News & Events

2011 Nightingale Awards

April 11, 2011

Ten Backus Hospital nurses and one Backus Home Health Care nurse will receive Nightingale Awards, which recognize excellence in the nursing profession.



Karen Butterworth

Some nurses are compassionate. Others focus on evidence-based practice. Great nurses like Karen possess both of these qualities.

A member of the Backus Education Department, much of Karen’s time is spent in the Backus Emergency Department, helping staff, patients and  family members better understand the stressful situations they find themselves in.

She is a firm believer in nurses building a strong evidence-based practice framework and communicating their knowledge consistently to patients, which translates into better patient outcomes and experience.

Small things can make a difference. Whether it is clearly communicating the plan of care to a patient, the estimated time it will take to get test results, or finding a chair for a family member, these are the things our best nurses, like Karen, do.

“The six years I have spent at Backus have made me the nurse I am today,” Karen says. “My very first days as an RN were spent on the units of Backus Hospital, and from moment one it was evident that quality patient care was not only a priority, but an upheld standard. The support I have received throughout my time at Backus has been extraordinary, and it is my goal to encourage and support others in return.”



Yvonne Claffey

Yvonne Claffey’s nursing career began even before she got her RN degree 50 years ago.

In 1946, her mother was diagnosed with TB, and was sent to a sanitarium for treatment. She was given what at the time was experimental drug treatment and cured – although side effects would last a lifetime.

While she wasn’t expected to care for her mom, she said her illness planted the seed in her to become a nurse. She watched and admired the kindness of those who cared for her mom, and this experience would shape her entire career, which continues to this day as a nursing supervisor at Backus Hospital.

“I love being a nurse and am so proud when a patient calls ‘nurse’ and is looking at me,” Yvonne says. “I feel a great sense of pride when someone stops me in the grocery store and asks if I was the nurse that took care of her dad in the Critical Care Unit, and he did very well after being discharged from the hospital. I know I matter.”

Her contributions haven’t all been inside the walls of Backus Hospital. Her proudest moment was helping to send a young Philippean girl through nursing school.

“She has been an inspiration in my life,” Yvonne says. “Her hardships and her ability to overcome many obstacles to achieve her dream of being a nurse are quite remarkable.”



Patricia Hyder

The committee that chooses Nightingale Award winners at Backus Hospital must have had Patricia Hyder in mind when it designed its nomination form.

One of the questions asked on the form is ‘Do your peers come to you as a resource?”

For Patti, a nurse for 25 years, that would be a resounding yes.

That is her role. She is the Clinical Resource Specialist for the Backus Hospital Operating Room. She assists staff with new and current equipment and supplies, mentors surgical staff, assists surgeons with special requests, helps trail new products, serves as a liaison between the OR, Central Processing and Materials Management.

And she does it all with a smile – and a deep level of expertise.

Patti is a Certified Nurse of the Operating Room (CNOR) and Certified Medical Safety Officer, as well as a member of the Association of Operating Room Nurses (AORN). She helps research new products and services requested by surgeons, and provides data to the New Products Committee in conjunction with a wide range of services, from robotics to bariatrics.

“Every one of us are unique, we also have our faults, but we need to focus our positives and build on them,” Patti says.



Catherine Littlefield

She has only been a nurse for less than six years, but her experiences will already last a lifetime.

Besides being a great oncology nurse at Backus Hospital, Catherine Littlefield consistently goes above and beyond her job description, which is the epitome of a Nightingale recipient.

What she might lack in clinical career achievements she more than makes up for in doing the little things that matter for patients.

The Nightingale Award is for nurses who go above and beyond the call, but its namesake could never have imagined the things Catherine does for her patients.

She mentors nurse residents; volunteers for blood drives; volunteers for the Relay for Life; organized an ice cream social for a Backus hospital patient; organized a party for a dying cancer patient in which everything in her hospital room was painted pink; brought a snowball to a dying patient whose last wish was to touch snow and decorated a hospital room in New England Patriot paraphernalia for a dying Patriots fan.

Catherine truly loves nursing, and brings passion and compassion to the bedside.



Barbara Kays

A supervisor at Backus Home Health Care with 38 years experience in everything from critical care to disaster relief following Hurricane Andrew, Barbara has many titles and pieces of paper recognizing her clinical expertise.

She is chair of the home health care agency’s ethics committee, a member of its policy committee and a member of the statewide initiative collaborative to reduce hospital readmissions of congestive heart failure patients.

But it is a piece of paper found in the automobile glove box of one of her patients that makes her most proud.

She was caring for a terminally ill esophageal cancer patient in the hospital. The patient’s final wish was to see her oldest grandson graduate from high school, but the family was afraid to allow it. Barbara got permission from the patient’s physician to take her to the graduation ceremony and the following party.

A week later the patient died. A month later, Barbara found a thank you card in her automobile glove box, thanking her and saying that the patient “was at peace now.”

Florence Nightingale would be proud.



Jo-Ann Main

When a child she was caring for passed away, Jo-Ann had two things in mind –present the situation to the parents in a compassionate and caring way, and ensure that her co-workers on the next shift didn’t have to jump into a situation they were unfamiliar with.

