleague Support Center benefiting 37,000 colleagues. Her initiatives and training models have received regional, system and national attention. She is passionate about implementing best practices to reduce patient harm while increasing patient safety.

Jennifer Warren, RN

Jennifer Warren, RN, is the primary preceptor for new staff at The Hospital of Central Connecticut Bradley Memorial Campus Emergency Department (ED). In that role, she creates an educational and supportive environment that ensures success. A longtime resident of Southington, Warren is affectionately called the “Mayor” of the Bradley ED, where many patients know her and her family and are always happy to see a familiar face during a trying time. With her deep roots in the town and Bradley Memorial Hospital, Warren's legacy is rooted in her abundance of knowledge of all the departments, the hospital’s history and her ties to the community.

Lillian May, BSN, RN

Lillian May, RN, BSN, is a nurse in the Emergency Department at The Hospital of Central Connecticut who leads by example both in and out of the hospital. With a background as an EMT and having been deployed with the U.S. Army, she brings innumerable leadership qualities to her unit, where she has become a valuable preceptor and mentor to many. Her willingness to help train and mentor has provided confidence for incoming nurses who know they can count on May. Out of concern for the community, May created and coordinates an annual toy and gift drive for children in New Britain, which last year supported 35 families at Christmas.

Sabra Dunn, BSN, RN, OCN

With excellent communication skills and a “can-do” attitude, Sabra Dunn, RN, BSN, OCN, is beloved at The Hospital of Central Connecticut. The oncology nurse educator is always ready and willing to pitch in wherever and whenever needed. When a patient was being discharged but needed his wheelchair, Dunn hopped into her car and brought it to the hospital. She has been known to diffuse emotional situations, calmly helping patients and their families through an upsetting time. She has a reputation for being dependable in any job she tackles and is never afraid to roll up her sleeves and contribute when it’s needed most.

Sarah Viggiano, BSN, RN

“Jack of all trades” is what colleagues call Sarah Viggiano, RN, BSN, at The Hospital of Central Connecticut (HOCC). As a nurse educator, Viggiano is constantly striving to create education, improve educational resources and mentor nurses. When a unit faced increased patient falls, she created and led a curriculum that ultimately led to a 75% decrease in falls. Viggiano is well-known at HOCC and MidState Medical Center as someone who is always willing to support new initiatives to help foster colleague learning. She finds absolute joy in developing creative ways of building and shaping the learning experience for new nurses and nursing staff.

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Hartford HealthCare at Home

Edyta Siebiedzinska, RN

“I will go.” Those three words are frequently spoken by Edyta Siebiedzinska, RN, at Hartford HealthCare at Home. No matter what the ask is, Siebiedzinska is first to offer her service. Visiting patients at home is where her nursing expertise is only equaled by her generous heart. Patients say she always makes them feel special and they are thrilled to open their doors to her. Small trinkets, handknit blankets, notes and calls – Siebiedzinska makes everyone around her know that they matter to her. She is a role model to new nurses in the field and her genuine care for the patients she treats is something to which all nurses should aspire.

Elena Asberry, BSN, RN

As a bilingual nurse, Elena Asberry, RN, BSN, brings a valuable voice to Hartford HealthCare at Home. She helped create a Spanish greeting for nurses making initial phone calls to patients. She assisted in creating the script and recording a video to help nurses practice their delivery and pronunciation. Asberry brings out the best in her colleagues and is quick to offer a helping hand or share her knowledge. When a patient became suicidal and refused to go the Emergency Department, Asberry stayed at the home, refusing to leave until she talked through the situation with family, shared resources and was sure the patient was safe and had a plan going forward.

Kristen Murphy, RN

Kristen Murphy, RN, is always available to mentor new nurses in addition to case managers and hospitalists. Nominated by her colleagues at Hartford HealthCare at Home, she is recognized for always being an enthusiastic ally of the agency. When a patient was heading to the hospital in need of pain management amid a very complicated situation at home, Murphy mobilized quickly. She arranged ride sharing transport for family members while the patient was sent to the hospital. She made her way to the hospital and was able to meet them upon arrival, staying with the family and not leaving until the patient passed away in dignity and comfort, with family members at the bedside.

Matthew Bielomyza, LPN

Matthew Bielomyza, LPN, brings something “extra” to Hartford HealthCare at Home. As a certified wound care nurse, he bears a heavy and complex workload yet always makes himself available for questions and consults with humility, patience and an approachable demeanor. Bielomyza is assigned many complex patients, one in particular being a gunshot wound victim who was living in a hotel. Bielomyza was diligent, often tracking the patient down in a different town and making sure he received the proper services despite the patient’s poor follow-through and a challenging dynamic.

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Hartford HealthCare Medical Group

Alexandra Gianci, RN

Alexandra “Allie” Gianci, RN, works for the Hartford HealthCare Medical Group and, more specifically, with Campus Care at Trinity College. As staff nurse at the health center, Gianci treats a variety of patients and a multitude of health concerns. One was an outpatient at the Institute of Living. Understanding the importance of medications, counseling and support, Gianci kept in touch with the person, sometimes three times a day, to make sure medications were taken and appointments kept. The patient is thriving and participating in healthy campus activities. Gianci makes a profound difference comforting patients in difficult times and always encouraging them to make wise choices.

Jane Baillargeon, RN

Hartford HealthCare Medical Group's Jane Baillargeon, RN, is known throughout the Vascular Surgery Department as the person to go to with any questions. She is always ready and willing to help and find solutions for any issues. Her persistence isn’t limited to helping colleagues, either. When a patient called to cancel surgery due to a lack of funds, Baillargeon contacted various organizations related to the diagnosis, putting the wheels in motion to get the resources need and providing new hope for the patient. Baillargeon is known to give 110%, going above and beyond, regardless of her workload or stress level, lending a hand to colleagues and training new nurses.

Melissa Roberts, RN

Melissa Roberts, RN is an integral team member in the Hartford HealthCare Medical Group Endocrinology Department, training, educating and mentoring fellow nurses. Her caring and compassion is not limited to patients. She has come to the aid of a colleague who suffered a nut allergy reaction during a lunch break, making sure the proper care was rendered. She fielded a call from a diabetic patient, quickly triaging the situation and getting the patient to the emergency room for further evaluation and care. Always humble, Roberts finds time to volunteer in soup kitchens in the community, which only enhances her tendency to put others’ needs ahead of her own.

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Hartford Hospital

Amie Redfield, BSN, RN

Amie Redfield, BSN, RN is an ICU nurse in the Star Team float pool at Hartford Hospital. When Redfield floats to the Emergency Department, nurses often ask for her “knowledge sharing” with critically-ill patients. It’s not unusual for her to stay long after her shift in order to help novice nurses. She is always willing to share her knowledge and expertise with her peers. Her intuitive gift impacts patients in profound ways. Recognizing signs of depression in a patient who had been at the hospital for almost a year, Redfield coordinated an interdisciplinary trip outside for a literal and figurative “breath of fresh air,” doing wonders for the patient’s mental state.

