Niagara Health recognizes nursing excellence award recipients

Special recognition went to 30 nurses across all of healthcare provider’s sites in the region




Niagara Health celebrated excellence in nursing by awarding special recognition to nurses across all of its sites recently. Thirty recipients were honoured with Excellence in Nursing awards in nine categories. There were a record number of nominations for this year’s awards, with 186 submitted to acknowledge the outstanding nursing achievements made across the organization. 

“Our nurses strive daily to provide exceptional extraordinary care to patients and families,” says Simon Akinsulie, Executive Vice-President, Practice, Clinical Support and Chief Nursing Executive. “It’s an honour to recognize our 2024 Nursing Excellence Award recipients. Nurses have long been pioneers in healthcare while strongly advocating for patient rights. Their passion and commitment have earned them a unique spot in the hearts of our colleagues, patients and community partners.” 

The annual Excellence in Nursing Awards occur during National Nursing Week. Peers and colleagues can nominate nurses for their outstanding contribution and service to Niagara Health. 

Here is a look at this year’s winners:  

Excellence in Nursing – Registered Nurse

Mallory Tyler, RN | PERT, SCS  

Mallory Tyler epitomizes nursing excellence, channeling Florence Nightingale’s spirit through her exceptional skills and unwavering dedication to patient care. With compassion, prioritization and communication, she sets a high standard for her peers. Mallory’s meticulous documentation and mentoring further highlight her commitment to the profession. She stands out for her patient rapport and top-notch care. 

Christina Lam-Au, RN | Geriatrics, NFS 

Christine’s dedication to outpatient geriatric care shines through her compassion, expertise and advocacy. With over 20 years of service, she prioritizes the unique needs of older patients, collaborating with families and colleagues to ensure comprehensive support. Her calm and empathetic approach recently led to a successful intervention, preventing hospital admission. She actively contributes her geriatric expertise to organizational initiatives, ensuring senior-friendly care will take place at the South Niagara Site and streamlining processes through Operation Monarch, Niagara Health’s new hospital information system. Christine embodies Niagara Health’s values, making a difference in every patient interaction and community engagement. 

Jelena Trkulja, RN | PARR, NFS  

Jelena, a nurse of exceptional calibre and internationally trained in Croatia, arrived in Canada with the determination to build a better life for her family. Despite initial language barriers, she worked tirelessly across Niagara Falls and Welland, often holding two jobs. Jelena’s dedication earned her a full-time position in Welland, where she accumulated more seniority than years in the country. Her kindness, intelligence and humour endeared her to patients, surgeons and anesthesiologists alike. Her leadership, mentoring, and clinical excellence in the recovery room reflect her commitment to patient-centered care. Her transition to Niagara Falls PARR was bittersweet, as she left behind a legacy of excellence in Welland. 

Wendy Alek, RN | Complex Care, PCS 

At the heart of the nursing team in Port Colborne is Wendy, whose unwavering dedication to patient care and staff well-being sets a standard of excellence. As a charge nurse, Wendy prioritizes patient needs, ensuring their stay is positive and successful. She fosters a supportive work environment, regularly engaging with staff to address concerns and enhance teamwork. Wendy’s approachability and guidance have significantly reduced stress levels among the team, fostering a sense of purpose and camaraderie. Her infectious positivity and mentoring have improved the team’s skills and uplifted morale. Wendy’s leadership is invaluable, making her an indispensable asset to her unit. 

Joseph Soriano, RN | ED, WS 

This award is in memory of Joseph, a beloved nurse we tragically lost in the past year. Joseph’s team shared this with us: Joseph embodied the essence of nursing. His mere presence illuminated any room, bringing solace wherever he went. Every decision he made was deliberate and thoughtful. Joseph held a profound respect for human dignity and an innate understanding of his patients’ needs. With heart and mind, he practiced nursing with empathy and genuine care for each patient’s well-being. He forged deep connections, offering unwavering support to patients, families and colleagues during difficult times. Joseph approached work with enthusiasm, his smile preceding his words, never once complaining. Even amidst challenges, he communicated with grace and compassion. Joseph served as a beacon of professionalism, inspiring both new and seasoned nurses alike. His passion for learning and growth in his career was infectious. Though his sudden passing shook our NH community, Joseph’s legacy endures. In a final act of selflessness, he bestowed the gift of life through organ donation, continuing to serve as a nurse until hislast moment. On behalf of Joseph, his sister Jacqueline accepted this award. 

