Celebrating the East Region’s Top Nurses

April 18, 2016 By Hartford HealthCare

Fourteen nurses from Hartford HealthCare’s East Region have been named Nightingale Nurse Award winners for 2016.

Originally developed by the Visiting Nursing Association of South Central Connecticut, the Nightingale Awards recognize exceptional nurses and promote the nursing profession. Recipients will be honored at a dinner during National Nurses Week on May 12 at the Mashantucket Pequot Museum.

Armstrong-Cheryl.jpgCheryl Armstrong, RN, Natchaug Hospital Adolescent Unit

Psychiatric nurses don’t often hear how their patients are doing after discharge, so Cheryl Armstrong was surprised when she received a Christmas card delivered to the hospital from a former adolescent patient who had been suicidal. In the note, the teenager thanked Armstrong for showing her that she had self-worth and reported that she is now looking to become a nurse herself. “It truly reinforced why I am here working with teenagers,” said Armstrong. “This is what being a nurse is all about.”



Debra Cannon, RN, Backus Hospital, Arthritis and Rheumatology Center

Debra Cannon admits she was very naïve when she started nursing school more than 20 years ago. She thanks her instructors for teaching her the value of professionalism and going that extra mile for the patient.  She says she always tries to speak to patients with respect. “Everyone deserves to know what’s happening to them,” Cannon says. Cannon recommends nursing as a career, “only if the person is strongly motivated and able to self-direct.” 



Jeannie Cardona, RN, Detoxification Unit, Rushford at Middletown

Jeannie Cardona, RN, is a nurse who is known for going the extra mile for her patients, even for those who at first may not want her help. Working with patients whose lives are imperiled by substance abuse issues, Jeannie shows great persistence and compassion, always remembering that patients can respond to care and embark on a path of recovery at any point. A case in point came last year when a man came in for treatment and committed to a course of recovery only after Jeannie stayed for many hours after her shift to make sure he would remain there overnight. Several months later, she encountered him at a supermarket, and he thanked her and told her he had remained sober ever since. He ended up writing a commendation for her to Rushford leadership.


Dunn-Nina.jpgNina Dunn, RN, Backus Hospital, A4 Orthopedics

After 20 years in nursing, Nina Dunn says she lives by a simple rule: treat patients and their families the way you would like to be treated, never be judgmental and try to connect with them on a personal level.  As an orthopedic nurse, Dunn says she has a passion for helping people go from “writhing in pain to walking again.”  Along with other colleagues from Backus, Dunn helped coauthor a study—“Effect of a Brief Massage on Pain, Anxiety, and Satisfaction with Pain Management in Postoperative Patients”—that was published in Orthopedics Nursing.


Gallegos-Margaret.jpgMargaret Gallegos, RN, Windham Hospital, Shea East

“Empathy and compassion is what makes a nurse a nurse,” says Margaret Gallegos, who has worked as nurse for nearly 30 years—all at Windham Hospital. Gallegos, who has worked as a surgical, pediatric, medical-surgical, telemetry and hospice nurse, says it’s important for nurses always be an advocate for their patient. “I always include the family in everything. Spiritual guidance is always on my mind. I pray for all of the patients I care for and keep their families comfortable in every situation,” she says.


Grann-Karin.jpgKarin Grann, APRN, Windham Hospital, Hospitalist Service

Karin Grann, who also has a degree in psychology and an MBA in marketing, says the corporate life wasn’t fulfilling for her as she longed to make a difference in the community. While working full-time she returned to school to prepare for her nursing degree.  “Although my path in becoming a nurse was indirect, I believe my prior career exposures made me well-rounded and truly appreciate all of life’s complexities, leadership, collaboration, the business of nursing and influencing others,” says Grann who has been a nurse for nine years and an APRN for five. “I have felt accomplished emotionally, spiritually and professionally since becoming a nurse,” she says.


Harrison-Lisa.jpgLisa Harrison, APRN, Natchaug Hospital Medical Staff

As a child, Lisa Harrison remembers when her mother, a public health nurse, would bring her to visit patients. “I remember how happy the clients were to see us because they were lonely and homebound, and I’ve always wanted to be able to brighten peoples’ day by meeting their needs like that,” she said. Harrison, who is pursuing her Ph.D. at the University of Connecticut School of Nursing, is also helping to inspire the next generation of nurses as a graduate assistant.


Jadczak-Rachel.jpgRachel Jadczak, RNC-OB, Backus and Windham Hospital, Clinical Excellence

During a recent medical mission providing healthcare to children in a remote, impoverished village in Nicaragua, Rachel Jadczak came to an important realization about her profession: “That as a nurse, it is not only the knowledge and clinical skills we have to offer, but even more importantly it is our our kindness, touch and the love we give to the patient,” she says.  As a nurse educator, Jadczak says that her most important customer now is frontline staff because “through them I ultimately have an effect on the quality of care for the patients.”


Kelly-Andrea.jpgAndrea Kelly, RN, Backus Hospital, Emergency Department

If you have a question in the Backus Emergency Department, Andrea Kelly is definitely one of the go-to people.  Colleagues have been known to say that if Andrea doesn’t have the answer she certainly knows where to find it.  After 17 years in nursing Kelly lives by a simple motto: “Be giving to the poor, be kind to the elderly, be patient with youth, be tolerant of the ignorant, and compassionate to the dying.  Because at one time, we will all be one of these,” she says.


Labrie-Dawna.jpgDawna Labrie, RN, Natchaug Hospital Inpatient Units

The holidays are a tough time for those on an inpatient psychiatric unit – so each year, Dawna Labrie does her best to bring some holiday cheer by delivering stockings for each client. “[Nursing] is a profession that means helping people,” she says. And whether it’s through small acts of kindness for clients, lending a hand on a short-staffed unit, or supporting a co-worker in need, being a helper is something that Labrie prides herself in.


OBrien-Jennifer.jpgJennifer O’Brien, RN, BSN, Backus Hospital, A3 Med/Surg

Jennifer O’Brien says seeing the love and compassion with which her parents cared for her developmentally disabled sister greatly contributed to her desire to be a nurse.  “Having a sister with disabilities has made me more sensitive to all people’s needs and has taught me compassion.  She is a true inspiration to me,” she says. As for advice for future nurses: “Expect to work hard, shed some tears and laugh often,” she says.


OConnor-Sharon.jpgSharon O’Connor, RN, Backus Hospital, Patient Care Services

As a seasoned critical care nurse and now clinical coordinator with nearly years 30 of experience, Sharon O’Connor has seen it all; but she says the hours she spent with a dying trauma patient and his family early in her career has had the most impact on her values as a nurse. “I learned so much in the 16 hours I cared for [him] while preparing for organ donation. They were the hardest and most fulfilling hours of my career. That Christmas [the patient’s] mom made me a tree skirt for a raffle fundraiser. I won the tree skirt and every Christmas when I place it under my tree, it’s a reminder of [this patient] and why I became a nurse.”


Sabolesky-Sheila.jpgSheila Sabolesky, RN, Backus Hospital, CCU

Sheila Sabolesky says end of life care is a facet of nursing that truly molded her value system. “To bring the patient to a comfortable place and to ease the family to an emotionally comfortable place encompasses the true art and science we call nursing,’ she says.  Sabolesky’s son is currently studying to become a nurse at the University of Connecticut.  “He is floored by the responsibility nurses shoulder,” she says. “I assured him that nursing is an art form that only gets better with time and experience.  Every day brings an opportunity to learn.”


Whithey-Mary.jpgMary Withey, MSN, APRN, Windham and Backus Hospitals, Quality and Safety

As a nurse with nearly 35 years of experience, Mary Withey knows the importance of collaboration. “I’ve learned that we all are able to do more for the good of the patient and our community when we collaborate,” she says.  Whether through her work nurse practitioner in a school-based health center or in Quality and Safety, Withey says her values were molded by nursing leaders who promoted integrity, patience, compassion, hard work, and the development of staff and community partners who strive to achieve a common goal and vision.