Nurses receive Nightingale Awards

GUILFORD – A big-hearted “nonnie” and a mother of three have a lot more than a love for their families in common at VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice.

Two nurses with the agency, Branford resident Laurie Gondon Barnabei and North Branford resident Jennifer Kuczynski, were honored May 3 for excellence in their field.

The pair received The Nightingale Award for Excellence in Nursing at Anthony’s Ocean View in New Haven.
Gondon Barnabei has been a nurse for 18 years, the past three of which she has been with VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice. She began her career as a medical transcriptionist, but after becoming frustrated with the health care a loved one was receiving, she decided to enter the field of nursing so she could make a positive difference in the lives of patients.

“I come from a big, Italian background and we’re all about love. I just love my patients. I love to talk to them, not just about clinical stuff,” she said. “That kind of empathy, I feel, is half the job.”

Gondon Barnabei is a mother at the head of blended family that includes her three children and one step child. She is a proud grandmother – a “nonnie” – to one grandson.

She became a nurse later in life, so her children were acutely aware of the process. It is the support of family, in particular, that makes her proud of the Nightingale recognition.

“I’m in awe. It’s a big deal for me because my family has sacrificed so much – weekends, holidays – for my love of nursing. But I think when you start out sacrificing something but it becomes who you are, that’s the best. I can’t imagine doing anything else,” she said.

According to VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice Director of Nursing Karen Naccarato, Gondon Barnabei has been described by her patients and caregivers as dedicated, a patient advocate, warm and caring.

“Laurie has much knowledge with healing complex wounds and was commended by several doctors for her diligence. She is a very talented nurse who is well respected and show’s a great amount of compassion to her patients,” Naccarato said.

Kuczynski is described by Naccarato as one who “brings forth professionalism, kindness and knowledge to her role as a per diem nurse.”

A mother to three children, ages 15, 12 and 9, she has been a nurse for nearly 20 years and has spent 12 years with VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice.

“It’s nice to be able to put people’s minds at ease when they’re scared, and it is scary right after you’re sent home from the hospital. Everything is new and to be able to take away their fear is rewarding,” she said.

Of the Nightingale Award, she said, “Everyone at VNACHC, all the nurses, are honestly all the best nurses and the best people. I’m overwhelmed to be receiving this award.”

Naccarato said patients have described Kuczynski as compassionate and caring and have said their recovery was accelerated by her “knowledge and expertise.”

“Jennifer recently went above and beyond to provide care at an assisted living facility where they frequently commented how much they enjoyed working with her and the excellent care she provided to their patients,” she said.

The Nightingale Awards program was developed in 2001 to celebrate and elevate the nursing profession. The program honors nurses from all health care settings and all Registered Nurses and LPNs involved in clinical practice, leadership or education may be considered.

Nurses can only be nominated once in their lifetime for the award. Nominations are made by the health care organization with which the nurse is affiliated. Award winners are selected based on criteria that examines what set the sets the nurse apart from others, how they impacted patient care and the profession, how they’ve shown commitment to the community and whether or not they’ve achieved a life-long legacy in a particular arena.