On May 9, during the height of National Nurse’s Week, about 700 people gathered at the 13th annual Nurse of Distinction Awards to honor 1199SEIU nurses for their professionalism, dedication, compassion and commitment to excellence. Norma Amsterdam, Executive Vice President of the 1199SEIU Registered Nurse Division, and Daniel F. Murphy, Jr., a labor and management attorney and consultant to the League of Voluntary Hospitals and Homes, served as masters of ceremonies. As Amsterdam noted, the Nurse of Distinction Awards are the “Oscars” for nurses, a fact that was clearly apparent in the evening’s festive atmosphere, the beautiful décor of the ballroom at the Brooklyn Marriott, and the gorgeous dresses and elegant suits donned by the attendees.
The Nurse of Distinction Awards were established by a collective bargaining agreement between 1199SEIU and the League. Both union and league leaders delivered congratulatory remarks and presented awards. 1199SEIU Secretary-Treasurer Maria Castaneda acknowledged the achievements of all nurses in attendance, “By being here, you are already a winner.” League President Bruce McIver reminded the audience of the important “central role” that nurses play in health care and remarked that the League was proud to be an event sponsor.
Awards for excellence were presented in five categories: Novice Nurse, Nurse Preceptor, Nurse Leader, Nurse of Distinction (Hospital) and Nurse of Distinction (Nursing Home). As the winners in each category were announced, their colleagues jumped to their feet in fervent applause and loud cheers, clearly thrilled to see their outstanding colleagues publicly recognized for their achievements.
In acceptance speeches and post-award interviews, Nurse of Distinction winners echoed the theme of care and compassion for patients. Winsome Johnson-Berry of NYU Langone Medical Center’s Hospital for Joint Diseases (pictured at top of story), winner of Nurse of Distinction in a hospital setting, remarked, “Nurses at heart are caring individuals. They put the interests of their patients first.” Nurse Leader of the Year Avis Plummer of Montefiore Medical Center’s Wakefield division told interviewers, “I’m passionate about what I do. I love taking care of my patients.” In his acceptance speech for Novice Nurse of the Year Charles Chaboude of Mount Sinai Beth Israel, said: “You don’t go into nursing for recognition, but for caring for patients.”
Award winners praised 1199SEIU/League Training and Employment Funds benefits and advised nurses to enhance their professional skills. Nurse Preceptor of the Year Jessica Wood of Orange Regional Medical Center, who loves teaching BA and LPN students, urged nurses to take advantage of Training and Employment Funds programs. Sheron Simmons from the Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation, winner of Nurse of Distinction in a nursing home setting, said the Training and Employment Fund was “instrumental in helping me to go back to school to get a Bachelor’s in Community Health. In an era of healthcare reform and major shifts in the healthcare industry, education and skills upgrading are more critical than ever.”
The ceremony also recognized 1199SEIU Vice President for Registered Nurses Clare Thompson for her outstanding contributions as she heads toward retirement. Clare has worked for 13 years to help build the Nurse of Distinction Awards Gala, her passion helping to build the event into the unique celebration it is today.
The Training and Employment Fund also honored one of its own, Wanda Johnson, a Nurse Educator with the Registered Nurse Training and Job Security Fund, who is retiring in July after over four decades of service to patients and her profession. Ms. Johnson expressed “a lot of gratitude for the recognition of 45 years of professional practice as an RN.”
The 1199SEIU/League Training and Employment Fund salutes this year’s winners, nominees, and all 1199SEIU RNs for their commitment to patients and quality care. Congratulations!
Visit our Nurse of Distinction page for more on the awards program, photos of this year’s winners, and links to profiles of select 2016 nominees and lists of all past nominees and winners