News & Events

2013 Nightingales

April 25, 2013

NursesWeekLogo2013This year’s “rock stars” of nursing will be honored at the annual Nightingale Awards ceremony May 9 at Mystic Marriott in Groton.  Ten Backus Hospital nurses and one Backus Home Health Care nurse will receive Nightingale Awards, which recognize the region’s best nurses for going above and beyond the call.

“Congratulations to our Nightingale Award recipients,” said Dave Whitehead, President and Chief Executive Officer.  “Nurses play such a critical role in the success of our health system’s commitment to delivering fully integrated care in the region. Thank you for all you do every year to make our patients’ experience at Backus the best it can be.”

“The honor of being chosen a Nightingale at Backus starts with the fact you are nominated and selected by your peers,” said Mary Bylone, RN, Vice President, Patient Care Services and Chief Nursing Officer. “Each year it is so difficult to pare down the selection to the maximum allowed. Our bench strength in clinical excellence and commitment to professionalism speak volumes for the care we offer to our patients. Big congratulations to each of you!”

For more information about awards in Eastern Connecticut, visit

NewMissMillerAt the request of Backus, the late Miss Dorothy L. Miller, RN, MA, former President of the Backus School of Nursing Alumnae Association, will also be awarded a Nightingale Award in memory of her vital contributions to the nursing profession over the course of her nursing career from 1939-2013. Miss Miller passed away at the age of 91 last month.

Bargnesi_Melissa117aMelissa Bargnesi

For Melissa Bargnesi, learning is a life-long process. This love of education has been a theme throughout her nursing career.

The Supervisor of Clinical Services at Backus Home Health Care, Melissa has served patients as a nurse for 18 years.  She began her career with an Associate of Science Degree in Nursing, then completed a Bachelor of Science Degree in Nursing.  Most recently, Melissa challenged herself and her clinical skills by earning an MSN.

An adjunct faculty member at Three Rivers Community College’s Nursing Program, Melissa highly recommends nursing as a profession. “I have never once regretted becoming a nurse,” she said.  “Nursing has many challenges, yet remains rewarding each and every day.  In my role at Three Rivers, I am fortunate to foster the development and help shape the future of nursing.  I enjoy this immensely, and it is very rewarding to watch students succeed.”

As the leader of Backus Home Health Care’s Behavioral Health Team, Melissa encourages a team approach by meeting with nurses to discuss their caseloads, and through this collaboration helps them identify ways to keep behavioral health patients successfully in the community.

Converse_Jo-Ellen1010aJo-Ellen Converse

Helping create a positive environment, encouraging excellence and acknowledging staff contributions are all elements of success for Jo-Ellen Converse, assistant director of Critical Care Services at Backus.

To provide exceptional patient care, Jo-Ellen believes in adhering to the basics consistently.  She lives this motto by trying to be friendly, courteous, informative and thoughtful on a daily basis.  When you practice these principles day in and day out, Jo-Ellen said it becomes easier to predict the needs of patients and their families, anticipate their questions and make them more comfortable.

When her husband required an emergency transfer and surgery, Jo-Ellen was forced to take on an uncomfortable role.  Usually the care provider, she had to watch as critical care nurses cared for her husband.  She was relieved, however, as the nursing staff was kind to her family and worked hard to make her husband well – an experience that still resonates with Jo-Ellen today.

“When I care for patients, I remember that they are counting on me and my team members to not hurt them, to heal them, and to be nice to them,” said Jo-Ellen.  “If we do that, we will make it the most positive experience for our patients and their families.”

Gilmore_Lisa1164aLisa Gilmore

For diabetes educator, Lisa Gilmore, nursing is her second profession — but it’s also her life’s true calling.

Prior to nursing, Lisa worked as a project manager for a utility company.  To many, the position would have been considered appealing.  However, Lisa began to feel that her efforts were not making a meaningful contribution to people’s lives.  To make a difference, she knew a career change was in order.