Excellence in Nursing – Registered Practical Nurse

Anna Blinova, RPN | 3A Nephrology, SCS 

Anna, a relatively new nurse at Niagara Health, consistently demonstrates exceptional care, compassion and dignity towards all patients. She excels in managing challenging behaviours, particularly in patients with dementia, using non-pharmacological techniques and fostering trust. Anna prioritizes least restraint practices, allowing patients freedom of movement while ensuring their safety through supervision and therapeutic interventions. An exemplary instance of her dedication to safe patient care involved successfully de-escalating a challenging situation without resorting to restraint.  

Dray Sinakone, RPN | Mental Health Unit A, SCS  

Dray was nominated in recognition of his outstanding contributions to the nursing profession. Dray’s exceptional qualities and unwavering commitment to patient care set him apart as a truly remarkable nurse. Known for his compassionate nature, Dray is always willing to lend a helping hand and exemplifies the essence of a team player. His flexibility and adaptability make him a valuable asset, while his dedication to providing the highest standard of care earns him praise from both patients and colleagues.  

Albina Fetec, RPN| Trillium Complex Care, NFS  

Albina is renowned for her dedication to patient care, often going above and beyond to ensure each patient receives the best nursing support. Her colleagues rely on her expertise and kindness, often dubbing her the go-to person for any challenges. Albina’s professionalism and mentorship extend beyond her patients; she’s a guiding light for new nursing staff and students alike. Her well-rounded approach to nursing, coupled with her cheerful demeanour, ensures safe, quality and efficient care for all. Over her five years at Trillium, Albina has consistently demonstrated her commitment to her patients and team members. 

Bernard Santos, RPN | Complex Care, FES 

Bernard is always willing to go above and beyond to help however he can. His focus on safe and quality care that he provides to his patients and their families is unremarkable. Bernard starts every shift with a smile and a jovial spirit. He greets fellow staff and all patients this way. Bernard goes above and beyond every single day in all his actions. He is the first person to help a teammate provide care or help with tasks. Bernard ensures that his patients laugh daily and that their personal care is exceptional. Bernard’s selfless ways are an asset that our entire team cherishes. 

Mimoza Postol, RPN | Complex Care, PCS 

Mimoza is known for her unwavering focus on patient care, she consistently advocates for her patients, particularly in the challenging environment of Complex Care. Mimoza demonstrates leadership on the floor, ensuring quality care while navigating dynamic situations and communication barriers. Despite her busy schedule, she remains dedicated to her patients and takes great pride in her work.      

Excellence in Nursing – Advanced Practical Nurse

Debbie Audet, APN| Women and Babies 

Debbie consistently demonstrates initiative, leadership and dedication to advancing practice in the unit. She supports the team in developing and refining competencies, translates current evidence into practice, and ensures educational support, resources and equipment are available. Her passion for simulation-based learning led to the implementation of a program aimed at improving obstetric emergency response. With over 15 years of obstetrical nursing experience, Debbie’s leadership and knowledge make her a valuable asset to the unit. 

Charmaine Martin-Gaspar – NP| Stroke Program, NFS  

Charmaine, an exceptional nurse practitioner, is known for her approachability and willingness to assist others. Her dedication to patient care is evident in her meticulous planning and delivery, always considering the needs of both patients and their families. She actively contributes to the advancement of nursing knowledge by providing comprehensive stroke training in both formal and informal settings, sharing her expertise with all members of the healthcare team.  

Ashley McLean-Duncan, RN ED | PCS UCC Educator WHS  

​Ashley consistently goes above and beyond to ensure staff in the ED and UCC have the tools and resources they need for success. Her collaboration with organizational leaders has led to meaningful solutions and experiences for staff, contributing to a remarkable 95% retention rate in the Welland ED over the past 18 months. Ashley’s efforts have been crucial in supporting newly hired staff and internationally trained nurses during orientation, ensuring their success in a demanding environment. Overall, Ashley’s exceptional leadership and contributions make her a valuable asset to the ED program.  

Excellence in Nursing – Teamwork and Collaboration

​3B Oncology Team, SCS 

The 3B team demonstrates outstanding teamwork and collaboration, with each member showcasing compassion in action and creating a welcoming environment for patients, families and new team members. Their ongoing dedication to excellence makes a meaningful difference in patients’ and families’ lives every day. In addition, under the leadership of Davene Korince, Dr. Mamoon Bokhari, Anna Limoges, Walker Family Cancer Center, and General Internal Medicine, 3B has significantly improved patient flow, ensuring specialized care for oncology patients. 