Asamoah "Azzy" Anane, BSN, RN

Asamoah "Azzy" Anane, BSN, RN is a living donor transplant coordinator at Hartford Hospital, often serving as an on-call coordinator, acting as the vital link between the team and patients when a deceased donor organ becomes available. His compassion for donors, both living and deceased is remarkable. Knowing time was of the essence, he once traveled to the home of a liver recipient, transporting the patient to the hospital when family could not. He is passionate about amplifying the message of organ donation, doing television interviews, presenting at educational seminars and participating in community events. Anane's ability to forge lasting therapeutic relationships with his patients has set the bar extremely high.

Barbara Norman, BSN, RN

Barbara Norman, BSN, RN is a certified orthopedic nurse, one of the first nurses at the Bone & Joint Institute at Hartford Hospital to earn this credential. Norman has a firm commitment to lifelong learning, mentorship and excellent patient care. As a clinical leader, she is regularly called upon to precept, or teach, new nurses. New graduates describe Norman as “very approachable and willing to assist” and “enabling newer nurses to gain confidence when approached with new situations.” She is an active member of the local chapter of the National Association of Orthopedic Nurses and regularly shares education and new practices with her team.

Cheryl Mitchell, MSN, RN

As a nursing coordinator at Hartford Hospital, Cheryl Mitchell, MSN, RN provides leadership and mentorship to fellow nurses and ensures the safety and well-being of the patients for whom she cares. She is an expert critical care nurse who treats patients like a member of her own family. Mitchell's dedication is not limited to the hospital. She serves on the Nurse Honor Guard in the state, attending funerals of fallen nurses and offering a tribute, memorial lamp and a white rose to the family. She also participates in medical missions to Costa Rica, providing vital healthcare services to communities in need.

Dominique Petrucci, BSN, RN

Dominique Petrucci, BSN, RN stands out as a leader in the Hartford Hospital Electrophysiology Lab, with an unwavering desire to put the patient’s needs first. To this end, she coordinates bi-weekly education sessions for her team, and is relied upon as a teacher, mentor and coach by all the nurses in her midst. Beyond Hartford Hospital, Petrucci was instrumental in developing and carrying out training for the expanding Electrophysiology Lab at MidState Medical Center. In a climate of innovation, she is never afraid to think out of the box or question the status quo, and is constantly involved in cutting-edge research with her physician partners.

Gabriela Jablonski, BSN, RN

Gabriela “Gabi” Jablonski, BSN, RN has a lot to juggle in perioperative services at Hartford Hospital, but she makes it look easy. From coordinating outpatient and inpatient schedules, daily staffing and provider schedules to maintaining advance procedure competencies, Jablonski takes it all in stride. She provides mentoring and coaching to support staff and fosters continued professional growth by encouraging them as they learn the gastroenterology specialty. Her enthusiasm for advanced procedures is infectious and Jablonski continually individualizes staff assignments and orientation to successfully expand staff knowledge and skills. Staff seek her out as a mentor because she is able to recognize their strengths and provide opportunities for continued growth.

Gina DiGiovanni, MSN, RN

In her role as a nurse educator in the Hartford Hospital Emergency Department, Gina DiGiovanni, MSN, RN has facilitated the training and onboarding of hundreds of nurses, patient care associates and numerous others. She was instrumental in building an entirely new curriculum of classes that utilize situational and simulation education in the Center for Education Simulation & Innovation to support new nurses in the care of high-risk and critical-care level patients in the ED. The new forms of education she has implemented leave a lasting legacy in the department, influencing the growth and development of staff for years to come.

Jason Wowk, ASN, RN

At the Institute of Living, Jason Wowk, ASN, RN is a natural leader, working well with his team to ensure the needs of both patients and colleagues are met. He is available on a moment’s notice, often coming in on his days off to assist with staffing. He has educated staff on proper usage of gait belts, ensuring patient safety. Wowk also created a device to track and locate gait belts on behavioral health units. With a great deal of patience, kindness and organization, he is regarded as a dependable team player on and off his unit, and is always available to help out where needed.

Kimberly Ewankiewicz, MSN, RN

Kimberly Ewankiewicz, MSN, RN works with the case coordination team at Hartford Hospital, interacting with a multitude of specialties and sometimes the most complex of patients. She works collaboratively and partners with multidisciplinary teams to ensure the successful transition of many patients to a variety of settings across the continuum of care. When a patient was admitted with a very bleak prognosis, Ewankiewicz didn’t rest until the patient had a chance to get the intensive rehabilitative care that would be critical to recovery. She is known for saying, “How can I help?” and she guides and encourages others to grow in their own practices, never complacent with the status quo.

Lori Arsenault, BSN, RN

Unflustered and always composed, Lori Arsenault, BSN, RN brings a sense of control and direction that is a source of admiration among her colleagues at Hartford Hospital. Her words and actions positively impact her team and patients. Arsenault finds the balance between assuring she is an advocate for her patients and getting her point across in a quiet, direct manner, asking difficult questions with grace and ease. She is an exceptional teacher and a designated mentor for new preceptors – a teacher’s teacher. She has created a generation of nurses, some of whom have gone on to become ICU nurses, APRNs, clinical nurse leaders and even a doctor of nursing practice.

Lyz Meza-Villantoy, BSN, RN

Lyz Meza-Villantoy, BSN, RN is an important part of the Hartford Hospital Community Health team. She is always in the moment and volunteers her time and knowledge daily. Knowing that patients are sometimes intimidated by the process of accessing and navigating the healthcare system, Meza-Villantoy always finds a way to educate and guide them through an often-daunting process. She is an advocate for the underserved and makes sure their needs are met. Being bilingual, she can connect with patients, understanding their concerns and communicating in a way that eases their minds. Meza-Villantoy is a leader in her practice whether it’s with patients or staff, modeling high performance and continuously developing others.

Michelle Johnson, BSN, RN

Michelle Johnson, BSN, RN works in women’s health at Hartford Hospital and is highly regarded as a nurse who keeps the best interests of her patients and unit at heart. To support the nursing staff, Johnson seeks learning opportunities that strengthen her own skills and then teaches, coaches and mentors new members of the nursing team. She works diligently to better understand new guidelines and best practices, never turning down an opportunity to learn and share her findings. Patient healing is paramount to Johnson, and she makes a daily practice of providing resource support for all patients, whether it be for a lactation consult or social work in cases of domestic violence.

Sarah Zurek, BSN, RN

Sarah Zurek, BSN, RN is an integral part of the Ayer Neuroscience Institute at Hartford Hospital. She was instrumental in growing the deep brain stimulation program and, after that, helped develop the skull base surgery program. Zurek created a standard of work in establishing a nurse navigation program for neurosurgery, improving patient care and experience. Zurek once recognized a patient’s incapacitating condition and accompanied the patient to appointments and treatment, being present to help with tasks that proved difficult, like pulling insurance cards from a wallet. She has also volunteered her time to promote diversity, equity and inclusion within the neuroscience population to improve access and education.

