The 2018 Advocate Nurse Award

More than 400 nurses from across Advocate Health Care were nominated for our second annual The Advocate Nurse Award. Nominations were submitted by physicians and associates, including many non-nursing associates, to recognize Advocate nurses who empower, serve and thrive. These nominations were vetted and presented in blinded format to site-based review committees who scored each according to a metric that took into account each nominee’s passion for patient care, commitment to service, problem-solving abilities and leadership aptitude.  

The winners, approved by each site/business unit’s chief nurse executive, are nurses from a variety of specialties across the patient care continuum. They represent diversity in their backgrounds and experiences; some are veteran nurses with more than 30 years of experience while others are relatively new to Advocate or to the nursing profession yet have already made an impact on their patients and colleagues.

Rosesharon Togle
Advocate At Home
Rose Sharon Togle is well acquainted with the challenges of caring for patients in their own homes. Known as “Sharon,” her role as a home health nurse means she’s walked into the homes of countless patients, where she becomes familiar with their environment, their family and support system, and their daily routines. That is why Sharon became concerned when one of her patients did not answer the door even though he had confirmed the date and time of the visit. She knocked repeatedly and phoned the patient. She checked all the doors to see if one was open. She peered in and saw that the TV was on.
Knowing that this patient has a history of hypoglycemic episodes and seizures, Sharon called 911. A police officer and paramedics soon arrived and gained access to the home through a back window. Inside, they found the patient on the floor, with a dangerously low blood sugar level. The paramedics started him on IV and medications and transported him to the hospital for evaluation and treatment. Sharon’s concerns were confirmed—the patient had in fact had a seizure, along with hypoglycemia. But because of Sharon’s commitment, her insights into this patient’s condition, and her decisive actions, this patient survived a potentially dangerous episode and got the care he needed.
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Samantha Synowiecki
Advocate Children’s Hospital
Samantha “Sam” Synowiecki has worked at Advocate for more than 10 years, and is viewed as a leader on her unit, the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU), by her peers. She is a role model for other nurses, empowering younger staff to be an advocate for their patient and foster their critical thinking skills. She also serves as a clinical coach to new hires, taking a vested role in them during orientation and utilizing teaching methods that fit each new hire’s learning style.Sam’s commitment to safety and dedication to patients is evident. When one chronic patient was being discharged with multiple medications.
Sam sat down with the mom to review everything in detail and created a medication list that provided a schedule to follow at home. She made sure that the mom had a full understanding of her child’s home regime and that she felt comfortable administering the medications. In addition to being a seasoned and skilled nurse, Sam coordinated team activities to give back outside the hospital. She planned for staff to serve dinners at the Ronald McDonald House, in which she organized and shopped for the event.
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Karen Leyland
Advocate Medical Group
Karen Leyland was caring for a patient diagnosed with breast cancer who needed surgery and follow up therapy. The patient was the lone caregiver for her adult daughter with severe handicaps. The patient struggled to find supplementary assistance for her daughter so she could have her surgery and complete her treatment. The patient had applied for aid, but was on a long waiting list. Karen initially reached out on her patient's behalf, but found that there was no additional help available. Rather than take “no” for an answer, Karen reached out directly to the patient’s state representative
for help. Her actions resulted in housing assistance and caregiver support for the daughter so the patient could receive care and treatment. Karen’s efforts led to the best possible outcome for her patient. Her compassion and dedication allowed her patient to focus on her treatment and recovery, knowing that her daughter would be taken care cared for in a safe place.
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Gay Shoot
Advocate BroMenn
Gay Shoot became a part of the Advocate BroMenn family in 1985 as a bedside nurse on the surgical floor. Over the years, her work experience in home health and hospice as well as her personal experiences have led her to become an expert in the field of palliative care. Gay is an advocate not only for her patients, but also for the interdisciplinary team. She cares deeply about her patients and their families by taking the time to discuss goals of care, disease process and symptom management, all while providing emotional and spiritual support.
