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Friends of Nursing Awards Honor Lehigh Valley Health Network Nurses and Health Care Professionals

Program also featured premiere of LVHN nursing documentary, The Strength to Heal

Nurses make a difference as caregivers, advocates, mentors and leaders in our community. They possess unique values to provide high-quality, compassionate care to the people they serve. At the 2022 Lehigh Valley Health Network (LVHN) Friends of Nursing awards program, held Sept. 28 at the ArtsQuest Center at SteelStacks in Bethlehem, LVHN nurses and health care professionals were honored for the exceptional patient care they provide.

During the Friends of Nursing Awards program, LVHN premiered ‘The Strength to Heal,’ a documentary featuring four LVHN nurses – Pauline Ayompe, RN, Float Pool, LVH–Cedar Crest; Andrea Kushnir, RN, LVPG Obstetrics and Gynecology–Pond Road; Matt Feller, RN, LVHN–MedEvac; and Nichole Persing, RN, Director of Patient Care Services, LVH–Hecktown Oaks – who tell their stories about what they experienced during the pandemic.

During the program, 36 award recipients were honored in front of a crowd of more than 500 people in attendance. Among the recipients’ stories were:

Maura Price, RN, Lehigh Valley Topper Cancer Institute, recipient of the Award for Excellence in Cancer Care – With 16 years of nursing experience, oncology clinical nurse specialist Maura Price supports patients and colleagues at Lehigh Valley Topper Cancer Institute. “I knew that I wanted to be a nurse or a teacher,” said Price. “In my current role, I’m able to do both. I’m a nurse educator so I’m able to provide patient care and help with staff education and patient education.” Price earned Advanced Oncology Clinical Nurse Specialist certification, has presented at local and national conferences and has authored a publication in the Clinical Journal of Oncology Nursing. Caring for people with cancer teaches Price and her colleagues to never take a day for granted, and there is one patient in particular who she will never forget. “Tom was one of my favorite patients,” said Price. “I was his nurse on his first day of chemotherapy treatment. Prior to his passing, one of his last wishes was to take his foster children on a trip to Disney World.” He returned from his last trip with a gift for Price – a Tinker Bell pin that she keeps to this day as a reminder of the special bond she shared with him.

Marion Nihen, RN, Labor & Delivery, Lehigh Valley Hospital–Muhlenberg, recipient of The Fleming Nursing Caring Award – Marion Nihen, RN, is the embodiment of a caring nurse. Nihen has been a nurse since the 1970s, spending more than 25 years of her career as a labor and delivery nurse. She makes every patient feel like they are her only patient, taking the time to listen and ensure individual preferences are honored. Nihen advocates for new parents in their postnatal care and provides emotional support to help alleviate any fears or concerns. “What is most rewarding about taking care of patients – taking care of new families – is when you see them grow. You see them grow right before your eyes,” said Nihen. “There are patients who have brought back their new family so I can see how they’re growing. I feel like I have a lot of extended grandchildren.”

Bernice Vitug, Population Health, recipient of Award for Excellence in the Promotion of Patient Care – As Transition of Care Associate with the Population Health department, Bernice Vitug is the first person patients hear from when they are discharged home from the hospital. She reviews discharge instructions, schedules follow-up appointments and ensures patients’ questions are answered. Vitug has a contagious personality and knows how to make patients feel at ease. Her passion and commitment are apparent in each call she makes. “I go to work every day with a goal to make sure patients are safe while they recover at home,” Vitug said. Colleagues note Vitug’s positive spirit too, calling her the “sunshine in the office” for the constant presence of a smile on her face.

For more than 30 years, LVHN has recognized outstanding professional nursing practice through the Friends of Nursing program. The following is a complete list of 2022 Friends of Nursing award recipients.

Allison Trick, DeSales University
Hometown: Telford

The John M. Eisenberg, MD, Award for Excellence as a Student Nurse

Genevieve Ashley, Cedar Crest College
Hometown: King of Prussia

Award for Excellence as a Student Nurse

Elizabeth Czekner, Labor & Delivery, LVH–Muhlenberg
Hometown: Allentown

The Auxiliary of Lehigh Valley Hospital–Muhlenberg Administrative Partner Award

Nancy Fickert, CRNP, OACIS/Palliative Medicine
Hometown: Allentown

Advanced Practice Clinician Award

Nicole Spess, RN, Population Health
Hometown: Allentown

Award for Excellence in the Delivery of Ambulatory Care 

Malgorzata Halat, RN, Cardiac Intensive Care Unit, LVH–Cedar Crest
Hometown: Blandon

