Wednesday, May 10, 2023 San Juan Regional Medical Center Honors Nurses with Suzanne Smith Nursing Excellence Awards


From left: Maranda Herrera, Victoria Atencio, Sonja Crum
Not pictured: Connie Grijalva

The first group of nurses from San Juan Regional Medical Center have been honored with Suzanne Smith Nursing Excellence Awards. The awards are named for former Chief Nursing Officer Suzanne Smith in recognition of her many contributions over her 38-year nursing career at San Juan Regional Medical Center.

The awards recognize nurses in four separate categories: Early Career, Excellence in Nursing, Emerging Nurse Leader, and Nurse Leader. This year’s honorees are:

Early Career- Victoria Atencio

Victoria is an Emergency Department nurse who demonstrates outstanding dedication to patients daily through a strong commitment to do the right thing for each patient and their families. She gives top-notch compassionate care and stays on top of current evidence-based practice. During her nurse residency program, she was part of a team that initiated a project to decrease discomfort during NG tube insertions. She continues to promote key concepts from this project to improve patient comfort. This is just one example that shows her active participation in improving care not only for patients, but everyone associated with their care. 

Excellence in Nursing- Maranda Herrera

Maranda has spent countless hours studying, developing and improving IV skills at the hospital. She helped develop and implement the Ultrasound IV program at SJRMC and took on the lead role of vascular access nurse. Her skills and the hands-on education she provides to her fellow coworkers has improved patient satisfaction and outcomes related to line placement and fewer sticks to gain access. A nurse with a lifelong passion for learning, Maranda is proactive in staying up to date on the latest evidence-based practices. She not only implements national standards and guidelines into our hospital practices but encourages others to maintain and increase their own skills and knowledge.

Emerging Nurse Leader- Connie Grijalva

Connie is an instrumental leader and strong pillar of support to her fellow caregivers on the Medical Unit. She is a charge nurse and has oriented several nurses to that role with tremendous support and care. She lives the Core Value of Sacred Trust by choosing to do the right thing for her patients, no matter what. She was instrumental during the COVID-19 pandemic, willingly learning to care for intermediate level of care patients and helping new nurses learn while also helping them cope with the insurmountable stress the pandemic caused. She is reliable and dependable and does her best to put a smile on people’s faces even while enduring difficult times. She encourages team building and promotes cohesiveness among the unit. Her peers look up to her and often seek her advice knowing they will have her support.

Nurse Leader- Sonja Crum

Sonja, the manager of the Childbirth Unit, works hard to ensure the unit runs smoothly, patients are taken care of, and that the team is taken care of as well. She ensures her team’s voices are heard and has pushed many of them to succeed in advancing their careers and education, always encouraging them to take the next step, even if that step leads them away from the unit. Sonja doesn’t just manage the unit; she leads by example. She is always willing to jump in and help with patient care during busy shifts and pushes for change to improve the unit, which in turn improves patient and community outcomes. “She recognizes us for the nurses we are and the nurses we can become. I can say with certainty that if I had a different manager, I would not be where I am in my nursing career,” the team member who nominated her wrote.

Congratulations to our inaugural recipients of the Suzanne Smith Nursing Excellence Awards, along with the following well-deserved nominees:

Early Career: Cyndie Stock, Raychel Stiegelmeyer, Alissa Florez

Excellence in Nursing: Jami Martinez, Leigh-Ann Davis

Emerging Nurse Leader: Jessica Scott

Nurse Leader: Allison Herrera, Ginger Fosnot

Each of you has made a lasting impression on your peers, patients, their families and the communities we are privileged to serve. Thank you for continuing the important work of caring for our community members in their time of need.

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