She supports the interdisciplinary team by assisting them when situations escalate and additional support is needed. She stays late and comes in early to meet the needs of her patients or to assist her colleagues in difficult patient situations. She is regularly recognized by her peers and by managers regarding the great support she provides. She takes the time to educate others and is always willing to share her knowledge. She is a true example of The Advocate Nurse.
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Betsy VanEtten
Advocate Christ
As Chair of the Shared Practice Council at Christ Medical Center, Mary “Betsy” VanEtten is committed to the patients and nurses she serves. She empowers the nurses she works with to be confident in their assessments, offer suggestions for the plan of care and become engaged in nursing activities at the hospital. She’s extremely passionate about understanding what the patient’s and families’ expectations are and doing what she can to exceed them. In her role, Betsy has provided the Council with leadership
in many programs and projects including implementing a program called Commit to Sit, organizing Nurse Advocacy Day in Springfield and encouraging Council members to design Nurses’ Week and Diabetes Week posters to educate staff on specific aspects of evidence-based practice. Betsy was also an early adopter of the Advocate Nurse Career Advancement Program, educating associates about the program and encouraged their participation. As co-chair of the Festival for Funds for two years, the Council raised $30,000 for nursing research. Betsy’s dedication to nursing has extended well beyond the walls of her department and the Council. Her experience in using the Fallen Leaf signage to indicate a death, made her particularly interested in introducing this symbol throughout the hospital. Also, after reviewing the evidence for use of the Peanut Ball during labor, she became passionate about its usefulness and educating her colleagues on the topic – even presenting the topic to colleagues at another Advocate hospital.
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Isabel Baker
Advocate Condell
Although currently a nurse specializing in wound healing, Isabel Baker has been dedicated to patient care for more than 21 years. When asked why she chose wound care as a specialty, she points to the positive outcomes generated through providing a holistic approach to wound healing. Determining the underlying cause of poor wound healing, while bringing pieces together to promote healing, is very rewarding to Isabel. Isabel has been an integral member of the Magnet Champions Team supporting Advocate Condell’s successful quest for Magnet recognition in 2017.
She actively involved fellow nurses in the Magnet process and was instrumental in assuring they understood the principles of becoming Magnet recognized. Serving the community with time and talent is a passion Isabel shares especially for those who have physical disabilities. In winter months, she volunteers with Adaptive Adventures, an organization providing outdoor sports opportunities to improve quality of life for people of all ages. During warmer weather, Isabel volunteers with Diveheart as an open water dive buddy for children and adults of all abilities.
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Susan Allensworth
Advocate Eureka
Susan Allensworth cares deeply for her patients, advocates for their needs, prays with them if needed, watches out for their safety and encourages staff to sign special “going away” cards for them if they have been on the unit longer than expected. She is the leader of the Shared Governance program at Advocate Eureka Hospital and remains very engaged even while working the night shift. She is cross-trained to work in other areas of the hospital and does so without hesitation. While completing her BSN program, Susan created a patient hand-off tool that continues to be used during daily report.
Susan empowers others through Shared Governance, serves her patients by being a kind, dependable, hardworking individual and clearly thrives as her colleagues acknowledge that her shining attitude and confident manner make the unit a great place to work.
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Anne Lipira
Advocate Good Samaritan
With more than 15 years of experience as a cardiac rehab nurse at Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital, Anne Lipira is known for empowering patients and their families to lead a healthy lifestyle. Anne’s cheerful smile, encouraging words along with her gentle and compassionate manner provide a safe place for her patients to get back on the right path. Anne’s compassion doesn’t end when her patients “graduate” from the rehab program, as she’s been instrumental in starting a Mended Hearts program that aims to inspire hope and improve the quality of life for heart patients and their families through peer-to-peer support.