The Brock Unit, NFS 

The Brock team’s outstanding collaboration and teamwork during the surgical redesign project between Welland Hospital and the Niagara Falls Hospital exemplify their commitment to exceptional patient care. Each member brought unique skills, fostering mutual respect and dedication to their patients. Throughout the project, everyone was valued, ensuring decisions were made collectively for optimal outcomes. The Brock Unit’s ability to embrace change positively and maintain team cohesion contributed to the project’s success, reflecting their commitment to exceptional patient care and a collaborative work environment. 

2 West/2 South, PCS 

The 2 West and 2 South teams exemplify the essence of collaboration and patient-centered care. Committed to the philosophy of “Patient First,” each member of this exceptional team plays a vital role in ensuring the well-being of our patients. Under the guidance of our dedicated director, manager, and interdisciplinary team, we are equipped with the necessary tools and support to succeed in our profession. This is the essence of teamwork — a cohesive collaboration of individuals from various departments and specialties, united by a common goal of prioritizing patient care.  

Excellence in Nursing – Rising Star

​Arun Chacko, RN | PERT, SCS 

Arun consistently practices at a level above what would be expected for a newer nurse in the Psychiatric Emergency Response Team. Arun stays in communication with leadership to ensure he upholds the standards of extraordinary care that we expect. Regularly assuming the role of Charge Nurse, he completes his duties with competence and remains positive and respectful in all interactions with the leadership team. Rarely missing work, Arun can be trusted to lead the team effectively.  

Briar Gillis, RN | ED, NFS 

Briaris a remarkable RN in the Niagara Falls Emergency Department. Having transitioned from an RPN to an RN in the past six months, her dedication to her studies while maintaining full-time hours is truly inspiring. Briar’s positive attitude, willingness to learn, and readiness to assist wherever needed make her a valued member of our team. Her compassionate nature and collaborative approach exemplify the importance of teamwork and unit support. Her continued growth and commitment to excellence assure her success as an RN.  

Nathan Van Schyndel, RN | 6th Floor Medicine, WS 

Nathan embarked on his nursing career on the 6th floor in late 2022, fresh out of school. Since then, he has undergone tremendous growth, evolving into a proficient and compassionate nurse. Nathan’s patients are his top priority, and he consistently goes above and beyond to meet their needs. His exceptional care extends to his interactions with colleagues, demonstrating kindness and receptiveness. Nathan’s communication skills are impressive, often characterized by sophistication that brings a smile to our faces.  

Excellence in Nursing – Mentorship

​Ashley Kehoe, RN, Clinical Coach | WS 

Ashley stepped into the role of clinical coach at a crucial juncture in the Welland ED, just as numerous newly hired staff had finished their orientation and began working independently. She meticulously assessed the learning needs of each new staff member, offering individualized mentorship to bolster their confidence and refine their ED-specific skills. Additionally, she devised innovative learning tools like the “Back to Basics” scenario, fostering comprehensive assessments and critical thinking. In her mentorship role, Ashley proved to be invaluable, embodying nursing excellence through her dedication and support. 

Justine MacDonald, RPN, SRT | WS 

Despite it being her first time in this role, Justine seamlessly guided, fostering an environment where others could thrive and learn. Her unwavering confidence, coupled with her willingness to challenge and support, facilitated growth. Despite no longer being obligated to assist, she remains the go-to person for guidance and support, always ready to lend a helping hand. From navigating complex situations to offering guidance on administrative matters, Justine’s dedication to her mentees growth and development has been unwavering.  

Excellence in Nursing – Leadership 

Idella George, RN – Charge Nurse | Operating Room, SCS 

Idella has significantly boosted the morale of the department through her exceptional leadership. She prioritizes making each colleague feel individually valued through her daily positive comments and unwavering support for various aspects of the workplace environment. Under her guidance, the team feels more secure, leading to lower stress levels, higher patient satisfaction, and increased collaboration. Idella’s nurturing approach fosters confidence among team members, promoting a positive work culture that she has cultivated over the years. 

Tanja Groeneveld, RN – Clinical Manager| Professional Practice, SCS  

Tanja was nominated for her exceptional leadership qualities, unwavering dedication, and steadfast commitment to prioritizing people and patients. Tanja’s impactful leadership and compassion make her an invaluable asset to our team. She inspires, empowers, and prioritizes the well-being of those she serves, leading with empathy, integrity, and a relentless dedication to fostering a culture of excellence. Tanja consistently goes above and beyond to ensure the highest level of care and compassion for patients and their families. Tanja’s exemplary leadership and contributions profoundly impact our organization in many ways making her an ideal candidate for this well deserved honour.  