Stefanie Sigmund, APRN

Always generous with her time and knowledge, Stefanie Sigmund, APRN, is an exemplary leader, mentor and colleague at Hartford Hospital who demonstrates excellent clinical judgment in very complex patients. When a patient was undergoing chemotherapy before a stem cell transplant, Sigmund mobilized to educate the patient’s team about the chemotherapy, as it had not been given in this infusion center before. She went above and beyond, even escorting the patient from the car to the infusion center due to their fragile state. Outside of the hospital, Sigmund is a senior member and cadet sponsor at the 103rd Composite Squadron, CT Wing of the Civil Air Patrol.

Tara Eshoo, MSN, RN

It’s hard to miss the energy and vibrancy Tara Eshoo, MSN, RN brings to her department at Hartford Hospital. With her clinical experiences and expertise, she supports and mentors new staff and fosters the continued growth of the unit. Eshoo likes to be challenged and strives to bring out the best in her team, employing a variety of tactics to support them. She was instrumental in creating a relaxation room and makes regular rounds delivering goodies from the wellness carts when colleagues are weary and need a boost. Eshoo's lifelong legacy is to continue mentoring new staff and ensuring their wellness and balance between work and personal life.

Taryn Sokolik, BSN, RN

“A lighthouse in a storm” is how Assistant Nurse Manager Taryn Sokolik, BSN, RN is described at Hartford Hospital. Even in the busiest and most challenging times, Sokolik remains a steady presence who helps calm the nerves of patients and staff. Just as she is a fierce advocate for patients, Sokolik is equally dedicated to the success of the team members on her unit. She seeks out learning opportunities, provides careful instruction, and challenges her staff to think critically. She always makes time for questions, check-ins or validation of concerns with fellow staff members, and is often sought out for guidance by both new and experienced colleagues throughout the hospital.

Vennada Lour, BSN, RN

Affectionately known in her medicine unit at Hartford Hospital as “Miss Protocol,” Vennada Lour, BSN, RN is famous for both her clinical expertise at the bedside and her ability to teach and mentor her peers. She is the unit’s policy expert and is constantly working to help new nurses develop critical-thinking skills and keep her team up to date with best practices and advances in care. When a patient and spouse feared a procedure would reveal a life-threatening diagnosis, Lour quelled their anxiety by doing everything she could to smooth their way through the process, telling them, “If it’s important to you, it’s important to me.”

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MidState Medical Center

Cathy Sawicki, BSN, RNC-OB, C-EFM

The nurses in her charge call Cathy Sawicki, BSN, RNC-OB, C-EFM the backbone of their unit on the night shift at MidState Medical Center. She sets a positive example for new and experienced staff alike by being the first person to jump in when her unit needs help. Sawicki shines when the unit is buzzing, whether she’s helping to get labs, start a line or take a shift on her night off. She’s acted as a mentor to nursing students and new nurses, sharing her skills, knowledge and support for the benefit of those around her. Her approach and leadership inspire the nurses around her every day.

Kimberly Romajas, RN

Kimberly Romajas, RN embodies the spirit of personalized care for patients on Pavilion B at Midstate Medical Center. She has an uncanny ability to connect with oncology patients and families at every level. When a patient with special needs was admitted for chemotherapy, Romajas took special steps to make sure the patient felt safe, special and comfortable. Even through a poor prognosis, she was able to raise the patient’s spirits with activities, conversation and support that made a world of difference. She is always available to celebrate a patient’s completion of chemo and often keeps in touch after their treatment.

Sunil Bellore, RN

Regarded as an anchor in the perioperative division at MidState Medical Center, Sunil Bellore, RN, is a nurse colleagues turn to first when they need assistance. It is said that “he is always agreeable, with a can-do attitude, finding creative solutions every day." Bellore not only assures that his department is supported but also looks out for the best interests of other departments. When the Emergency Department was facing critical volume challenges, he mobilized and made several rooms available on short order for their use. In one family’s darkest hour, Bellore played in an integral role in helping them say their last goodbyes before their loved one became an organ donor.

Sylvie Fortin O'Connell, RN

Sylvie Fortin O'Connell, RN is regarded as a “nurse’s nurse” at the Midstate Medical Center Family Birthing Center. Returning mothers are known to request O'Connell as their nurse. She is considered a clinical expert in triage, labor and delivery, postpartum, and nursery, and has oriented more staff than any other nurse. It’s not unusual for O'Connell to clock out only to return to help a patient with pushing techniques during childbirth. When passing a patient’s room, her calming voice can be heard saying, “Ok, sweet girl, you can do this." On the busiest days, she has the ability to rally her coworkers to perform at their highest level.

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Natchaug Hospital

Gino D'Eliseo, RN

Natchaug Hospital is a busy place, treating children, adolescents and adults with mental illness substance abuse issues. Gino D'Eliseo, RN is always at the ready, assisting with whatever support is necessary, from patient observations to conducting room searches. Recently, D'Eliseo helped support and de-escalate a patient who did not want to leave the property. He is generous with his time, making sure to talk with patients who need additional support. D'Eliseo is meticulous when reviewing incoming admissions, making sure all details are addressed and asking for staff nurse feedback to best prepare. He listens to nurses and makes staff feel validated when they come to him with concerns.

Lenka Horsakova, RN

Lenka Horsakova, RN is a charge nurse at Natchaug Hospital, which provides inpatient care for children, adolescents and adults with mental illness or substance abuse issues. She takes a genuine interest in her patients, getting to know them on a personal and clinical level. This personalized care helps Horsakova take care of them to the best of her ability and problem-solve when issues arise. She is a role model among her colleagues who report never seeing her have an “off day.” Her excellent communication skills go far in making sure her patient’s needs are relayed to providers and setting staff up for success every day.

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Amber Colello, APRN

As a prescriber and primary care consultant, Amber Colello, APRN, is a valuable part of the team at Rushford, well-regarded by colleagues and patients alike. She takes special effort to provide care without judgment to all clients, many of whom are diagnosed with chronic, persistent mental illness. Due to her work, she is able to help clients remain in recovery in the community, living their best possible lives. She also intervenes with individuals who are in crisis and ensures they receive the proper care and treatment they need and deserve. Colleagues say Colello's greatest skill is “her caring personality and how she genuinely cares for our clients.”

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Senior Services

Maria Aguas, BSN, RN

At Hartford HealthCare Senior Services, Maria Aguas, BSN, RN is a strong advocate for the residents at Jerome Home. As a discharge planner, she makes sure every resident is ready to transition home, but her dedication doesn’t stop there. Aguas, who has been with Jerome Home for more than 25 years, follows up with residents once they are home, ensuring they are receiving the home care they need, have their medications, and are safe and feeling well. With strong knowledge and critical-thinking skills, Aguas helps educate the nurses in multiple areas of nursing care specific to each resident’s needs.

