At a time when nurses and their dedication to patients are in the news every day, it’s more important than ever to acknowledge their hard work, bravery, and generosity of spirit.

In honor of Nurses Week, Keck Medical Center of USC and USC Care and Ambulatory Services executives gathered to honor the organization’s nursing staff at its annual Nurses Week Recognition and Scholarship Awards ceremony.

The difference between this year’s event and previous celebrations was that not one of the nominees were physically present at the event, which took place at 2 p.m. on May 7.

To support infection prevention efforts against COVID-19, the organization opted to livestream the ceremony, enabling more than 100 staff members to safely view the event. Although the setup was a first for the health system, it did not diminish the impact of the celebration.

Over the course of an hour, nurse, physician and executive leadership recognized nursing staff for their contributions to the enterprise and their continued efforts in strengthening the patient experience.

“Now more than ever, it is so very important to recognize and honor our nursing team,” said Annette Sy, RN, chief nursing officer for Keck Medical Center. “I have never been prouder of our team as I am today. Nurses step forward when the world needs them the most.”

The awards began two decades ago, with the aim of celebrating care partners and nurse humanitarians. Besides recognizing individuals in a variety of categories including “Nurse Rookie of the Year” and “Nurse of the Year,” the ceremony is also a time when select nurses are awarded scholarships to support their present and future educational endeavors.

 “No amount of words can do justice in describing the heroic actions of our nurses, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Tom Jackiewicz, chief executive officer for Keck Medicine of USC. “Your fearlessness will continue to strengthen the lives of our patients and the communities we serve for years to come.”

Nurses were nominated by their peers and nursing leadership for qualities such as collaboration, communication, knowledge of protocols and continued compassion for their patients. 

“What lies at the foundation of nursing is trust,” said Rod Hanners, chief operating officer for Keck Medicine and chief executive officer for Keck Medical Center. “As we’ve seen with the current health crisis, the trust our nurses instill within our patients the moment they step through our doors is what sets them apart.”

Besides their dedication to patient wellness, the executives also acknowledged how the close relationship between nurses and physicians has allowed the health system to persevere despite the recent global health challenges.

“The continued collaboration between our physicians and nurses has enabled us to maintain our mission of ‘Beyond exceptional care,’” said Stephanie Hall, MD, MHA, chief medical officer for Keck Medical Center. “Whether during periods of calm or national upheaval, our partnership has allowed one another to thrive so that we may serve our communities to the fullest.”

As the program unfolded, the 2020 Nurse Tuition Scholarship Winners were announced first:

  • Melchor Magpantay, RN
  • Adah Ortega, RN
  • Dekenia Norfleet, RN
  • Kathryn Wathen, RN
  • Roel Estrada, Nurse Manager
  • Lisa Johnson, Director
  • Kilyoung Oh, RN
  • Tusdi Rodriguez, RN, Quality and Outcomes
  • Robin Jarvis, Clinical Educator
  • Gima Ramirez, RN
  • Jennifer Cannon, RN Clinical Educator

Next, the 2020 Nurse Week Recognition Award-winners were announced:

  • Care Partner of the Year – Inez Castanon, Scheduling Coordinator
  • Nurse Rookie of the Year – Michelle Li, RN
  • Nurse Preceptor of the Year – Arlene Muro, RN
  • Nurse Humanitarian of the Year – Tusdi Rodriguez, RN
  • Nurse Advocate of the Year – Elizabeth “Bettina” Winfrey, RN
  • Advanced Practice Nurse of the Year – Kathrine Winnie, RN
  • Nurse Leader of the Year – Pamela French, RN
  • Nurse of the Year – Areeya Segarra, RN

National Nurses Week occurs annually beginning May 6 and ending on May 12, Florence Nightingale’s birthday. As a British social reformer, Nightingale implemented the highest standards for the nursing profession and is considered the founder of modern nursing. This year featured a variety of celebratory programs across the health system, including raffles as well as catered breakfasts and lunches.

 “I am privileged and humbled to work alongside the best of the very best the nursing world has to offer,” Sy reiterated as the program came to a close. “The nurses of Keck Medical Center of USC are leading the way in transforming the art and science of nursing.”

— Matthew Vasiliauskas