Laura Farrelly, RN – Director of Patient Care- Emergency Services, Mental Health and Addictions| SCS  

Laura received multiple nominations for her exceptional leadership within the Mental Health Department. Laura’s leadership approach, marked by attentive listening, effective guidance, straightforward communication, and an approachable demeanour, has set her apart in this role. Despite the newness of the position, Laura’s outstanding performance and dedication have not gone unnoticed, illustrating her ability to thrive in challenging circumstances. She is a mentor to her peers and is highly committed to improving patient care within our community. Laura’s advocacy and leadership have led to incredible changes, particularly in the expansion of services and resources within the psychiatric ED. Her coaching and mentorship have been invaluable to new directors and managers, driving excellence at all levels. Even in the most challenging times, Laura remains focused on what is right for patients and staff, inspiring positive change and earning the respect and trust of her colleagues. We are privileged to have Laura as a leader on our team, and Niagara Health is fortunate to have such an extraordinary individual guiding us forward. 

Excellence in Nursing – Lifetime Achievement 

Connie McCallum, NP | Stroke Prevention Clinic 

Connie has been an integral part of the Niagara District Stroke Program since 2004, bringing over 25 years of nursing experience. Her dedication to Secondary Stroke Prevention is evident through her involvement in the Stroke Quality Committee and the Stroke Distinction 2025 work. She ensures seamless outpatient rehabilitation access and collaborates closely with interdisciplinary teams to support patients’ recovery. Her commitment to patients extends to personalized care, continuous quality improvement, and mentorship for future nurses.  

Barb Sawatsky, RN | Educator for Perioperative Services SCS 

Barb has been a significant wealth of knowledge over the years. She has the ability to make you feel supported and guided while encouraging you to work independently. She is dedicated to supporting the staff and is on call all hours of the day to take a call. Her calm demeanour is helpful in a stressful situation. She is retiring this year after 30 years with NH, and she is leaving large shoes to fill. Barb and her experience and wealth of knowledge will be missed greatly. 

Debbie Krueger, RN | Charge Nurse, 2A Telemetry  

Debbie epitomizes the nurse that all the nurses aspire to be. Debbie made the difficult decision to transition to the Charge Nurse of 2A, where she thrived in managing a complex unit amidst a pandemic-induced staff turnover. Her extensive mentoring experience has been invaluable in stabilizing the influx of new staff, and her organizational skills and leadership have been recognized by several managers. 

Excellence in Non-Traditional Nursing Role

Lindsay Belford, RN | Infection Control, SCS 

Lindsay’s colleagues attest to her exceptional leadership within Infection Prevention and Control (IPAC) and Niagara Health initiatives, where she has served for nearly half of her life, initially as a Registered Practical Nurse (RPN). With extensive experience and dedication, Lindsay pursued her Registered Nurse designation while excelling in her role as an Infection Control Practitioner (ICP) and maintaining her nursing skills in the Emergency Department. Her commitment to nursing excellence, emotional intelligence, and self-awareness make her a true role model and fosters collaborative practices for the benefit of all.” 

Nicole MacNeil, RN | Kidney Care Program, SCS 

Nicole, a seasoned nurse in the Kidney Care Program since 1992, embodies expertise and dedication in every role she undertakes. As our informatics nurse, she actively supports program objectives and ensures the efficient functioning of our EMR. Nicole’s pivotal role in implementing the new HIS demonstrates her commitment to excellence, as she tirelessly reviews all aspects of the Kidney Care program to meet high-quality standards. Her extensive nursing experience, including as a floor nurse and Charge Nurse, uniquely positions her to ensure the EMR meets the needs of all users. Nicole stands as a cornerstone of our team, ensuring that we meet reporting requirements and excel in our endeavours. 

Carolle Vallaincort, RPN| 6th Floor Medicine, WS 

Carolle has been working on the 6th floor at WS for close to 20 years. In that time, she has proven herself to be one of the most hardworking, kind and exceptional nurses of Niagara Health. She has mentored countless students and staff over her time and has recently transitioned into her role as the clinical Scholar Coach for medicine. Being the first to take on the role, she has truly made it her own. The staff have expressed how valuable she has been to them as a resource during this time, and her teachings have been leading to ambitious results on the medicine wards throughout the Welland Site. She is caring, a leader, and extraordinary. 



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *