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Niagara Health recognizes 22 Nursing Excellence Award recipients

Posted May 12th, 2022

Niagara Health celebrated excellence in nursing with its annual Nursing Excellence Awards on Thursday, which are held annually during National Nursing Week. The awards, which are peer-nominated, saw 22 recipients across each of our sites in eight categories this year.

“I would like to congratulate this year’s Nursing Excellence Award recipients,” says Heather Paterson, Interim Executive Vice President Clinical Services and Chief Nursing Executive. “You inspire your colleagues, and myself, by embodying what it means to provide Extraordinary Caring. We are grateful for your service and commitment to patients, their families and Niagara Health staff and physicians."

Each recipient has their own unique nursing style, and several received multiple nominations. One nurse buys and hands out birthday cards for her patients. Another rose to the challenge to ensure inpatients could receive timely access to COVID-19 vaccines. One has put patients’ needs and interests first for more than 40 years throughout her nursing career.

Here are the 22 award recipients of the 2022 Niagara Health Nursing Awards:

Excellence in Nursing – Registered Nurse

Linchu Baby | St. Catharines Site

Linchu is compassionate, respectful and professional with her colleagues and patients in Mental Health. She ensures her patients feel cared for and valued, and they often comment on how much they appreciate Linchu. Some reoccurring compliments from patients is that she is always “on the ball” and “one of the best nurses I’ve had.”

Wendy Atkinson | Welland Site

All around, Wendy shines. She is always kind, empathetic, approachable and supportive of her colleagues and patients. Wendy comes to work each day with the same demeanor, never frazzled by a stressful situation. She keeps her team calm and in good spirits. Wendy is flexible and will always go above and beyond for her patients – further, in doing so, she never makes the patient feel like she is going out of her way to help.

Brenda Breton | Port Colborne Site

Brenda acts as a beacon to her peers and future nurse professionals. No matter the complexity or seriousness of a situation, Brenda consistently offers care and health teaching with the utmost respect to all involved. One time, she saw a patient with more serious health complications. Brenda immediately went into action to help them, and the patient later wrote a letter of thanks to a local newspaper, crediting her life being saved by Brenda’s timeliness.

Chelsea Stamp | Niagara Falls Site

Chelsea shows excellent communication with patients and their families, and often goes above and beyond for her patients. She values education and remains up-to-date with the ever-changing world of emergency medicine in order to provide the best possible care to patients in the emergency department. She also helps all junior and novice nurses and promotes the CORE values of Niagara Health day in and day out.

Tayler Turnbull | Fort Erie Site

Tayler recently joined the Fort Erie Site as a new graduate of the Registered Nursing program at Nipissing University. She has excelled in developing her role as a full-time registered nurse, and a regular charge nurse on the floor. Tayler leads her team with kindness and promotes a team-based approach to patient care.

Excellence in Nursing – Registered Practical Nurse

Kristy Stoklosa | Welland Site

Kristy is a strong advocate for her patients and is always putting them at the centre of planning care. She has the respect from her allied health members and the physician team and will bring her concerns forward to them seeking not only resolution, but is open to explanations on why something may not be appropriate for a particular patient. Her colleagues will ask for her opinion, which she willingly gives.

Sharon Chronopoulos | St. Catharines Site

Sharon is extremely caring, joyful and hardworking. She shows up with a smile and goes above and beyond to provide the highest level of care to her patients. Sharon consistently asks everyone she works with if there is anything they need and offers help without hesitation. She demonstrates Niagara Health's CORE values of providing extraordinary caring to patients and colleagues every time she is working.

Mark Irwin | Fort Erie Site

Mark provides and takes great pride in his exceptional care and support to palliative patients and their families. He is patient and kind in explaining disease process and provides a supportive environment for families to ask questions and helps them in facilitating their grieving processes. Mark goes above and beyond to recognize the unique needs of each patient and family on their journey through the palliative care process.

Julie Mrkalj | Niagara Falls Site

Julie is extremely conscientious in her medication administrations and thorough with her nursing skills and care. She is very kind to the families and inclusive of their feelings and emotions in supporting their loved ones in the hospital. She provides excellent bedside care no matter how busy she is and is always a team player.

Excellence in Nursing – Advanced Practical Nurse

Danielle Smith | St. Catharines Site | Nurse Practitioner

Danielle has been a source of knowledge and skills when it comes to taking care of patients with COVID-19 and has been instrumental in implementing COVID-19 research. She is always excited about new potential research studies that may improve care for patients. In addition, when patients are deemed palliative, Danielle is often phoning families and arranging visitation right away.