In 2005, Lisa earned her nursing degree.  As a new graduate, her philosophy became, “What I lack in skill right now, I will make up with kindness.”

Five years after she became a nurse, Lisa graduated with a Master of Science Degree in Nursing from the University of Connecticut.  Committed to excellence in diabetes care, Lisa is a Certified Diabetes Educator at Backus and is President-elect of the Connecticut Alliance of Diabetes Educators; a member of the American Diabetes Association; and a member of the American Association of Diabetes Educators.  She also serves as the research mentor for an internal unit-based research team at Backus and held a research position at Yale University School of Nursing from 2009 to 2011 performing diabetes translational research.

Hageman_Lisa1016aLisa Hageman 

With the mention of this nurse’s name comes a laundry list of positive attributes.  However, as her Backus colleagues agree, team player ranks at the top.

Passionate about her work on the Backus Medical-Surgical Unit, Lisa Hageman serves as a resource in her department and tries her best to be available to co-workers.  It is this commitment to patient care, staff and the organization that has earned her positions on teams focusing on quality.

To her credit, Lisa is a trained preceptor for new Medical-Surgical nurses.  She currently serves as a quality initiative representative for her unit and served as chairperson in 2012.  She is also working with nursing administration on a Med-Surg clinical redesign project, which will incorporate the latest research into best practices.

“As a staff nurse, I am knowledgeable at the frontlines, but am in new territory with my current research role,” said Lisa.  “To me, this type of work is challenging, but it’s also exciting knowing that I’m part of a team that makes a difference for nurses, and, of course, our patients.”

Huckle_Lori1003aLori Huckle 

For veteran nurse Lori Huckle, team work and open lines of communication are the building blocks for a successful unit.

As a nurse in Same Day Surgery at Backus, Lori takes pride in her unit’s team approach.  The nursing staff take time to learn about each other’s patients and are always available to lend a helping hand.  As part of the team, Lori encourages her colleagues to speak directly and openly regarding concerns they have, prompting easier resolution of issues.

Unfortunately, a nurse who’s been a patient too many times to count, Lori’s own experiences have allowed her to grow as a professional.  She knows what it feels like to be scared and vulnerable and when she walks into a patient’s room, she’s there for the entire person and their family.

“Over the past 21 years at Backus, I’ve laughed and cried with patients and families,” said Lori.  “I’ve held people’s hands as they passed on.  I’ve stayed late to make sure my patients were okay and I’ve come in early so I could visit patients I took care of the day before.  I’ve given everything, every day.”

Olson_Richard786aRichard Olson

For nearly his entire adult life, Backus Emergency Department nurse Richard Olson has been involved in emergency services.

With a Bachelor of Science Degree in Nursing, Richard cares for patients and families in traumatic and life threatening situations every day.  Known for his approachability, he serves as a mentor to his colleagues and as a preceptor to new nursing staff in the Backus ER.

Richard’s work in emergency care doesn’t stop at the walls of the hospital.  He volunteers his time as a life member of the Baltic Fire Department, and is involved in the department’s fundraising efforts.  He was also an EMS Coordinator for 10 years.

This experienced nurse understands just how fragile life can be.  He can often be seen spending extra time with families after they’ve suffered the loss of a loved one.

Sleeper_JustinJustin Sleeper

He’s a nurse; he’s a clinical director; he’s an accomplished author; he’s a mentor and he’s a resource for his colleagues.  Fulfilling all these roles is part of a day’s work for Justin Sleeper.

Clinical Director of Psychiatric Services at Backus, Justin believes in fostering a team approach through engagement, listening and empowering clinical excellence.  He highly recommends the nursing profession and encourages students to choose a specialty based on their innate skills and strengths.

Justin is passionate about his work and the field of psychiatry.  He will intervene at any time if there is a complaint or issue involving patients, their families or staff, and works diligently to attain a positive outcome.

