Every year, RVNAhealth recognizes team members who have been with the organization for denominations of five years. In 2020, we had 23 employees to celebrate – ranging from 5 year to 35 year anniversaries.
These special individuals bring continuity, history, flexibility and kindness to their roles and to RVNAhealth, and unsurprisingly, they are beloved by their patients and revered by their colleagues. They may have begun their careers at different agencies —RVNA, Bethel VNA, New Milford Visiting Nurse & Hospice — but today they all represent RVNAhealth.
Below, we name our long-standing team members, and profile a special few. Take a moment to meet them. They are very interesting!
2020 Length of Service Award Recipients
- Sonia Goncalves, RVNAhealth
- Tricia Brody, PT, RVNAhealth
- Kathleen Boyce, OT, New Milford
- Genevieve Pelliciari, OT, New Milford
- Stacie Perachi, PT, New Milford
- Danielle Sheehan, RN, New Milford
- Comfort Amo, StayWELL CNA, RVNAhealth
- Belowich, RN, RVNAhealth
- Nolusindiso Katikati Brown, StayWELL CNA, RVNAhealth
- Stephanie Carson, PT, RVNAhealth
- Kelsey Collins, StayWELL Scheduling Coordinator, New Milford
- Lama Dadouch, StayWELL CNA, RVNAhealth
- Lisa Fleming, Marketing Associate, RVNAhealth
- Patricia Gogliettino, PT, RVNAhealth
- Jennifer Kolwicz, PT, New Milford
- Lucy McInerney, PTA (New Milford)
- Jeffrey Moreira, PT (New Milford)
- Katie Moser, OT RVNAhealth
- Beauty Turner, StayWELL CNA, RVNAhealth
Lynn Schneider, 35 years
Choose kindness. It’s more than the epithet for RVNAhealth Physical Therapist Lynn Schneider’s approach to her work; it’s the moniker printed on a coordinating rainbow face mask and bandana worn by Lynn and her dog, Nala when they go on multiple daily walks. Lynn joined RVNAhealth part-time over thirty-five years ago as a young mother; she is now a tenured and valued member of the RVNAhealth family being honored with a years of service award.
“I like the difficult cases,” Lynn says, “those that might require a bit more creativity.” The COVID-19 pandemic has provided robust opportunities for that, and Lynn tries to embrace every minute of it with a positive attitude and grace.
“2020 was tough, yes, but so much good has come from it. Despite hardships, people really are rallying to support each other, especially in Ridgefield and at RVNAhealth. I can’t say enough about the people I work with, the organization and my community. They’re really incredible.”
Lynn spends much of her time tending to patients in their homes and local assisted living facilities where she helps patients gain mobility independence that is lost through “acute insult to health,” or surgery, injury, illness, or muscle weakening from lack of use. Lynn’s favorite part about her role is the amount of time she devotes to every patient. “I can give each patient my undivided attention for nearly an hour. There are so few opportunities to do that in healthcare.”
Mary Novicky, 30 years
The badge at the end of her purple RVNAhealth lanyard reads, “Mary Novicky, CNA.” But talk to certain patients, and you might hear a fond nickname.
“I call her Mary MacGyver,” says Maribeth Smith, a Brookfield resident with Multiple Sclerosis who has been in Mary’s care since 2013. Like the clever 1980s MacGyver TV character, Mary has a knack for figuring out how to fix things. “Like when the foot pedal on my wheelchair wouldn’t work,” Maribeth explains. “I may have had to wait a month for the wheelchair company to repair it.”
“She’s taught me the easiest way to do things that I’ve been struggling with, like how to make things easier to reach. She genuinely cares. I feel blessed that I have the care that I have with Mary.”
Coaching and coaxing patients through struggles and smiles has invigorated Mary since she started her career as a Certified Nursing Assistant at a nursing home in Danbury in 1984. But early on she realized that her calling was in home health. “I was attracted to the variety, the challenges, being able to really give patients everything that they deserve,” she says.
An opportunity presented itself in September 1990, when a position opened up at Bethel Visiting Nurse Association – at a time when Mary, a Bethel resident, finally felt comfortable enrolling her son in preschool. Thirty years later, with RVNAhealth’s Fall 2020 trimerger with Bethel VNA and New Milford Visiting Nurse & Hospice, Mary embraced the opportunity to be a part of a growing agency that she had known in the community for so many years.