Kim Bowen | Corporate | Clinical Nurse Specialist

During incredibly challenging circumstances, Kim rose to the challenge to ensure inpatients could receive timely access to COVID-19 vaccines. Her leadership efforts undoubtedly helped save many lives. On several occasions, Kim reached out to our geriatric program to strategize how best to support older adults with cognitive impairments to safely receive their vaccine. Kim consistently answers the call to healthcare confidently, competently and without hesitation.

Lindsay Dowhaniuk | Port Colborne Site | Nurse Practitioner

Lindsay provides exceptional support and care to her patients to improve their health and well-being. One example was when a patient’s prognosis was poor. Lindsay took the time to speak with the family and explain the situation and potential outcomes. Lindsay handled this very well and at the end of the day, the patient was in the palliative care stream, the patient was comfortable and the family was at peace.

Nicole Smith | Niagara Falls Site | Nurse Practitioner

Nicole assesses each patient from head to toe and takes the time to answer all questions, concerns and anxieties. She is always continuing her education and shares this knowledge with colleagues and applies her learnings to patients. Her suggestions and recommendations greatly contribute to the care of her patients and helps them understand the care they receive.

Excellence in Nursing – Teamwork and Collaboration

Perioperative program/Flex Unit | Niagara Falls Site

During the fifth wave, the Perioperative program nurses were redeployed to open the Day Stay Flex Unit for overflow of admissions from the Emergency Department. They showed up every day to provide extraordinary caring to patients and worked together as a team. Even the nurses who were not redeployed from the Perioperative program helped. They answered the call when there was nobody else to do so.

Emergency Department | St. Catharines Site

The nursing staff in the St. Catharines Emergency Department have a culture like no other and are pillars of change. The team provides extraordinary caring to patients, adjusting day-to-day with new challenges. The acuity and ages of patients and the number of patients waiting, admitted and consulted are just a few variables to ensure that the tens of patients each nurse is responsible for receives fast, quality and patient-centred care.

Emergency Department | Welland Site

The Emergency Department at the Welland Site has gone above and beyond to ensure patients and colleagues have remained safe, all while providing excellent nursing care. The team has held each other up throughout all of the struggles that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought, and has kept each other smiling and supported throughout the pandemic.

Excellence in Nursing – Rising Star

Nicole Aquino | Welland Site | Registered Practical Nurse

Nicole never hesitates to ask questions appropriately and is able to learn and retain new skills quickly. She is a pleasure to work alongside and tries to keep a positive attitude, thus spreading that same energy to those around her. She is a hard worker and team player, and is the kind of nurse that every department needs.

Lorena Jovetic | Niagara Falls Site | Registered Nurse

Lorena has a demonstrated passion for helping others learn and grow in a supportive environment, such as by developing resources on her own time for other nurses. Some of the words used to describe Lorena is team player, respectful, organized, approachable, motivated and a motivator, and an advocate for patients, herself, and staff.

Excellence in Nursing – Mentorship

Katrina Zizian | St. Catharines Site | Registered Nurse

Anyone who works alongside Katrina becomes a better nurse. She mentors in a constructive manner and created a workbook with any topic a new nurse or student may need to know regarding mental health nursing. She allows mentees to learn in whatever way suits them with her support and in a protected environment.

Excellence in Nursing – Leadership

Andrea Lehal | St. Catharines Site | Nurse Practitioner

Andrea is a palliative care champion and leader within the organization. She has trained physicians and nurses on the principles of palliative care. She motivates her colleagues to provide the best possible care at end of life and includes family in all care decisions. Andrea navigates patient and family requests with elegance and diplomacy, and makes sure that patients and their families feel cared for and well-treated.

Excellence in Nursing – Lifetime Achievement

Debbie Vasko | Port Colborne Site | Registered Nurse

For more than 40 years, Debbie has demonstrated extraordinary leadership throughout her roles in the nursing profession. She always puts patients’ needs and interests first. In addition, Debbie comes in 45 minutes prior to the start of her shift every day to ensure she is well-organized and that staff are informed about our patients and the upcoming day.

Mary-Jo Sawula | St. Catharines Site | Registered Nurse

Mary-Jo holds patients’ hands when they are anxious, explains procedures and adds in a bit of humour to brighten their days. She buys and hands out birthday cards for her patients and advocates for their needs. She offers help to everyone working in day stay, including staff that are not a part of her program. She is always available for advice and believes that nursing is a team sport.

Niagara Health System