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ICU Nurse Wins Overall Excellence Award from AMN Healthcare

Overall Excellence Award Winner: Sunitha with OGP

By Jennifer Larson, Contributor

This year’s Overall Excellence Winner of AMN Healthcare’s Nurses’ Week Commitment to Excellence Award goes to Sunitha Ninan, RN, BSN, MA!

Every nurse who wins this award is special, and Sunitha is no different in that regard. But she might have made a slightly longer journey to get here than some of our previous award winners.

Sunitha came to the United States from Dubai last summer with her husband and two children, thanks to the help of O’Grady Peyton International, AMN Healthcare’s international recruitment agency.  Today, she is a registered nurse working in the intensive care unit at Bay State Medical Center in Springfield, Massachusetts. 

Originally from Kerala, in the southwestern part of India, Sunitha as originally inspired to become a nurse by her aunt. Her aunt would visit from Kuwait during the holidays and share stories of her patients, and Sunitha was entranced…and inspired. 

The Value of Hope

Nursing requires a great deal of skill. Nurses must be able to monitor their patients’ condition, administer medications, change dressings and catheters, manage IV lines, and educate patients (and their families) about their health. 

But nursing is also about certain intangibles, like making patients feel hopeful. Sunitha, with her bright and gentle demeanor and her compassion, exemplifies the importance of those intangible qualities that make such a difference. Like hope. 

Hope can help patients cope with being in the hospital, and it can aid them in their recovery. Sunitha knows how important it is to encourage patients and their families when they’re feeling scared or anxious. Especially in the ICU, where patients are often very sick. 

“I give them positive strength,” she explains.

She looks for ways that she can help them, whether it’s calling the chaplain or arranging for the hospital’s therapy dogs to pay a visit. She gives hugs. She checks in on patients to make sure they’re comfortable. She takes time to listen to her patients’ concerns and then follows up to make sure that the concerns are addressed. 

Her patients give her rave reviews, too. They call her “dedicated,” “a delight to have as a nurse,” “a joy to be around,” and “just awesome!”

Sunitha remembers how one of her ICU patients, a paralyzed woman, always looked longingly out the window at the world beyond. 

“She had a wish to come outside and breathe the fresh air outside,” Sunitha says. 

So Sunitha asked for permission to grant that wish. She helped the woman get showered and dressed, then helped her into a wheelchair. Sunitha wheeled the woman out of her room, and together, they ventured out of the hospital into a nearby garden. 

For almost a half hour, they remained in the garden. The woman felt the sunshine on her face and, yes, breathed in the fresh air that she’d been eager to breathe for months.

“She smiled, and that smile is still in my heart,” says Sunitha. 

Sunitha says she is very grateful to the other nurses and staff at Bay State. They have welcomed her and give her their full support from the very beginning. They provided education and support to her while she became accustomed to the slightly different approach that her job requires in the United States than it did in Dubai. 

“Even if they were very busy, they would rush to help me with whatever I needed,” she says.

Sunitha has a few people she’d like to thank for helping her along her journey. 

“At this point, I would like to thank the management of O’Grady Peyton, especially to Sinead Carberry, Miranda Burke, Kim Spelman, Mark Johns, Jessica Schumacher, Sara Bargeron, and Kaye Orencia, for helping me to accomplish my American Dream,” she says. 

She adds, “I also want to thank Bay State management, nursing managers Pamela Trench, Cathy Austin France; my educators Anthony Shamoun and Sarah; my preceptors Cheryl Hernandez, Marissa, Beth Stadniki, my charge nurses and co-workers.” 

RELATEDAMN Healthcare Celebrates the 2020 Commitment to Excellence Award Winners

Read her nomination:

“Sunitha Ninan is an excellent nurse. She works as a RN in Bay state medical center MA intensive care unit. She is very dedicated, loving and compassionate. She takes care of critical patients very efficiently, her knowledge and skills are highly appreciated. She is very pleasant, helpful and approachable. Her attitude towards the colleagues is very genuine. 

She helped to get the patient showered, painted her fingernails and helped her get in to the recliner chair. She took the patient outside for a few minutes so she could smell the fresh air and feel the sunshine. This patient has been in the hospital since January and this was her first time outside since then! She is just awesome! Outgoing personality and she helps without asking. 

What her patients have to say

One ICU patient said that Ninan made her feel at home, checking back often to make sure she was comfortable and ensuring that her concerns were heard, understood, and validated, following up with the doctor and keeping patients and their families well informed. "She was always accessible and never made us feel like we were imposing. She's just a joy to be around," a patient family member said. An example that showcases her superb care and compassion occurred one day when she was caring for an elderly patient who was nearing the end of her life. Ninan was calm and comforting to the patient and family, making sure that they all understood each intervention and that their questions and concerns were answered. 

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