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Greater Chicago’s best RNs honored

Nursing Spectrum’s 2011 Nursing Excellence Awards gala May 6 at the Chicago Marriott Schaumburg arrived just in time for National Nurses Week.

This year’s annual event, which included about 300 attendees, was an opportunity to celebrate the profession’s best and brightest in the Greater Chicago region.

“We actually wait all year for this night,” said Eileen Williamson, RN, MSN, who serves as senior vice president, nursing communications and initiatives, for Gannett Healthcare Group, publisher of Nursing Spectrum and “It’s truly one of the highlights of the year for us. It’s a delight to set this time aside to honor our finalists.”

Twenty-nine finalists in six categories were recognized on stage in the hotel’s ballroom. The event culminated in the announcement of six regional winners, who will go on to compete in Nursing Spectrum’s national competition. “It is because of you that we’re all here this evening, and because of you and your fellow nurses that the healthcare in the United States — and in the lives of everyone in the nation — is made better,” Williamson told the finalists.

Susan K. Morby, RN

Nursing Spectrum also extended appreciation to the event’s sponsors, including silver sponsors such as Chamberlain College of Nursing; Illinois Nurses Association, District 20; Northwest Community Hospital; Northwestern Memorial Hospital; Rush University Medical Center; Saint Francis Hospital; and the University of Chicago Medical Center. Advocate HealthCare was the cocktail reception sponsor.

The winners are as follows:

Advancing and Leading the Profession

Susan K. Morby, RN, MSN, NE-BC
Director of Professional Practice
MacNeal Hospital, Berwyn, Ill.

Winning the Advancing and Leading the Profession award left Susan K. Morby elated, overwhelmed and even confused.
“Quite honestly, no one does this work for an award,” she said. “So when it happens, it’s just so unbelievable.”
After accepting the Greater Chicago region honor, Morby recognized every nurse in attendance. “You all do amazing things,” she said. “I think all of you probably have a story that’s worthy of going into a magazine, whether you’re making a difference one patient at a time or with total populations of people.”
In her role, Morby has helped MacNeal receive nearly $500,000 in grants since January 2010 to help support the educational pursuits of nurses.
“I used to take care of patients, and now I take care of nurses,” she said. “To be able to work with nurses and help them achieve their goals, it’s a pretty good job.”

Leslie Wilkans, RN

Clinical Care

Leslie Wilkans, RN, BSN, CEN
Pediatric Quality Coordinator
Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital, Barrington, Ill.

Leslie Wilkans often meets patients’ families at life-altering times. She has played a crucial role in creating and growing the ED’s bereavement program since the death of a child with Down syndrome.
“In a short amount of time, I’m able to make a big difference in somebody’s life and help them at a time when they’re most vulnerable,” she said. “That’s a privilege that I honor and respect. It’s more than just a job.”
Wilkans was recognized as the winner of the 2011 Greater Chicago Clinical Care award, which gave her the opportunity to recognize the dedication and support of those around her as well.
“I don’t find it just a personal award,” she said. “I was able to work with other people to do something meaningful as far as helping pediatric care. I just feel lucky that I work in a place that wants us to excel. I’m truly blessed to work at Good Shepherd.”

Jo Ann Allen, RN

Community Service

Jo Ann Allen, RN, MSN, IBCLC
Staff Nurse
University of Chicago Medical Center

Jo Ann Allen’s career path was clear long before she attended her first nursing class.“I’ve wanted to be a nurse since I was 5 years old,” said Allen, the Greater Chicago region’s Community Service winner. “I love being a nurse. I can’t imagine doing anything else. [Being a nurse] means I’ve accomplished a lifelong goal. This is why God put me here. It means being able to give back to my community.”
Allen’s work with patients with sickle cell disease, which includes volunteering as a camp nurse, serving the Sickle Cell Disease Association of Illinois and developing a Teen Leadership Camp Program, is a passion that has spanned more than 25 years.
“I feel they need somebody to be understanding and to really care for them, as a patient and as a person,” Allen said. “So often, I’d see patients with sickle cell be mistreated and not really given the love and care that they needed. I just really felt they needed someone who could advocate for them.”

Karen Cabansag, RN


Karen Cabansag, RN, BSN, CURN, NE-BC
Patient Care Manager
Northwestern Memorial Hospital, Chicago

The smile on Karen Cabansag’s face was as bright as the spotlights shining on the stage at the Nursing Excellence gala.
In 13 years as a nurse at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, Cabansag has had plenty to smile about.
“It’s like family to me,” said Cabansag, the regional winner in Management. “In nursing, you can get burned out really quickly. If you find that job and find things that make you happy — and you’re surrounded by people who are supportive and amazing and have that teamwork — then you can do anything.
“I always tell the staff, ‘You want to go to a place that you like to work,’” she said. “That results in happy patients. If you have happy patients, you have happy staff, and that makes me really happy.”
Cabansag said she never imagined her career path would veer into management.
“I’ve been blessed with so many mentors,” she said. “I’m here because of them.”

Zeb Koran, RN


Zeb Koran, RN, APN, DNP, CEN, CCRN
Director, Professional Practice
Northwest Community Hospital, Arlington Heights, Ill.

In her role with the hospital’s Center for Clinical Affairs, Zeb Koran mentors nurses in many roles — from supporting new graduates to encouraging peers to guiding novice researchers.
“I get the excitement of seeing somebody grow,” she said. “That’s a very big thing.”
Koran’s colleagues in attendance at the Nursing Excellence gala were able to share in her excitement as the Greater Chicago region’s Mentoring honoree for 2011.
Guiding nurses in a variety of pursuits offers plenty of benefits for Koran.
“If you love the profession — and I love nursing — to get to see people be able to contribute more and move nursing forward more is very gratifying,” she said. “I get the excitement of seeing them excited about what they’re learning and their progress. It’s more of a feeling than words.”

Julie D’Agostino, RN


Julie D’Agostino, RN, MSN, APN-CS, CEN
Assistant Professor
William Rainey Harper College, Palatine, Ill.

Since she began teaching at Harper in 1991, Julie D’Agostino has seen the fruits of her labor grow in many settings.
In hospitals such as Alexian Brothers Medical Center in Elk Grove Village, Ill., D’Agostino has seen many of her graduates thrive. “They hire a lot of Harper graduates there,” she said. “You see the good care they give and the outcomes and the mentoring those [nurses] do for other Harper students.”
During her acceptance speech, D’Agostino pointed out the work all nurses do for the benefit of healthcare and nursing.
“All of us working as nurses make an impact on patients every day and make an impact on each other,” she said. “It’s the greatest profession.”

Barry Bottino is a regional editor.

By | 2020-04-15T14:01:04-04:00 July 11th, 2011|Categories: Greater Chicago, Regional|0 Comments

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