Rebecca Elliott, RN

Rebecca Elliott, RN has been a nursing director at Mulberry Gardens for just a year and, in that time, she has made it a priority to make her team feel supported. Elliott not only mentors her nurses, but she helps them bond outside of work, organizing activities that engage and foster team spirit. Elliott is known to work multiple overnight certified nursing assistant (CNA) shifts to make sure residents continue to get the quality care they deserve. She truly has a desire to always do the right thing for the seniors, fiercely advocating for all of them.

Sharon Dempsey, LPN

This May, Sharon Dempsey, LPN celebrates 25 years in nursing. At the Southington Care Center, she is well-regarded as a mentor to new nurses, making them at ease while transitioning into their new roles. She is a compassionate team player who consistently displays and promotes resident-centered care. Dempsey doesn’t go home until she has made sure all residents have a nurse who understands their care and needs. She is deeply committed to her work, surprising residents with special keepsakes, putting extra hours, providing residents with a continuum of care, and offering peer support.

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St. Vincent's Medical Center

Adam Agyemang, BSN, RN

As a charge nurse at St. Vincent’s Medical Center, Adam Agyemang, BSN, RN has keen observational skills and excels in proactive crisis management. Agyemang leads, coaches and holds team members accountable. His profound sense of respect and awareness for cultural diversity and sensitivity came into play recently when a female patient of Muslim faith was admitted. When a staff member removed her hijab (head covering) , the patient was traumatized and upset. Agyemang stepped in and, ultimately, returned the hijab to the patient. He used the experience to educate colleagues by printing out information on the religious significance of the hijab.

Helen Ditchkus, BSN, RN

As a charge nurse on the evening shift at St. Vincent’s Medical Center, Helen Ditchkus, RN, BSN, exudes competence and compassion. Always focused on patient-centered care, safety and advocacy, it’s not unusual to hear that Ditchkud paid for a patient’s prescriptions or a meal for a visiting family member if the need arises. Quietly and discretely, she respects their dignity without drawing attention to her altruism. She uses her many years of experience to mentor, guide and set an example for the next generation of nurses. A colleague notes, “Her exemplary care and professionalism are the gold standard to which all healthcare providers should aspire.”

Rebecca Ann Kennedy, BSN, RN

Rebecca Kennedy, BSN, RN joined the team of NICU nurses at St. Vincent's Medical Center during the pandemic and quickly made her presence known in very positive ways. She develops strong relationships with all colleagues, patients and families she meets. Kennedy initiated a program that presents an inscribed copy of Dr. Seuss’ book “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!” to every graduating NICU baby. She is a clinical instructor for the SVMC Neonatal Resuscitation Program, training all NICU, labor and delivery and postpartum nurses in the resuscitation and stabilization of newborn babies. She will also participate in a medical mission to Mauritius to provide healthcare for a remote community.

Renee Divine, BSN, RN

As a clinical nurse leader on the child adolescent unit at St. Vincent’s Medical Center, Renee Divine, BSN, RN is known to patients and families as kind and caring. From gathering costumes to sorting candy, Renee organized a Halloween costume parade for young patients. To her colleagues, she is known as a nurse who is quick to support, mentor and advocate in the best interest of her team. Divine makes herself available outside of work hours to ensure that staff have the support if needed. She has received phone calls at home to help navigate a crisis and has come in on weekends to make herself available for newly-hired orientees.

Stacey Piotrowski, RN

Stacey Piotrowski, RN, plays a big role on the radiation oncology team at St. Vincent’s Medical Center and has been called “a beam of light” in the department. She takes special care to tend to patients from the moment they arrive until well after their treatment is over. During difficult situations, Piotrowski makes sure patients and families are comforted and well-equipped for their next steps, often spending money out of her own pocket to buy prescriptions or food that they cannot afford. She is the one colleagues call when the going gets tough. She also makes a difference in the community by teaching CPR to local Boy Scouts.

Sue Bousa, BSN, RN

As a nurse in the NICU at St. Vincent's Medical Center, Sue Bousa, BSN, RN has influenced, mentored and trained countless nurses. Never hesitating to help, colleagues remember Bousa jumping into action when a mother's labor turned complicated. Working swiftly with the team, she began resuscitating the newborn and the event came to a happy conclusion. She has educated both staff and community about the important work done in the St. Vincent’s NICU, and is a member of several committees, ensuring that babies have a voice and her team has what they need to take care of them.

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System Support Office

Athena Mains, RN

As the Epic clinical documentation instructional designer for Hartford HealthCare’s System Support Office, Athena Mains, RN, provides quality instruction that reflects the most challenging workflows for nursing educators, nurses, nurse managers and credentialed trainers. She played a lead role in HHC’s Rapid Nurse Improvement initiative by developing innovative educational solutions through eLearning curriculums, proficiency assessments and surveys. Outside of work, she established the Connecticut Nurse Honor Guard chapter which provides a Nightingale ceremony for deceased nurses during their funeral service, not only paying tribute to the nurse but validating the role nurses play in the lives of their patients. She also serves as a nurse at her church’s youth retreats.

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Tallwood Urology & Kidney Institute

Kimberly Diamond, RN

Kimberly Diamond, RN, was the first nurse navigator at the Tallwood Urology & Kidney Institute, and has assisted countless patients through the entire continuum of care. She is a vital part of the team and helps train and mentor new navigators, tapping an extensive and first-hand background in urologic clinical care that isn’t limited to physical health. When a patient indicated mental health struggles, Diamond took the time to sit with the patient, listen to their concerns and assess their state. She heard the patient, connected them to the necessary resources during a difficult time and followed up to ensure the person was safe.

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Windham Hospital

Killeen Dwyer, RN

Killeen Dwyer, RN is the quintessential team player at Windham Hospital. Never one to ignore an opportunity to help, she’s the one helping shorthanded units by taking vitals, blood sugars and tending to patient hygiene. She’s also known for her bedside manner, taking special care to make nervous patients more relaxed, explaining procedures or just spending a few extra minutes with them. There may be no greater praise than what one colleague offered, stating, “If I were to be hospitalized, I would want Killeen as my nurse because she displays empathy, passion, selflessness and commitment to providing extraordinary service to her patients.”

Stephanie Dean, BSN, RN

Stephanie Dean, BSN, RN is a positive force at Windham Hospital. Part of the clinical ladder program, she has initiated and promoted continued education in her department and on committees. She is always seeking solutions, fostering collaboration and mentoring and supporting those around her. She is passionate about delivering the best care to patients and their families. There may be no higher praise than that of a mother whose sick child returned to the Emergency Department and discovered that Dean was yet again the child’s nurse. She was happy and relieved to see her at her child’s side, noting the nurse’s calm and patient demeanor.