A pivotal moment in Justin’s career came when he was a visiting nurse case manager.  He followed a patient for six years who was very ill with a host of legal, housing and psychological issues.  During a visit with this patient on a New Haven street corner, the patient was recounting her life’s woes when she stopped and told Justin, “The one thing I can count on is that every day you’ll be walking down that street to come see me.”

This experience helped shape the nursing professional he would become. For Justin, this is the power of nursing.

Smith_Pam794aPamela Smith

A well-rounded professional, Backus Critical Care Nurse Pamela Smith makes contributions to her community both on and off the hospital campus.

With more than 20 years of nursing experience, Pamela is a preceptor to new staff, and has served on quality committees to better facilitate the processes of admissions and administering medications.  She was also involved with the Backus Practice Council, and now reports on compliance metrics in the CCU.  She even made her film debut as part of a Backus patient safety video.

In her personal time, Pamela is a steward of the community.  She devotes time and effort to the Leprechaun Smiles Run to benefit child abuse, the Niantic Bay Half Marathon and 5K to benefit the programs of the Eastern Connecticut Chamber of Commerce, and donates to the United Way, American Heart Associatoin and American Cancer Society.

“I feel I go above and beyond when dealing with patients’ families and helping them cope with difficult situations,” said Pamela.  “I view each patient I care for as if they were my own loved one.  In doing so, I treat them how I would like my own family to be treated – carefully – and with the utmost respect and dignity.”

Stanton1154aChristine Stanton 

Providing patients and their families with meaningful, personal care is a priority for Backus Recovery Room nurse Christine Stanton.

In an experience with a dying patient, Christine took great care in explaining the patient’s illness to his family members.  Using simple terms, she wanted to ensure they were fully aware of the severity of their loved one’s medical condition.  Christine felt fortunate that she was able to provide her patient and his family with their last precious moments together.

“While caring for this patient, I was able to give each family member one-on-one time with their loved one,” said Christine.  “I take great pride in caring for patients, especially when their families cannot be with them.  I am often the first person a patient sees when they wake up from surgery and may be in pain.  It makes me feel better knowing that I can help them through this process.”

In addition to her empathetic nature, Christine also serves as a knowledgeable resource to her Backus colleagues.  Prior to her work on the PACU, Christine served as a Certified Critical Care Nurse for more than 15 years, and serves as a resource to  CCU staff to this day.

Sullivan_Beth1042aBeth Sullivan

As an infection preventionist, patient safety and best practices are at the core of Beth Sullivan’s work at Backus.

Beth has been a contributing member to the health system’s High Reliability Organization efforts since they began in late 2012.  She has helped to coordinate house-wide daily safety huddles, which are geared to both celebrate and improve patient safety and care, and is constantly promoting accountability among everyone who works at Backus.

The “Safety Starts with Me” initiative, also known as HRO, is rapidly gaining momentum at Backus, and much of it has to with Beth’s passion for patient safety, and her ability to communicate what is best for patients.

Without doubt, this Nightingale puts patients first, always.

“Throughout my career, I’ve had many great mentors,” said Beth.  “They’ve demonstrated great care for their patients and for myself.  I will always be grateful for their commitment to excellence.”

Williams_Sandra-New1226aSandra Williams

For Sandra Williams, nursing is not just a profession, it’s a way of life.

A nurse with 17 years of experience, Sandra works in Backus the Pain Management Center.  She feels responsible to educate everyone about preventing illness, whether it’s giving tips to prevent the spread of the cold and flu, or encouraging someone to make an appointment with a doctor about a medical problem.

In her area of care, Sandra is often witness to terminally ill patients with histories of drug and alcohol abuse.  And although they may pose challenges, Sandra is a firm believer that all patients have the right to be treated with dignity, and allowed to die comfortably.

“To treat my patients with respect and give them a smile mean the world to me.  I strive to treat everyone as though they were my family,” said Sandra.

With her positive attitude, Sandra encourages Backus Pain Management staff to become part of the ideas and suggestions made, to provide the best patient care possible.  Her door is always open to staff, for whatever questions or concerns they may have.