Profiles of past Nominees and Winners

Select 2018 nominees


Evelin Hernandez worked as an EMT in New York City for 12 years before falling in love with nursing and acquiring her BSN from CUNY Lehman College. She currently works on a surgical/orthopedic unit. In addition to her regular nursing duties, she actively participates in monthly unit council meetings for clinical informatics, quality and patient safety, professional advancement, Magnet Champions, best practice, and nursing research. She is keenly aware of patient and family needs, is a true team player, and helps to create an atmosphere of collaboration and consensus building, a key ingredient in supporting her hospital’s Magnet Journey.

Juleen Johnson has worked in hospitals throughout New York City. She joined Brookdale University Hospital and Medical Center in 2015 as Nurse Manager for the Labor and Delivery and Mother Baby Units. in addition to her BSN degree, she is certified in Electronic Fetal Monitoring and is an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant. At Brookdale, she has successfully overseen a number of performance improvement initiatives that have increased the hospital’s exclusive breastfeeding rates. These initiatives have included evaluation of skin to skin care and initial latch on, rooming-in evaluation, and focus on maternal-infant bonding. As a Team STEPPS master trainer she encourages team work and supports her staff in the safe delivery of a new generation. She is patient, professional, and respectful in her interactions with staff and patients.

Steven Kunak surprises many when they learn he is a new nurse, because he demonstrates confidence, knowledge, advanced clinical and interpersonal skills, good organizational skills, and is a natural leader on the cardiac step-down unit where he works. As a former NYC police Lieutenant, he was a first responder and part of 9-11 recovery. He models strength, calmness, humility, and compassion in his interactions with co-workers, patients, and families.

Kallema Tandrian is a respected Preceptor nurse in the Telemetry unit at Jamaica hospital, providing a variety of support to new hires and student externs. She models excellent communication skills with patients, families, and co-workers. She has been commended by patients many times in HCHAPS surveys and discharge phone calls. She is praised by her co-workers as “an exceptional team player.” She was appointed as chairperson of the Unit Practice Council in January 2017, attends nursing grand rounds, and updates staff on policy changes. She holds her BSN from Hunter College.

Novelette Wynter has been working as an RN for two years, and has 20 years of experience working with people with HIV/AIDS. She works on a challenging HIV/AIDS unit and in addition to her clinical skills, she supports residents in myriad other ways, particularly those without a support system or family. She is an excellent communicator, a good listener, and an advocate of the residents. Her motto is “Knowledge is meant to be shared.” 

Select 2017 NOD nominees

David Aguasca’s career path to nursing was not typical. He was a park ranger and a carpenter before becoming an EMT and deciding to pursue a career as a nurse. Currently, he is an RN at Orange Regional Medical Center. He was surprised and honored to find be nominated as a Novice Nurse of the Year. “My nomination letter is still on my fridge at home. It felt great to be nominated by my peers,” he says.

According to Mr. Aguasca’s co-workers, he is always willing to grow as a novice nurse, including taking both preceptor and charge classes to further his career.

Marcia Butler-Hurlington has worked as an RN at St. Barnabas Hospital (SBH) for over 20 years. Her goal, she says, is to deliver individualized, safe care to patients and their families. Throughout her career, Ms. Butler-Hurlington has served as a preceptor and member for co-workers on the SBH pediatric team.

“I am passionate about nursing,î she says. “Our society will always need nurses who are dedicated to providing quality patient centered care.”

Ms. Butler-Hurlington is also active in collaborating with labor and management and currently sits on the RN Council.

Sybilla Daniel-Douglas fulfilled her passion for helping people by becoming an RN in the Emergency Department at Brookdale Hospital in 1990. With the assistance of 1199, she obtained an MS degree in Adult Health and became a certified ambulatory nurse and asthma educator.

According to Ms. Daniel-Douglas’ co-workers, she has a strong passion for education and mentoring, coming into work to orient nurses on her days off. She developed an orientation program to help new nurses become competent in their role.

“I am a firm believer that good habits start early and if you teach the student well from the very beginning, they will carry these good practices with them forever,” she says.

For 37 years, Virginia Grieb has been a nurse. Currently, she is a registered nurse in the Surgical Intensive Care Unit at Orange Regional Medical Center. Ms. Grieb says it was an honor to be nominated as Preceptor of the Year.

“It just choked me up. This is my passion and it feels great to know you made a difference in someone’s life,” she says.

As an active 1199 member, Ms. Grieb has chaired many labor-management committees since the 1990s. She is extremely supportive of the various educational opportunities available to nurses. As a preceptor, Ms. Grieb guides her students to success teaching them various aspects in nursing including the basics and critical thinking skills. Ms. Griebís colleagues always hear her saying, “It is our obligation to foster and nurture the future of nursing.”