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Past award recipients

2022 Nightingale Awards

Backus Hospital

Aleck Mikulka, RN

Aleck is one of the most patient and enthusiastic preceptors in the Emergency Department. He loves to teach other nurses and coach and mentor them from beginning to the end of their journey. When situations arise, he will make a point to have those he precepts be part of these situations (trauma, critical patients) to maximize their learning.

Amanda Santiago, RN

Amanda has been a Nurse for six years and she never stops evolving and growing. She recently took TNCC to be able to take care of trauma patients when needed. She covered night shift PCU/ICU during the pandemic. Amanda is bilingual and often steps up to help Spanish-speaking patients feel more informed/educated and comfortable.

Crystal Brown, RN

Crystal never hesitates to take charge when it’s needed. A patient was weeks away from being homeless and Crystal took it on to make calls both within the hospital and to outside agencies to ensure the patient remained housed.

Era Mae Martinez, RN

The pandemic has posed unprecedented challenges to all of healthcare, including the IV Therapy Department. One of the added responsibilities of the IV team is providing outpatient infusions to COVID patients with the Monoclonal Antibody. This is a labor-intensive treatment. This challenge did not deter Era Mae. She recognized the value and life-saving benefit this treatment brings to our patients and community. She took the lead and has helped develop this program from the grassroots to its current successful state today.

Melanie Nagode, RN

Melanie is very focused on supporting the patients in the behavioral health unit. Once there was a patient who had a habit of self-mutilation to her arms and hands. On the unit, we tried to cover her arms and hands with coban, band-aids, long sleeve shirts, even mitts. That was embarrassing for her. Melanie had a conversation with the patient and together they came up with a plan to try winter gloves. Melanie purchased the gloves. This allowed the patient to have some decisions in her care and offered a solution that was less restrictive and made her feel more comfortable with her peers.

Regina Rich, MSN, RN

Regina is not only a caring mentor, she models professional nursing behavior that is inspiring to everyone around her. Her dedication, commitment, reliability, and compassion are unparalleled. Gina takes each new nurse and guides them to be successful despite some of the most challenging times. She has served as a mentor to nurses returning to obtain a BSN and celebrates with them the completion of their nurse residency. It was clearly evident with the graduation several weeks ago - tears of happiness and hugs from her residents.

Charlotte Hungerford Hospital

Kimberly Shreders, BSN, RN

Kim Shreders, RN, serves in Charlotte Hungerford Hospital’s fifth-floor patient unit but with her exceptional clinical skills and cross-training, she assists with a smile in many other areas where needed. She is an excellent mentor who is calm, pleasant, and professional in every interaction. Her colleagues feel supported by her long after they come off orientation. Kim is everything you would want in a nurse caring for you and your family or working alongside you and is an excellent patient advocate that goes above and beyond to ensure all her patients are well cared for.

Michelle Zarrella, RN

Michelle Zarrella has been a Registered Nurse at Charlotte Hungerford Hospital serving for over 30 years, the majority of time in the Emergency Department where she still has the motivation, enthusiasm, drive, and compassion of a new graduate nurse. During several COVID surge periods, Michelle helped cover many additional shifts to make sure the department never skipped a beat.

The Hospital of Central Connecticut

Jacqueline Seales, MSN, RN

As the Diabetes Nurse Educator, Jackie has gone above and beyond to make sure that patients with diabetes are cared for safely and educated appropriately. She created a Diabetes Champion Program, in which champions from each unit volunteer to be the experts on diabetes in their respective areas for educating staff and patients. She holds monthly meetings for the champions to assure they keep up their knowledge and skills. This program has been attempted in the past, but Jackie has been able to maintain a champion group with 70+ participants for more than eight months!

Mae Archacki, RN

Mae has been an integral part of the HOCC community for 33 years and has been a part of our perioperative area for 23 years. Mae assisted in the creation of an orientation plan for our new perioperative hires because she so strongly believes in the retention of our nurses. She wants to maintain a cohesive and excellent ASU team, in which new hires or transfers feel supported. She helped create a procedural training book for new hires, which is an invaluable tool.

Meghan Brennan, BSN, RN

Meg is an integral part of the Southington community as the lead nurse in the Bradley infusion center. She is the face of excellent nursing care at Bradley and patients recognize her in and around the community for patient advocacy, optimal cancer care, and support throughout the cancer care trajectory. She brings anxious oncology patients a supportive embrace as they face their journey with cancer. The patients at our infusion center identify her as “their resource” and can rely on her for a quick question by phone or as a bridge to the physician when they have concerns.

Wendy Napolitano, MSN, RN

As a nurse manager, Wendy has reduced nurse triple assignments significantly - from 45 percent to less than 2 percent. This has reduced burnout and supported nurses in safe appropriate assignments to care for critical care patients per national guidelines. She recruits nurses to critical care and continues to provide appropriate staffing coverage to keep patients safe and reduce staff burnout. Wendy has built collaborative partnerships with nursing affiliated schools during clinical rotations enhancing the new hire pipeline to ensure vacant positions are filled with a rapid turnaround time.

Hartford HealthCare at Home

Christine Massiello, ASN

Christine carries a wealth of knowledge in nursing and thrives by sharing her experiences with others. She provides new clinicians with the confidence to perform at the highest level. She is a valuable asset to her team, especially when technology is involved. Christine impacts the lives of her patients and the new nursing talent that cross her path with positivity and empathy.

Gina Brown, RN

As a Clinical Supervisor at Hartford HealthCare at Home, Virginia “Gina” Brown is a go-to source of knowledge and support for the hospice team. She is known for her kind, trusted, and calm demeanor, even during the most difficult times. Her team shared, “a successful team is one that has a manager that listens, encourages, supports and teaches” and this allows them to be their best and provide the best care for their patients.

Jane Serra, RN

As a young girl, Jane always wanted to become a nurse and when she finally became one, the rest was history. Jane is a morale boost in any working environment. Hartford HealthCare at Home Community Network describes Jane as “a very special woman, “a dedicated nurse”, “a light in their day” and “a wonderful teacher. At the end of her life, Jane shares she would be fulfilled only if she knew that she was able to care for as many people as possible during her time on earth. She leaves behind 40 years of the unconditional love and commitment she has given throughout her nursing profession.

Shelly Levesque, LPN

Shelly has been an instrumental force in the growth of the Telemonitor Program at HHCAH. With 128 Telemonitor Units in the program when Shelly began, there are now well over 300. Throughout her role, Shelly’s noticeable expertise and thoughtfulness allow her to be committed to gaining the trust of patient families and excellence with staff. Regardless of what circumstances come her way, Shelly brings a source of wisdom and proficiency to the Telemonitor Program that is instrumental to their growth and success.

Hartford HealthCare Medical Group

Jane Sweeney, RN

What makes Jane unique beyond her medical experience is the nonstop devotion she provides to those with obesity. She played a crucial role in the creation of an online virtual support group dedicated to leading a community of patients on their weight loss journey. Jane has led groups in the CT American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery state walk from obesity for two years, working tirelessly to be the state’s top national fundraiser. Her commitment to the bariatric community is unmatched.

Dawn Garcia, APRN

To Dawn, being a Bariatric APRN is more than just a profession – it is a calling, it is a part of her identity. Her passion and commitment to her patients are endless; her holistic view goes well beyond patient treatment, addressing the issues and systems that affect patient health and wellness. In addition to exceptional patient care, she has fully embodied what it means to be a mentor to her colleagues, deeply investing in the growth of her team members.

Hartford Hospital

Trystan Allen, BSN, RN

Trystan’s nursing care has affected her patients, families, and peers in a unique way, bringing joy to all by utilizing her artistic talent. The glass wall that sits behind the CB2 front entrance desk has been filled with colorful messages and images. She paints seasonal murals but also on events going on in the world, sharing messages of hope and kindness. Every year during the holiday season there are patients on our unit that are missing time with their families. Trystan collects money from staff to purchase materials to make handmade gifts for our patients hospitalized over the Christmas holiday. The gift includes handmade blankets, mugs, tea, and hot chocolate and is personalized for each patient.

Colleen Salvador, BSN, RN

Colleen has proven to be an exceptional leader in a short period of time in her new role as a clinical leader. In a time of great change in the Pre-op and PACU area, she has provided consistent stability and calmness to the unit. The person and professional that she is, Colleen feels that she is “just doing her job” as she goes through her day improving outcomes for patients and their families and mentoring future resource nurses and clinical leaders. Colleen leads with respect, integrity, a strong moral compass, compassion and a true caring for everyone she comes into contact with every day.

Lisa Bisaillon, BSN, RN

Lisa Bisaillon has been a nurse in the Hartford Hospital Emergency Department since November 2011. She is a vastly skilled, adaptable, and esteemed member of the ED team. She is an expert and knowledgeable trauma nurse, adept triage nurse, accomplished preceptor, and is well-versed in managing the department. Lisa has also worked in roles that benefit members of the community in ways beyond the ED. Through the pandemic, Lisa became involved in Covid-19 testing, vaccination, and infusion therapy to further serve the community. She not only provided an important service that promoted healing to the community served by the clinic but also became a unique resource and base of knowledge for ED staff to learn from.

Shenika Carroll, MSN, RN

When asked to describe Shenika, colleagues use words like “superhero, knowledgeable, calm under pressure.” Shenika works as one of our educators on nights responding to rapid responses and the many needs of our nursing staff. She advocates for both the nurses and the patient, often helping to coordinate care with providers. She helped all through a very intense time.

Ashley Costa, MSN, RN

In her role as a Clinical Nurse Leader on C8I Ashley serves as an excellent Resource “charge” nurse and new nurse preceptor. She is one of the “Go-To” nurses for her fellow nurses, providers, and employees to assist in various clinical, logistical, and social situations in a professional, calm, and non-judgmental manner. Ashley does a phenomenal job of tackling tough situations and having courageous conversations with her peers, addressing situations such as safety concerns.

Nina Damiata, BSN, RN

Nina has continued to serve in the role of Clinical Nurse Leader for the Telemetry Center on the night shift. Her incredible clinical expertise and leadership qualities have been invaluable to the team. During the COVID pandemic, Nina increased her hours to 7 nights a week, working every holiday and weekend throughout the course of 2020 and into 2021. Her demonstrated leadership and approachable style have been the perfect combination in support of patient safety. Her coaching and mentoring have been invaluable to the improved processes of enhancing patient safety at the bedside.

Rhonda Dean, BS, RN

Rhonda is able to defuse any situation that arises in the unit. She has a calming way about her approach when de-escalating a patient in crisis. Rhonda is focused on understanding the patient’s feelings, and she gives the patient their space. She is very relaxed when she interacts with the patients in crisis. Rhonda has trained every new nurse that has worked on Donnelly 3 South. She has given the new nurses the tools to become a knowledgeable nurse in the field of Psychiatry.

Nathan Dorian, BSN, RN

Nate was promoted to Clinical Leader for N9/N9SD in 2021. He is an ideal leader for our staff due to his passion for patient care and his pursuit of excellence. For example, Nate assisted one of his colleagues with a challenging patient that was withdrawing. Nathan helped settle the patient and had a heart-to-heart with him. The patient expressed to Nate how he became hospitalized and what his recovery plans were. Nate is also an exemplary preceptor and enjoys growing and developing the new staff. He doesn’t just tell them how to do things, he also shares his insights into time management, building relationships, and wellness.

Ryan Gannon, BSN, RN

When a nurse on IRU who recently lost her husband stated she was nervous about driving to work the next day in a snowstorm, Ryan volunteered to pick her up from home to bring her to work safely. Ryan told her that would be one less thing she would have to worry about and he didn’t mind making the drive. When the COVID vaccine clinics opened at the start of the pandemic, Ryan volunteered to be a vaccinator. He then shared how this role made him feel, especially when the patients expressed gratitude for the vaccine. From there Ryan encouraged the staff on IRU to get their COVID vaccines and boosters.

Marlene Graham-Folkes, BSN, RN

Marlene Graham Folks started her career at Hartford Hospital 25 years ago as a patient care associate (PCA). She went on to earn an associate degree in nursing and then a BSN. For the past fourteen years as a nurse, Marlene has been an asset on Bliss 8, an amazing nurse, and clinical leader. In addition, Marlene is also a resource nurse, a preceptor, mentor, and charge nurse. The nurses always come to Marlene whenever they need help or have a feeling of overwhelm. She always has a listening ear and encouraging words.

Lisa Marie Laporte, RN

Lisa has been an RN at Hartford Hospital for 36 years. She has spent her entire career in labor and delivery. During that time, she has been a resource to new nurses by precepting and mentoring them. She is also part of a multidisciplinary team that evaluates the performance of residents. She gives them constructive criticism that helps shape them into better providers. She is helping shape the future practice of these physicians. Lisa is also one of the instructors of our Neonatal Resuscitation Program and helps prepare new nurses to confidently resuscitate newborn babies. This is a skill that is so important in our department.

Angela Luba, BSN, RN

Angela joined our Complex Case Management Team (CCMT), where she’s worked on the most challenging cases that often need extraordinary and dedicated attention. She helped pilot a Trauma Nurse Navigator role, where she worked closely with the Trauma Service to ensure that this fragile population had one consistent representative who would advocate for them, regardless of where the patient was located in the hospital. As the Trauma Nurse Navigator, Angela rounds with the Trauma Service daily and follows these very complex patients throughout their entire stay.

Lynn O'Bara, APRN

Lynn champions Support Groups to make sure patients are supported long after transplants. Many of her patients have sung her praise and noted that they would have never made it through the long ordeal of a transplant without Lynn. She also participates in the after-hours meetings for Quarterly Patient Advisory Board meetings, to help improve all our programs with our patients' input. She is fearless to address physicians to obtain information to understand a patient’s status or a means to care for a patient.