Award for Excellence in Cardiovascular Nursing

Marion Nihen, RN, Labor & Delivery, LVH–Muhlenberg
Hometown: Walnutport

The Fleming Nursing Caring Award

Mackenzie Dorney, RN, Emergency Department, LVH–Cedar Crest
Hometown: Saylorsburg

The Fleming Nursing Caring Award

Melissa Thomas, RN, Fleming Memory Center, LVH–17th Street
Hometown: Bethlehem

Care Management Continuum Award

Lee Holden, RN, Trauma, Neuro, Burn Float Pool, LVH–Cedar Crest
Hometown: Doylestown

Award for Excellence in Critical Care Nursing

Madelyn Glick, RN, 6CP, LVH–Cedar Crest
Hometown: Allentown

The Florence Nightingale Exemplary Professional Practice Award

Jonathan Butron, RN, Float Pool, LVH–Muhlenberg
Hometown: Easton

The Joseph and Judith Kaminski Award for Excellence as a Float Nurse

Sara Page, RN, Hospice Skilled Nursing
Hometown: Allentown

The Dr. Fred Fister Award for Excellence in Hospice Nursing

Alisa Circosta, RN, 6K, LVH–Cedar Crest
Hometown: Breinigsville

The Legal Services/Risk Management Award for Exemplary Care and Professionalism in a Critical and Challenging Situation 

Janell Souder, RN, 5K, LVH–Cedar Crest
Hometown: Perkasie

The Medical-Surgical Nursing Award

Sandra Gentile, RN, Cancer Center Infusion, LVH–Pocono
Hometown: Pen Argyl

The Edward and Anne Davis Award for Excellence as a Nurse Preceptor

Rachel Barletta-Scarcella, RN, Patient Care Services, LVH–Hazleton
Hometown: Weatherly

The Fleming Award for Exemplary Performance Associated with the Nurse Residency Program

Eileen Wasson, RN, Trauma-Neuro Intensive Care Unit, LVH–Cedar Crest
Hometown: Bethlehem

The Josephine Ritz, RN, Nursing Award for Excellence in Patient and Family Engagement

Kimberly Zayas, RN, Children’s Cancer and Multipurpose Infusion Center
Hometown: Pennsburg

The M.G. Asnani, MD, Award for Excellence in Pediatric Nursing

Linda Rasul, PharmD, Pharmacy Services, LVH–Cedar Crest
Hometown: Whitehall

Award for Excellence as a Pharmacist

Maura Price, RN, Lehigh Valley Topper Cancer Institute Quality
Hometown: Bethlehem

Award for Excellence in Cancer Care

Lori Alfonse, DO, LVPG Surgical Oncology
Hometown: Zionsville

The Edward and Anne Davis Physician Friends of Nursing Award

Bernice Vitug, Population Health
Hometown: Center Valley

Award for Excellence in the Promotion of Patient Care

Jadwiga Antosik, RN, Transitional Skilled Unit, LVH–17th Street
Hometown: East Stroudsburg

Award for Excellence in Rehabilitation Nursing

Jane Roche, COTA/L, Rehabilitation Services–Cetronia Road
Hometown: Macungie

The Bill and Nancy Mason Award for Excellence in the Delivery of Rehabilitation Services

Jamie Zanelli, RN, LVPG Advanced Spine Center
Hometown: Germansville

The Kim Jordan Transformational Leadership Award

Linsey Heidelmark, 6CP, LVH–Cedar Crest
Hometown: Bethlehem

The Auxiliary of Lehigh Valley Hospital Technical Partner Award

Gail Fejes, Multipurpose Infusion Services, LVH–Muhlenberg
Hometown: Bethlehem

The Auxiliary of Lehigh Valley Hospital Technical Partner Award

Angela Strausser, RN, Trauma-Neuro Intensive Care Unit, LVH–Cedar Crest
Hometown: Mohrsville

The Trauma Nursing Award

Transitions of Care Program, Population Health
The Fleming Award to Recognize New Knowledge, Innovations and Improvements

Breidegam Family Children’s ER at LVH–Cedar Crest
The Fleming Award to Recognize a Unit/Department Which Demonstrates a Commitment to Structural Empowerment

Inpatient Rehabilitation Center–Cedar Crest, Labor & Delivery, LVH–Cedar Crest, and Neonatal Intensive Care, LVH–Cedar Crest
DAISY Team Award

4KS, LVH–Cedar Crest
Patient Satisfaction Award for Inpatient Care

Radiology Oncology, LVH–Muhlenberg
Patient Satisfaction Award for Ambulatory Services  

6CP, LVH–Cedar Crest
Award for Professional Nursing Certification – Department Greater Than 15 Staff Members

Ambulatory Surgical Unit, LVH–Muhlenberg
Award for Professional Nursing Certification – Department Less Than 15 Staff Members

A documentary film about LHVN nurses during the pandemic

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