KishHealth System honors its top nurses

DeKALB – Three nurses received top honors at the KishHealth System Employee Recognition Banquet May 13.

Sue Clifford, RN, certified diabetes educator, received the Pam Lewis Nurse of the Year Award for Valley West Community Hospital; Nicole Marks, RN, a bedside nurse at Kishwaukee Community Hospital, received the KishHealth System Nurse of the Year Award; and Lisa Cumings, RN, Kish Hospital’s community health liaison, received the Karen Sepaniak KishHealth System Spirit Award.  

Clifford, who has Type 1 diabetes, has made it her mission to show people they can live well with diabetes. She uses her personal experiences, immense clinical knowledge, skill and passion to educate patients and families in the hospital, in the schools, on the radio, and anywhere else she is invited.  

“She is a wonderful resource for her peers, willing to teach and share with any member of the health care team,” said Pamela Duffy, vice president of patient care services, who presented the award. “It is her motto that the person is in control, not the disease.  She teaches this, she lives this.  Her passion and compassion are known in the community and valued by physicians and staff.” 

The Valley West Nurse of the Year Award is named in memory of Pam Lewis, a nurse manager at Valley West.

When she lost her battle with cancer, the Lewis family and Valley West established an award in her memory to honor her interest in continuing education for nurses. 

Like the Pam Lewis Award, the KishHealth System Nurse of the Year Award recognizes someone who goes above and beyond and who demonstrates clinical excellence and patient-centered care. 

Marks works on the second floor telemetry/pediatrics unit at Kishwaukee Community Hospital as needed in several capacities: charge nurse, bedside nurse, preceptor and educator. She also is working on her master’s degree in nursing.

Her nominator said she is respected for her ability to build strong relationships with staff, physicians, patients and families.  She takes new staff under her wing, and at the bedside, she provides her patients with the highest degree of care and compassion. 

“To illustrate, while caring for a patient with a terminal illness, he mentioned that he was an NHL fan,” Duffy said.  “With his permission, this nurse, on her own time, contacted the Chicago Blackhawks and because of her efforts, the Blackhawks honored our patient during one of their games.”  

The Karen Sepaniak KishHealth System Spirit Award goes to someone who lives the values of the organization and was presented by Kevin Poorten, health system president and CEO. 

Sepaniak, the award’s namesake, worked at Valley West for nearly 40 years and was the first recipient of the Spirit Award in 2007, shortly before her death from cancer.

Cumings, a nurse educator in the Community Wellness Department, has been recognized locally and nationally for her outstanding leadership, support and commitment to creating healthier communities for all Illinois residents.  

“A natural educator, she is at her best when she interacts with children, NIU students, YMCA and school partners as she works to establish sustainable programs to promote health for all community members,” Poorten said.