Taulant Proko, RN

Landi was recognized for going beyond the call by Bliss 7 East leadership one evening as he was assigned a male patient who had been frustrated with his prolonged hospital stay and who had been verbally inappropriate with female staff. Landi was able to connect with the patient by listening to the patient’s concerns and practicing being “curious vs. judgmental.” Landi took care of the patient with great professionalism and empathy. He spent time listening to the patient's concerns and responded in a therapeutic manner.

Wendy Savarese, MSN, RN

Wendy has worked at Hartford Hospital in her position as Nurse Educator supporting the Pre-Op and PACU units for just over a year, serving as a per diem RN prior to that. Wendy identified a lack of opportunity for nursing students within perianesthesia nursing and put forward a proposal to run a summer PACU fellowship. The fellowship would create a student pipeline for future new graduates to be hired into PACU. Through the socialization of this fellowship proposal among the PACU managers, Wendy was able to generate interest in hosting student experiences beyond the fellowship as well. This allowed for senior capstone student placements in PACU in addition to the summer fellows.

Cheryl Tafas, MS, RN

The HH Radiation department is an urban environment, large in scale, with many complex patients. Over the last year, the department experienced a significant turnover of experienced nursing staff, including leadership positions. This caused not only a nursing staffing shortage but also a dearth of the leadership in the nursing group. Without having an official leadership role, Cheryl was the steady hand on the tiller. She was a leader in every sense of the word, both righting the ship clinically, and also helping to direct the recruitment efforts that have successfully rebuilt our nursing staff into an excellent cohesive group.

Kathleen Vees, MSN, RN

Katie is the Hartford Hospital Endocarditis Nurse Navigator. Her primary focus is always on providing the best, most timely, and individualized care for her patients and their families/loved ones. An 80-year-old patient was admitted for evaluation for valve surgery. The patient had infective endocarditis, multiple prior cardiac surgeries, and a very high operative risk. Katie collaborated with nursing, cardiac surgery, and social work to prepare the patient and family for possible surgery. Katie served as the primary communicator with multiple family members after hours and over a weekend.

MidState Medical Center

Mikael Espanol, BSN, RN

Mikael demonstrated discretionary and a humanistic effort when he went above and beyond for a patient who was in the hospital and wasn’t eating. The patient mentioned that they had a craving for Filipino cuisine. Mikael, who was not the patient’s nurse, but heard about the situation, went out of his way to make the patient the type of food they were craving and it proved beneficial – the patient started eating again, which helped with their recovery. Mikael’s actions were well received by his colleagues and speak to his passion and dedication to patient care. Additionally, Mikael has been recognized by capstone and nursing students for his welcoming and approachable demeanor – creating a positive learning environment.

Brenda Berrey, RN, CMSRN

There is such a thing as ‘everyday excellence’ and this is what Brenda brings – all of herself every day, knowing her patients beyond the medical history and nursing tasks, but on a personal level thinking outside the box to meet the patient’s needs. Brenda is part of the ‘glue’ of Pavilion E, keeping a steady focus on her patients and fellow nurses. She works ‘under the radar’ – quietly, competently, compassionately, and humbly caring for others.

Christine Bonvisuto-Lynch, RN

Early in the pandemic, there were COVID patients desatting simultaneously. Christine managed both patients quickly, providing them with high-flow oxygen that they desperately needed. Between communicating with the RT, and the MD and being at the bedside with her patients, she was able to stabilize them. In a case like this where multiple patients were decompensating at the same time, most nurses would panic, and rightfully so. Christine worked quickly and without panic, even if she was panicking on the inside you wouldn’t know it.

Karen Ellison, BSN, RN

Karen volunteered to start teaching clinical for a new CNA program at MidState in alliance with a local community college, with the goal of onboarding these students into becoming potential hires and employees for HHC. She’s also spearheading the PEAs program, which trains student nurses to intern learning about the hospital and patient experience early in their education before they start their nursing clinicals.

Natchaug Hospital

Michelle Bousquet, RN

Michelle Bousquet has been a nurse for four years. With her bachelor’s degree in psychology, she has focused the majority of her career as a registered nurse on mental health and substance abuse. She enjoys the teamwork of the field, working together with mental health workers, other registered nurses, therapists, and other staff to ensure a therapeutic and safe milieu for patients. From admissions, through daily observations, group therapy, and medication reconciliation, there is constant communication and collaborative work. Her co-workers turn to her for advice and she often offers a neutral standpoint, giving direct, unbiased support. She makes sure her peers and patients feel heard. She previously worked part-time as a nurse consultant for a small childcare facility, updating health records, completing staff training and certifications, and helping to develop specialized wellness plans for children as needed. She fosters dogs through Next Stop Forever and East Coast Canine Rescue and participates in local community clean-up days. She also donates blood to the American Red Cross when she is eligible.


Kimberly Whipple, MSN, RN, CARN

Kimberly Whipple has been a nurse for nine years, the past seven have been at Rushford. During this time, she has had the opportunity to work in almost every nursing position. Currently, she is the RN Team Lead and also oversees the Behavioral Health Home program. She is a BLS instructor and the administrator of the RQI program. Additionally, she developed and oversaw the COVID testing program for the Meriden facility. She has been the chair of the client safety committee for the past three years.

Kimberly has been regularly recognized for her discretionary effort by several Rushford programs and by leadership this year. Her consistency and willingness to help have allowed her to assist many clients, staff, and programs beyond her Behavioral Health Home program.

Senior Services

Audra Armour, RN

Continues to display Hartford HealthCare’s core values, while always providing her services and volunteering her time to ensure Southington Care Center is well equipped. She is responsible for the clinical care and services provided to the residents of a 130-bed skilled nursing center. Is the nursing supervisor on the 11-7 am team and her team relies on her for her independence and capability of decision making which results in excellent outcomes.

Crislin Leen Mathew, RN

Is not one to wait for a task to be delegated to her, she takes the initiative. Crislin is a key resource to her peers and especially to the new nursing professionals. She carries two years of experience under her belt and has already made a significant impact on all. Crislin is kind, reassuring and flexible in every working environment. The team at Jefferson House wishes they could clone her.

Pamela Pinto, RN

Thrives off the advancements opportunities within her career. During her tenure, she wore many hats that support a successful community and working environment. Today she serves as an Infection Preventionist at Jerome Home, where she is responsible for the community’s activities aimed at preventing infections. Pamela’s sunny disposition is contagious and has a positive impact on her colleagues as well as her patients. She is not afraid to ask questions and to have courageous conversations.

