June 16, 2023

1199 RNs gather to honor their peers.

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1199 Registered Nurses from a wide variety of healthcare setting donned their evening wear on May 5, to salute their dedicated colleagues at the 20th Anniversary Nurses of Distinction Awards Gala in Midtown Manhattan.

The peer-nominated event is designed to honor RNs for out- standing achievement and commit- ment to patient-centered care.

Celest Mars, an RN and Delegate at Mount Sinai Queens, was one of the nominees for the Preceptor of the Year Award.

“Since the pandemic, I have become one of the more seasoned RNs working in the ICU,” she says. “We are still looking after COVID-19 patients in the critical care area. A lot of my precepting has focused on how to treat pa- tients with a high level of acuity.”

The medications for these patients’ needs are particularly com- plicated and require very precise adjustments, which are unfamiliar to RNs working in medical surgical or step-down wards. Like many RNs in the Union, Mars was able to utilize the 1199SEIU Training and Upgrading Fund (TUF) to move up the career ladder.

She started out at Mount Sinai Queens 37 years ago, as a Clerk in the ER while she was still a junior in High School. With the help of the TUF, Mars completed her training, obtained an Associ- ate’s Degree and became a nurse in 1996.

“In 2016, I went back to school again to get my Bachelor’s De- gree,” she says. “This time around, the Fund not only helped me with tuition, but they paid my wages for one of my 12-hour shifts each week for a couple of months, so that I could leave the floor to attend one of the classes I needed, which was not available online. These Union benefits made all the difference to me in furthering my career.”

Roxana Villanueva, another ICU RN at Mount Sinai Queens who also attended the awards gala along with Mars, started her own career at New York Presbyterian Hospital in Upper Manhattan after follow- ing her in mother Louise’s foot-steps, an OR nurse at Mount Sinai Beth Israel who retired in 2000. As a Unit Clerk, Roxana made sure to work enough hours to earn benefits. “It took me two-and-a-half years,” she says, “but as long as I maintained at least a C average I was able to get my tuition paid by the 1199SEIU Training and Upgrading Fund.”

The first Runner-Up prize for the 2023 Nurse of Distinction award went to Victoria Patrice-Howe from Montefiore Medical Center Wake- field campus in the Bronx. She also works in ICU, and has been a nurse for more than 30 years.

Tragically, Patrice-Howe lost two uncles and an aunt to COVID-19, but says support from her fellow 1199 members helped get her through the pandemic. Patrice-How knows she could have made a lot more money if she had decided to become an agency nurse.

“But it was not just about the money,” she says. “We are a family. I felt that as difficult as it was, I would rather be out doing some- thing to help, than to stay at home.”

1199 Magazine: May / June 2023