Preceptor Nurse of the Year nominee Kathleen O’Donnell is a role model to her colleagues. Known for adopting her teaching style to the needs of the learner, she congratulates her nurses on their successes while also supporting them through their mistakes.

Ms. O’Donnell has been working as an RN since 1989. She currently works at Montefiore-Wakefield Campus in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and is a certified lactation consultant. She has been nominated for the President Award at Montefiore Medical Center. Being nominated as Preceptor Nurse of the Year is “exciting and a little nerve-racking at the same time,” she says with a smile.

When Angela Paladino was young, she wanted to become a nurse. Later, she pursued a career as a physical therapy assistant, but her dream of nursing never died. She ultimately decided to go back to school and become a nurse. For ten years, Ms. Paladino has been an RN in the Emergency Department at Eastern Long Island Hospital.

Ms. Paladino was moved to learn of her nomination as Novice Nurse of the Year. “It felt overwhelming,” she says. “However, I also felt very fortunate that my peers would nominate me and feel that I was worthy of this award.”

According to Ms. Paladinoís colleagues, she is compassionate in caring for her patients. She is also flexible and generous in helping to solve staffing problems, often volunteering for extra shifts or switching shifts with colleagues.

Although Kashun Matthew Poon has only been an RN for a year and five months, he has already made an impact to his colleagues at Mount Sinai Beth Israel, sharing his knowledge and time with them. Yet when he found out he was nominated as Novice Nurse of the Year, he says he was shocked. “It felt surreal. I was speechless because I am a new nurse. I was so happy and honored,” he says.

Mr. Poon is the executive secretary for the American Assembly for Men in Nursing’s New York Chapter. He also volunteers each week at his church as an usher.

With over 20 years of experience in her specialty, Maria Quigley has demonstrated her expertise in clinical practice as well as being an admired leader in the field of perioperative nursing. Currently, Ms. Quigley is a nurse manager in the Ambulatory Surgery Center at Good Samaritan Hospital. She was very surprised to be nominated as Nurse Leader of the Year.

“I like all of the attention to go to my nurses because they are doing the work and taking care of the patients. I love the work I do at Good Samaritan,” she says.

According to Ms. Quigley’s colleagues, she has inspired many staff to seek certification and advanced education. She also makes it a priority to continue her own nursing education, traveling to national conferences held by groups like the Association of Perioperative Registered Nurses and OR Management.

Anastasiya Valynets fulfilled her career goals at Mount Sinai Brooklyn, after moving to the United States from Belarus. After starting as a volunteer, she became a patient care technician, a nurse and now an RN in the Emergency Room. “I was feeling anxious about becoming an ER nurse, but I love my job,” she says. “We have a good team and I love my co-workers.”

Her co-workers say she is an inspiration to their team, known for providing quality patient care combined with a compassionate personal approach.

Select 2016 NOD nominees


When Veronica Butt was a child, she was inspired by reading the story of Florence Nightingale, which spoke to her desire to be caring and kind to others. As a member of Montefiore’s critical care team, she is now affectionately known as “Florence Nightingale” and recognized for her professionalism, exemplary attributes and caring attitude towards patients, families and colleagues.

Born in England, Ms. Butt attended school in Jamaica and later came to the United States to finish high school and pursue her dreams. Before working at Montefiore, she worked in various units at Bronx Lebanon Hospital and Our Lady of Mercy Hospital. She is currently pursuing a post-master’s certification degree at Lehman College and expecting to graduate in June 2016.

Ms. Butt believes that choosing a profession that you love and that your heart belongs too leads to success in life. She encourages younger nurses to be committed to helping others. “I feel that I can make a difference in people’s lives, especially when they are ill and to help them gain recovery. I want to help them get better so they can live healthy and productive lives,” she says.

Having entered the health field as a home health aide, then becoming an LPN and an RN, Ms. Butt understands the journey required to advance in the nursing field. “It doesn’t matter where you start or even how you start, because the race is not for the swift,” she says. “It’s about having the endurance to commit to your dreams, to be strong and to rise up and bring yourself up above the horizon. Look far behind the horizon.”

When Jane Giganti graduated from high school, she was so clueless about her next steps in life that she told her mom she was planning to take a year off instead of spending money on college. At the time, she thought she might be interested in a career in social work. “My mother told me to go into nursing because she thought it would be a great fit for me,” she says.

A great fit indeed. For 26 years, Ms. Giganti has worked in nursing. Having completed her BSN, she is now pursing her MSN and Clinical Nurse Specialist degree from Sacred Heart University in Connecticut. She has worked in various departments, including critical care and palliative care. She currently holds a leadership role as a Professional Development Specialist for Orange Medical Center’s Critical Care Unit.

“I love working with families during crisis situations,” she says. “I like being there for them during that terrible time. I tell the patients that I am their rock and to lean on me.”

Ms. Giganti likes to lead by example, showing that nursing is not just about caring for patients, family members, and co-workers. She also strongly believes in mentoring future nurses, which is why she runs a summer medical academy program for high school students. Ms. Giganti always encourages the nurses in her unit to ask questions, maintaining an open-door policy. “The scariest nurse is the nurse that doesn’t question anything. You don’t know what she’s thinking or he’s thinking,” she says. “You should ask questions. It’s okay to ask questions. We question each other all the time.”

Amando de Guzman has traveled all over the world as a nurse, including the Middle East. When he came to the United States in 2000, he started working in nursing homes and then moved to hospitals.

“I am fortunate to have the experience of working in various healthcare settings,” he says. “When I came from the nursing home setting to the hospital setting, the pace was very different.”

Since 2006, Mr. Guzman has been working as an RN in the Emergency Department (ED) at Mount Sinai Queens. Through Mount Sinai Queens’ ED Nurse Residency Program, Mr. Guzman plays an integral role by mentoring novice nurses. After the program ends, many of the nurse residents maintain contact with Mr. Guzman due to his caring demeanor and dedication to helping others. “I try to guide them step by step from their classroom learning into the hospital setting,” he says. “I often tell them to slow down, because they will not learn everything in one day. They need to understand that the safety of our patients is always a priority.”

While growing up in Jamaica, West Indies, Avis Plummer wanted to become a nurse. “I love nursing and I love people. I wouldn’t change it for anything. It’s been rewarding to me and to my family,” she says.

From an early age, her parents instilled in her strong beliefs about the importance of getting a good education, saving up enough money to send her to one of the best private high schools in Jamaica.

After graduation, she came to the United States to further her education, working as a patient care assistant at Misericordia Hospital (renamed to Our Lady of Mercy Hospital) in the Bronx while attending school at Westchester Community College to attain her licensed practical nurse degree.

While working as an LPN, Ms. Plummer decided to continue her schooling, becoming an RN and later completing her BSN. When a managerial position opened in her unit, she pursued the opportunity. For over 20 years, Ms. Plummer has been working as a nurse manager at Montefiore Wakefield. During that time, she returned to school to receive her MPH. She currently serves as Nurse Manager for three units: Medical Surgical, Psychiatry, and Geriatric. She also manages a 38-bed geriatric unit with 55 associates.

Ms. Plummer tells nurses in her unit that they have to be passionate about their jobs and always focus on patients. “Every day, my mindset is to get up, take care of myself, come to work and do my job to the best of my ability,” she says. “God blesses me to get up and go into work. From the moment I walk in, I am ready to work until it is time to leave at the end of my day. I really love what I do, and helping others is truly a blessing.”

For 40 years, Semayawit Robinson has worked as a nursery nurse and assistant head nurse at Forrest Hills Hospital. However, her journey began a long way from New York City.

She started her career in the United States after emigrating from Ethiopia in the early 1970s. Ms. Robinson initially became a flight attendant, due to her love of traveling, but she later realized that nursing was her true calling in life. She worked as a nurse all over the country because she traveled with her husband, who was in the Army.

It was in 1975 when Ms. Robinson started her career as nurse working for Forrest Hills Hospital. Due to her dedication to Forrest Hills, she is known as a great support and role model for novice nurses. “I can attribute my many years in nursing to the fact that nursing is not a job for me, but it is who I am and what my life has always been about,” she says.

Jacklyn Stimpson joined the healthcare field after finding something lacking in her first career. “I didn’t feel fulfilled working in business,” she says. “So I did some digging, and the overlying thing was I want to help people.”

She went back to school, receiving an associate’s degree in the RN program at Orange County Community College and a bachelor’s degree in nursing from Chamberlain College. Since she began her career as an RN at Orange Medical Center in Middletown, New York, she has received numerous letters of appreciation from patients. “When patients say thank you for your help or thank you for helping me get through this day or just listening to them, it makes a huge difference. It’s nice knowing that even for something so simple, you may have possibly made a difference,” she says.

Aware of how it can be difficult for nurses to transition from the classroom into the hospital setting, Ms. Stimpson tries to encourage and mentor new nurses. She tells new nurses to ask plenty of questions, seek help and take advantage of resources available to them. “In our hospital we have the preceptorship, and now they’ve tried to further extend the program, so there are more support classes available,” she says.

Ms. Stimpson continues to grow as a novice nurse, and she is excited about all of the opportunities coming her way. “That fulfillment factor I’m talking about– I have that now with nursing. I know this is what I want to do,” she says.

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