Cherry Hill nurses honored for longevity, service

Nurses Week cause for celebration in township and across the country.

Peg Smargisso, LPN (center) was honored for 15 years of service with Bayada of Cherry Hill on May 6, as part of celebrations surrounding National Nurses Week. With Smargisso, from left is Kara Leahy, Rose Sample, director of Bayada home health care, Smargisso’s daughter Rhiannon, and Michelle Peters.

In honor of National Nurses Week, which took place May 6-12, Bayada Home Health Care set aside time throughout Monday, May 6, to honor and celebrate nurses in Cherry Hill who go above and beyond the call of duty by hosting a full-day celebration.  

In all, 18 nurses were honored for their respective years of service, in five-year increments. Four of the honorees were lauded for 15 years of service, five with 10 years, and seven were recognized for five years of service. 

“In recent years, we’ve even had nurses with 30 years of experience that we’ve honored. And that really is tremendously helpful to our clients, to have nurses on our team who are that experienced. They can perform care so thoroughly, but they can also aid the team of nurses who train new nurses as well,” said Rose Sample, director of Bayada’s pediatric home health-care Cherry Hill operation. 

Among the honorees during The Sun’s visit during the first of two sessions recognizing nurses’ contributions on May 6 were five-year employee Tammy Surrency, as well as 15-year veterans Florette Stewart and Peg Smargisso. In addition, two other nurses were to receive Hero Awards, Deanna Smith, LPN and Heather Lawson, RN. 

“The hero program is a formal recognition program for our field team members, every quarter. That means our aides, our therapists and nurses are selected for going above and beyond the call of duty in exemplifying our core values of compassion, excellence, reliability. A lot of times, the families (of patients) will share those stories or talk about things the nurses have done to help them, and that is often how we make the selections,” Sample added. 

Parallel to company honors, Smargisso is also celebrating 35 years a nurse in 2019. 

“I took my boards in 1984 and passed them in pediatrics, then I was hired at West Jersey and worked there for eight years, she said. “Then, I went to work for surgeons, and in the meantime I was working with Skilled Nursing, Inc. which was an agency on the side, where I could pick up extra hours. Bayada bought them out, so I’ve been with them for the last 15 years. I’ve worked with surgeons, in the OR, home care, everything.” 

Smargisso, who is a colon cancer survivor and recent recipient of a “DaVinci” bypass procedure to correct what she called a “widowmaker” blocked artery, knows that the close work she and other home-care nurses perform and the knowledge they gain through years of service pays off in other ways beyond mere medical solutions. 

“(Clients) don’t want to lose their nurses. They have a dependable nurse, their children love you, the family trusts you, and you become part of their family. You know every single relative in their family. They know they can walk out the door and not have to worry about if their child will still be breathing or not,” she said. 

“I’ve taken care of two boys who were totally ‘vent-dependent’ all night, so there have been some tough situations but you get through it. You have no backup. Things happen suddenly, especially with children. Most of the ones I work with can’t talk, so you have to read them by their eyes, their facial expressions.” 

Sample revealed that her Cherry Hill office would be open that one day, with extended hours, to accommodate the needs of both day-and-night-shift nurses with perks such as catered meals, snacks, beverages, massages and the chance to win prizes through various raffles. 

This year’s celebration of the nursing profession ends on Florence Nightingale’s birthday of May 12. Born 199 years ago in the United Kingdom, Nightingale, widely credited as the founder of modern nursing, came to world-wide recognition after organizing relief efforts for wounded soldiers during the Crimean War (1853-56).