As the hospital’s site captain for the American Heart Association’s Heart Walk, she has raised thousands of dollars for the fund raiser and encouraged countless associates to champion the cause as well. Anne is also dedicated to her nursing profession as she has served on the Nursing Governing Council, Professional Development Committee and mentored new graduates. Physicians, patients, families and peers respect Anne for her clinical knowledge, professionalism and collaboration. 
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Amy Wlodek
Advocate Good Shepherd
Amy Wlodek has more than three decades of nursing experience yet this health care veteran continues to demonstrate enthusiasm and compassion her colleagues find inspirational. Her career began as a three-year nursing school graduate at a time when education started in the hospital and nurses wore white uniforms. She has worked at Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital since 1986, lending her assistance on many process improvement projects through Shared Governance. She has worked in various units, including the Emergency Department (ED) and, most recently,
the Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit (CVICU), where she quickly has become a leader. She maintains a work schedule in both the ED and CVICU. Her compassion extends far beyond the hospital walls. She has volunteered as a camp nurse and on six occasions for the Chicago Marathon Medical Team. Inspired by her, others have joined her in volunteering. She has run in the marathon three times, once to raise funds for charity. A strong believer in lifelong learning, Amy places great emphasis on the power of education. Not only does she educate her own patients, she continues learning more herself. She recently graduated with a BSN and is enrolled in an MSN program.
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Sal Gerage
Advocate Illinois Masonic
In his previous position as a charge nurse in Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center’s critical decision unit, Sal “Jonnie” Gerage has developed a reputation for being a source of compassion, patience, comfort and inspiration to not only the patients he serves but also the associates and nurses he works alongside every day. Jonnie’s personal experience with developmentally disabled family members helped shape his passion for this patient population. He carries this compassionate view outside the four walls of the hospital as well
taking residents with developmental disabilities out into the city to enjoy the activities they love. Jonnie also volunteers at organizations including soup kitchens, Habitat for Humanity, Misericordia and the Chicago Food Depository. Jonnie’s high degree of compassion and empathy are not the only qualities that make him a superb Advocate nurse. In addition to serving as a charge nurse, Jonnie is a preceptor, which allows him to mentor and guide new nurses as they become acclimated to the job responsibilities and expectations of an Advocate nurse. Jonnie currently works as a registered nurse in Illinois Masonic’s emergency department.
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Bernard Andres
Advocate Lutheran General
Registered nurse Bernard Andres has taken an active role in improving safety measures for associates and physicians in the emergency department at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital. His passion for safety shines through as a safety high reliability coach and leader of the high performing safety team in the ED. He is often responsible for communicating pertinent issues to front line staff and does so in an effective manner whether over email, in person, or via conference call.
At the request of the ED Leadership Team, Bernard collected staff perspectives on safety issues not being addressed and presented his finding at the ED safety and security team meeting. As a result, many new safety measures have gone into effect, including putting up a safety sign regarding workplace violence, an algorithm for high security patients, phones at triage and charge, lighting in the EMS area, and badge access improvements. These developments have led to an approximately eight percent increase in high reliability scores for this department. He is also always the first associate to experiment with new innovations, such as the portal iPad he is testing, and is able to lead and interact with staff in an effective manner.