She accomplished both, and in the process showed why she is such a worthy Nightingale recipient.

Even the most seasoned nurses can potentially have a problem with such a situation, but Jo-Ann has many years of experience in pediatric and post operative care – and an uncanny ability to handle even the most intense circumstances. And she continues to pass this experience on to her fellow nurses, whether through the structured mentoring of nurse residents or the everyday opportunities to share knowledge with her colleagues. She takes pride in guiding and encouraging young nurses, and painting a realistic picture of nursing and all the moments – good and bad – them come with it.

“I have worked at Backus for 34-plus years,” she says. “I value longevity and loyalty. A nurse who I respect very highly told me that the best thing she learned from me is not to judge. I treat all my patients the same no matter their status, education, lifestyle.”



Elizabeth Sadosky

Although her nursing career spans only 3 ½ years, her experience ranges from serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom to the Labor and Delivery unit at Backus Hospital.

While helping deliver babies is her first priority, she helps her peers with computerized patient care documentation, participated in Backus Hospital’s Frontline Leadership Program and as a preceptor for new nurses. Somehow she also finds time to serve as a substitute teacher for CCD classes at her church and volunteer for a toy drive in New London.

She says two events in her life have shaped who she is today – having a baby as a teenager and her time in Iraq.

“During my deployment I gained a greater appreciation for family, basic necessities and overall thankfulness for my education and for living in the United States,” she says. “My value system has changed with the birth of my son because I experienced some discrimination as a result of being a young, unwed mother which has helped me be more accepting and understanding of the circumstances of others’ lives that may be driving their actions and behaviors.”



Jennifer Schneider

In her first year as a nurse at a Rhode Island Hospital, Jennifer took care of four patients in a four-bed room. At the end of the shift a manager, whose office was nearby, complimented her on the way she interacted with the four sick women and told her if she kept it up, she would become a great nurse.

Fourteen years later she is being honored for being one of the best. A nurse in Same Day Surgery at Backus, she takes pride in going the extra mile and giving patients the respect and dignity they deserve, because she says “I am a nurse and that’s what we do.”

She is a firm believer in working as a team – nurses, patient care technicians, surgeons and others — to provide the best patient care possible.

Jennifer also believes in being involved so she can have a voice. She has served on the Backus Education Committee, the Meditech Computer Committee and the Practice Council.

“The possibilities in nursing are limitless,” she says.



Judy Shea-Ursin

Judy has done a lot and learned a lot during her 30 years as a nurse, the last 15 of which have been in the Backus Hospital Operating Room.

But it was her time away from the profession that has made the biggest impact on her career.

In 2005 her father became critically ill and she spent five months at his bedside, on the other side of the healthcare spectrum.

“I was experiencing the impact that we as nurses have on our patients and family members,” she says. “The lessons I learned from this ordeal will be with me forever. Never again will I take for granted how much a kind word, a simple gesture, or taking the extra time to explain something can mean to our patients and their loved ones.”

And she is determined to pass this attitude on to others, serving as an instructor in Backus Hospital’s Nurse Camp for high school students interested in the nursing profession, a preceptor for new hires and a leader in Backus job shadowing programs.

She also spends time educating people outside of the hospital. Another family healthcare emergency, in which her six month old niece needed a liver transplant, motivated her to educate the community on the importance of organ donation.

“I am very passionate about my career as a nurse and proud of my profession,” she says. “Because I feel so strongly about my profession, I have worked diligently with the community.”



Sonia Uy

While she was honored to be chosen for a Nightingale Award, Sonia said she receives awards every day from the patients and their loves ones she cares for.

She takes great pride in the care she provides and keeping a smile on her face, even during the most challenging times. Her greatest rewards are when she hears people say “You are a great nurse” or “Thank you so much for giving me be best of care.”

“I couldn’t ask for anything more,” she says.

Sonia’s patients on Backus Hospital’s E-4 cardiac unit aren’t the only beneficiaries of her dedication to the nursing profession. Throughout Backus she is known as an expert resource, especially in the areas of woundcare, G-tubes and ostomies.

Her advice to future nurses is to not do it for the money — they should only enter the nursing profession if they truly care about people.

“It is truly a challenging profession with never ending continuing education,” she says. “The reward is the feeling of fulfillment when you have given your best, every day.”



Jessica Wolak

There was an elderly woman who came to the Backus Ambulatory Medical Care Unit weekly. Each time she got her wrist bracelet she would remark “no diamonds?” Jessica not only took note of this, she did something about it.

One week she decided to decorate the bracelet with craft rhinestones and jewels, making it the fanciest bracelet in AMC. Every week when she puts on the bracelet, there is a smile on her face.

This is an example of why Jessica is receiving a Nightingale award. Her attention to detail and dedication to patients has been a constant during her 13-year nursing career, much of which was spent on Backus Hospital’s oncology floor before she transferred to her current role.

“I love being a nurse,” she says. “It is wonderful for me because I love taking care of patients and I love interaction with people. Nursing is dedication, hard work, ambition, advocacy, teamwork, compassion, passion and commitment. A good nurse is all these things.”