Brooklyn Nurses Honored With NYC Health + Hospitals Awards

Brooklyn Nurses Honored With NYC Health + Hospitals Awards
Megan Alyssa Leyesa with nursing staff. Courtesy of NYC Health + Hospitals/Coney Island.

The pandemic has added a new layer of meaning to this year’s NYC Health + Hospitals Nursing Excellence Awards.

“Our annual Nursing Excellence Awards, set against the backdrop of the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, honors the tireless work of our exceptional nurses,” said Natalia Cineas, DNP, RN, Chief Nurse Executive for NYC Health + Hospitals,who have [shown] courage and strength under pressure, rising to the occasion because of their unceasing dedication to our patients and our communities.

Every year, NYC H+H releases a list of honorees as a means of boosting recognition for nurses, who play a critical role in the New York City healthcare system. This year, to bring attention to the diversity of nursing jobs throughout the city, H+H established five new honoree categories: the Structural Empowerment Award, Excellence in Volunteerism and Service, Excellence in Nursing Leadership, Excellence in Home, Community, and Ambulatory Care, and Excellence in Education and Mentorship. The number of honorees this year also increased from 16 in 2019 to 30, in order to further highlight the support of nurses throughout the City’s public healthcare system.

“I think to be an excellent nurse, you definitely have to come with all the skills needed to be a nurse,” Manjinder Kaur, RN, MSN, NEA-BC, the interim Chief Nursing Officer for H+H/Coney Island, told Bklyner over the phone. On top of that, though, “compassion is very important,” noted Kaur.

Megan Alyssa Leyesa, MSN, BSN, RN-BC. Courtesy of NYC Health + Hospitals/Coney Island.

One of the honorees this year was Megan Alyssa Leyesa, MSN, BSN, RN-BC, who won in the category of Clinical Nursing. Leyesa recently completed her sixth year as a nurse at H+H/Coney Island and was promoted in December to the role of Nurse Educator.

“I think her compassion was something which was highlighted during especially difficult times last year,” said Kaur.

Nurses are always tasked with providing comfort to patients; this year, however, they were forced to fill the gap left by families absent from bedsides due to COVID-19 restrictions, said Kaur. “We did not go through any time in the past when the families weren’t at the bedside.”

“We were pretty much the [only] ones [there] for them,” said Leyesa.

That, Kaur explained, was one of the many unknowns that nurses faced over the last year; going to work each day was “a little bit like going to war,” she said. “You don’t know what’s waiting for you there.”

To help her team survive these uncertain times she “tried to take on the role of being nurse in charge,” Leyesa told Bklyner. “I showed a lot of leadership. I feel like I supported the entire staff that I worked with.”

She got that same support back from them, she said – and emphasized that everyone on her team deserved the award. “We all stepped up to the plate this year.”

For nurses, explained Kaur, compassion should flow in both directions: not only toward patients, but toward fellow team members as well. Leyesa, she said, “Was there for her colleagues; she was there to support them. People were crying on her shoulder. [Being able to] provide that kind of compassionate care to the patients as well as to your team, makes you a really good nurse.”

John Riley, RN. Courtesy of NYC Health + Hospitals/Woodhull.

For John Riley, RN, a nurse at H+H/Woodhull, compassion – and connection – are huge parts of the job.

“Sometimes people just want to feel welcome,” said Riley. “Aside from the physical aspects of the job, in terms of administering medications and educating my patients, I feel like the establishment of that connection is a big part of my own nursing mission.”

Riley works in ambulatory care at H+H/Woodhull, which provides outpatient assistance to people managing chronic diseases. When he couldn’t meet with patients during the height of the pandemic, he said, he was still able to provide support remotely.

“After building the rapport with the patients for so long – talking to them is something that comes very naturally,” Riley said. “That’s one of the beautiful things about this as opposed to other jobs in the past – I really get to build a relationship with my patients.”

The awards have always provided recognition for nurses, Riley said. “But this year, I’m sure, seems to all of us a little more poignant because of what’s happened. We all love what we do – that’s why we do it – but when you’re faced with a pandemic, having this acknowledgment becomes so much more meaningful.”

The other honorees from Brooklyn include:

Marie Carline Charles, RN

Head Nurse

NYC Health + Hospitals/McKinney

Excellence in Clinical Nursing

Roxanna M. Garcia, RN, CCRN

Staff Nurse

NYC Health + Hospitals/Woodhull

Excellence in Clinical Nursing

Shantie Jagnarine, RN, BSN

Staff Nurse

NYC Health + Hospitals/Kings County

Excellence in Clinical Nursing

Chika Onyia, MSN, RN

Accountable Care Manager

NYC Health + Hospitals/Gotham Health, East New York

Excellence in Clinical Nursing