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Benjamin Castells
Advocate Sherman
J. Benjamin Castells began his 10+ nursing career at Sherman Hospital as an inpatient cardiac registered nurse, to working as an intensive critical care nurse, and then landed in the catheterization laboratory nurse in 2015. In every area of nursing Ben has distinguished himself, receiving multiple Daisy Awards. Ben is an engaged, passionate, devoted and driven nurse whose goal is to bring healing to others. Ben looks for ways to not only help his patients, but also to find ways to improve the systems being used to care for his patients
Recently, Ben streamlined the cath lab’s process for the American College of Cardiology data collection system for the percutaneous coronary intervention(PCI) registry. It is a requirement for all hospitals to improve cardiac results across the country and improve quality measures and evidence-based. Benjamin spearheaded and streamlined this process to go electronic, significantly reducing the time needed to fill paperwork and double charting. This not only saved time and money, but also helped to reduce potential errors. Benjamin looks at what we do as health care providers and asks himself how that process can be improved and does it. Ben goes above and beyond to demonstrate how a nurse can make a difference, not only in the lives of his patients, but of his fellow nurses. Ben empowers those around him to improve, get involved and participate in committees with compassion and respect. Ben is the definition of a nurse, demonstrating how hard work and the natural calling to serve others can overcome all obstacles; from immigrating as a child to the US from Venezuela to being a male nurse in a female dominated profession. Ben draws his inspiration and strength from God, family, and love for his profession, plus the enjoyment of helping patients feel better and leave the hospital in better health.
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Diana Kuzlik
Advocate South Suburban
With more than 20 years of experience as an oncology nurse at Advocate South Suburban Hospital, Diane Kuzlik is known for going above and beyond to provide the best holistic care for her patients and their families. She regularly works in the community outside of work, has authored two children’s books, donates blankets, prayer shawls, caps and scarves for oncology patients, stuffs stockings around the holidays, and makes sure every oncology patient who passes away has a sympathy card sent to their family.
Diane has been described by her colleagues as being compassionate, hard-working, helpful, patient, knowledgeable, detailed and supportive. She not only provides support for her patients, but for her nursing team as well. Diane always makes time for anyone that needs help, regularly brings in cookies, and doesn’t hesitate to solve issues as they arise. Physicians, patients, families and peers recognize Diane as a tremendous patient advocate and multi-talented nurse who has been instrumental to their team, care and the Advocate system.
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Yvonne Papciak
Advocate Support Centers
With nearly 30 years of experience as an Advocate Nurse, Yvonne Papciak has made a difference in the lives of countless patients at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital and continues to do so in her current role at Shared Revenue Cycle Organization. Yvonne’s compassion is evident in her dedication to ensuring patients receive the care they need. As an appeals nurse, she fights against denied medical services and was involved in overturning $142 million in denied claims last year.
Yvonne’s tireless efforts to reduce stress for patients and their families paired with her welcoming smile and constant desire to assist others prove she was meant to be a nurse. She is a strong patient advocate and knew she wanted to be a nurse since she was a little girl. Yvonne’s commitment to caring for others doesn’t end when she leaves work; she is an active member in the wedding ministry at her parish and is a facilitator for the Des Plaines Spouse Support Group for the Catholic Charities LOSS Organization. Yvonne is so deeply valued in for her wealth of knowledge and passion for patients.
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Krystal Manuel
Advocate Trinity
Krystal Manuel, RN, always knew she wanted to make an impact on the health of her community in a big way. As a non-clinical associate working in Advocate Trinity’s Registration Department, she enjoyed her role as the first point of contact for patient care. However, her sights were set on making deeper connections that would ultimately influence health outcomes. Shortly after earning a bachelor’s degree in nursing, Krystal moved from registration and joined the hospital’s Emergency Department as a registered nurse.
Since then, she has worked tirelessly to ensure the best possible outcomes of patients and provide community members with education that may keep them from needing emergency care. Krystal is a champion of her High Reliability Unit. She represents Trinity on Advocate’s Shared Governance Council, and she represents the Emergency Department on her hospital’s Unit Based Council. She ensures all new associates receive a warm welcome and introduction from their co-workers and made her department a better place by “coming in overnight to feed the hungry third-shift associates and warm their souls with her home cooking,” a colleague wrote in her nomination. Because she is dedicated to connecting with every one of her patients – adults and children alike - Krystal helps ease the anxieties of pediatric patients by donating toys and coloring books to the Emergency Department. Outside the hospital, Krystal provides community education seminars for Advocate Trinity’s faith partners on the topics of congestive heart failure, hypertension and stroke.
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