St. Vincent's Medical Center

Elizabeth Attar, ADN, RN

Emmy was hired as a float RN at the start of the pandemic. Her orientation was modified and focused strictly on achieving proficiency for our Covid medical units, with the promise of completing orientation post-pandemic. Emmy accepted the challenge. After 8 weeks Emmy began working at 9 North, a medical-respiratory unit, whose bed count was increased from 22 to 32 patients to accommodate the increased volume of Covid patients. She was dedicated to supporting the 9 North staff, was a positive force when every shift provided overwhelming staffing and care challenges, and always provided compassionate care to the very ill patient population. There were shifts Emmy left in tears; feeling that having given everything she had, it was still not enough for her patients. She always returned for her next shift with a renewed resolve to work harder and do more for her patients.

Patricia Dennis, MSN, RN

Pat lives and breathes nursing not just as a profession but as a calling. She has a very strong work ethic. Her “can do” attitude separates her from most. She is unselfish and will stop to share an experience or coach in real-time without hesitation. Using a supportive approach she has been known to jump into clinical situations or clinical care as needed for the better good of the team and patient care. Her dedication and loyalty are demonstrated daily through her work ethic; she willingly works long hours connecting with staff and patients enhancing the human experience at all levels and displays consistent efforts to drive quality improvements, reliability, and perseverance. She is a great nurse and is committed to providing compassionate care to patients and staff alike that exceed expectations. Pat is a servant leader at work, who places discretionary efforts and understands the mission at the local level and in the community. She is an influential proven leader that has been the catalyst for positive change at St. Vincent’s Medical Center, Behavioral Health Services. She operates with a great deal of integrity, consistency, and the utmost respect for diversity and humanity.

Jessica Giordano, BSN, RN

Jessica’s commitment to nursing and her patients is on display every day. She recently advocated for a patient who had a change in mental status based on a report she received from the ED. Jessica spoke with the provider until a CT and MRI were ordered. The patient was having a stroke and thanks to Jessica’s persistence, the patient was treated and is on the road to recovery. Jessica cares for her colleagues just as much as she cares for her patients. She helped to initiate well-being coloring sheets on the unit that was repurposed on other units and throughout the system. She is also a preceptor and mentor to new nurses and follows up with new staff long after orientation is over.

Kristyn Koripsky, MSN, RN

Kristyn, or Krissy, has served as a preceptor for new ED nurses for seven years. She takes each new hire under her wing and teaches them everything there is to know about being an ED nurse. She debriefs with the new hires after each shift, oftentimes via text, and always makes herself available even when orientation is over. One orientee was having a difficult time acclimating to the ED but Krissy spent countless hours figuring out different approaches to teach the new hire to be successful in the ED. Krissy goes above and beyond in the care she provides to staff and her patients, constantly arising to the need of serving as a preceptor in the ED. She has also assisted the new graduate nurses in the nurse residency program.

Tracy Ann McCabe, RN

As a senior nurse in the ICU with over 35 years of experience at St. Vincent’s, Tracy is well qualified to care for the highest acuity patients and has translated her knowledge base into being an outstanding mentor and preceptor. She is also frequently a charge nurse and responds to in-house medical emergencies. In both these capacities, she offers teaching and support to staff nurses throughout the hospital and is a role model to her fellow ICU nurses. In addition to providing consummate nursing care, Tracy has an amazing gift of establishing a strong rapport with every patient and family member, regardless of their background, reducing their anxiety, and putting them at ease. Tracy will visit her patients when they have transferred to other parts of the hospital, no longer needing critical care. Tracy was the first nurse from the ICU to volunteer for the COVID vaccination clinics, responding immediately when the call for nurses was made.

Candice Wright, BSN, RN

Within a year of taking on a new role as a stroke nurse navigator, Candice has elevated the nursing care of the stroke patient population. She guides stroke patients and their families through care transitions, rounds independently on stroke patients, and offers support and expertise. Candice not only follows stroke patients through different care environments within the hospital, such as the emergency department and the ICU but will also follow up with them in rehab and call them once they are discharged. She has established herself as a reliable resource for nurses, guiding them through the NIHSS exam, demonstrating swallow evaluations, and offering advice on a patient’s deficits. Candice is also a member of the stroke task force and is committed to educating first responders in the community on stroke prevention, symptom recognition, and action plans.

System Support Office

Elizabeth Begley, MS, RN

Liz is the system director of Customer and Patient Relations. Over the past year, Liz and her team of eight answered more than 12,000 calls (more than double over last year), responding to each with empathy and focus to ensure each patient and family member received the best and most appropriate responses. Liz has built a team that is skilled at de-escalation. Last year, Liz was asked and agreed to conduct de-escalation training across SSO. Liz is now leading HHC’s Mutual Care and Mutual Respect (MCMR) initiative, collaborating across the system to address incivility between caregivers and patients and among colleagues.

Rachael McClelland, MSN, RN

As an infection control nurse, Rachael shared her knowledge, skills and more importantly provided continuous support to not only the nursing staff but to the entire clinical team. She is the nurse that we all turned to as our resource to teach, guide, coach, and impart her wisdom during such a challenging time. Although her role as infection prevention nurse required countless hours, Rachael adjusted her schedule to lead the region’s vaccination efforts. She rotated as nurse lead and administered hundreds of vaccines in our clinic.

Tallwood Urology & Kidney Institute

Courtney Kelley, LPN

When she joined the Urology team at Tallwood Urology & Kidney Institute over five years ago, Courtney Kelley was responsible for urodynamic testing and brought a dedication and work ethic to her job rarely seen among nurses, let alone any colleague. She has since transitioned to our Men’s Health team with myself and Elizabeth Reynolds, APRN. We care for men through very private and troubling times in their lives as they struggle with infertility, sexual dysfunction, urinary troubles, and genitourinary cancers. Throughout it all, I have had only the highest compliments about Courtney from patients about her compassion, patience, and reliability.

Windham Hospital

Hannah Phelps, RN

Hannah always puts her patients first however; there is one patient situation that stands out. We had a challenging patient who had a complex family dynamic. He had a BMI of 65 and his condition continued to slowly deteriorate. The patient was transferred to our medical-surgical floor as a comfort patient where Hannah took over. The pain and symptom management really became challenging but with collaboration between Hannah and the physician, it was determined that a Ketamine drip may be the solution. Ketamine for comfort had never been done here at Windham Hospital. The plan included Pharmacy, Nursing Education, and Leadership. The patient passed peacefully several hours later.

Kimberly Kearns, RN

Kim has offered to orient, mentor, and support new staff members in the Windham ED. She always is teaching others and provides detailed care to the patients. She recently became a charge nurse in the department and is seen as a leader and a resource. Kim never sits still and is seen running through the department to ensure the patients are all cared for in a safe and timely manner.

Amy Kollbeck, RN

Amy has been a nurse at Windham for a long time. She is well known and well-loved. She has a legacy of being an approached, well-rounded nurse. Recently, it was a very busy day in the department. Amy was the triage nurse and whenever she had a few minutes to spare between triages she was out on the floor helping. She started numerous IVs, medicated and discharged patients, and checked in with the nurses as frequently as she could to see if there was any other task she could assist with.