She notes that though some things have changed in home health over the years (such as more Medicare paperwork and the introduction of mobile devices to record patient information), her daily focus has remained constant. “To help patients do things they might have thought they couldn’t do,” she says. “And at the end of the day, to make them smile, even if it’s simply because I figured out how to make their bed that certain way that they like.”
Upon joining the RVNAhealth team, Mary quickly became a trusted mentor among her clinical colleagues. “She is amazing at what she does; she’s reliable and always willing to give an extra hand wherever needed,” says Jessica Velasco, RN, CNA Supervisor & Chronic Care Manager. “She puts her heart and soul into her work, and her 30-plus years of experience shows.”
Jessica adds that Mary garnered glowing accolades during a recent annual visit from a healthcare accreditation organization: “They commented that her infection control technique was impeccable, but they also took the time to note that she is so compassionate when caring for patients.”
Perhaps not surprisingly, when Mary isn’t busy brightening patients’ lives, her compassion, diligence and resourcefulness spill over into one of her longtime “pet” projects: animal rescue.
“I have dogs, bunnies, birds and cats,” she says. “I also teach youth how to make shelters for feral cats. We can all find ways to make others’ lives easier. You just have to pay attention.”
Liliana Ospina, 25 years
Over six thousand.*
That’s roughly how many lives Liliana Ospina has touched in her twenty five years as a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) with RVNAhealth. Celebrating her tenure this year, Ospina said that she has no favorites from the large pool of patients entrusted to her care because they are all special in their own ways. “They all have value,” she said, “And probably the most incredible thing is that they let me become part of their family. It is the most rewarding part of a job that isn’t always easy. But it’s worth it to become part of someone else’s heart. The feeling I get knowing that I am helping someone else and the gratitude they show in their smiles. That’s why I keep doing this.” The COVID-19 pandemic has made the job more difficult because facial expressions are such an important part of the job and the connection a CNA has with each patient gets lost behind the mask.
“Sometimes we go into a house and a patient is very depressed or struggling with pain and a wide smile can and touch of a hand can be the best thing for them. [The pandemic] has made it really tough that way. But I do my best for them.”
Ospina, a native Colombian, who moved to Danbury with her family in 1988, is a proud mother of a newborn son. She loves the sense of community and diversity the city has to offer. “Our community is changing so much and growing every year. I feel proud to be part of that both at home and with my work caring for my neighbors in need.”
Of her role at RVNAhealth, she deems her job “remarkable” and is grateful for her colleagues, with whom she has solid ties. “[RVNAhealth] is such an amazing place to work and I have met some of the best people here. I started working alongside Lynn Schneider and we are still together, going strong!” Ospina said she feels like she gets more than she gives in the job because of the close connection she has with her patients and the positive changes in her own life as a result. “I go to work every day and my life is changed for the better. Who else can say that?”
*based on 5 patients per week, the low end of the patient range Liliana says she cares for each week.
Mary Steinowitz, 25 years
Physical therapy can be a family affair.
At least that’s the case with RVNAhealth physical therapist Mary Steinowitz who celebrated 25 years with the agency last year. As a young girl, Steinowitz often accompanied her mother, a private duty caretaker of home-bound patients, to work and developed an interest in medicine. She often watched elderly women walk the grand concourse, a five-mile-long thoroughfare snaking through the Bronx, and struggle to climb the stairs to their doorsteps; Steinowitz would rush to their aid, solidifying her interest in a career devoted to helping others.
As a college student, Steinowitz was on a pre-med track working with an oral surgeon when a physical therapist entrusted a patient with TMJ, a jaw disorder causing pain, stiffness, and immobility, to their care. Intrigued by the relatively new field of physical therapy, a modality which helps patients with pain and healing, she volunteered at a physical therapy office in the Bronx, her hometown, and fell in love with its holistic and comprehensive treatment approach. Leveraging her 100 hours of volunteer work, she applied to Hunter College alongside twelve hundred applicants vying for forty spots in the physical therapy school. Steinowitz was one of the forty. Years later, she started her career in New York, working at then-named Columbia Presbyterian Hospital, among others.
Expecting her first child in the spring of 1995, Mary and her family—including her parents and brother—moved to Ridgefield and she began her tenure with RVNAhealth (then Ridgefield Visiting Nurse Association) that summer, initially part-time to balance her life as a new mother, transitioning to full-time a decade ago. The organization has become more than just an employer and those she works with more than mere colleagues, they are family. When her parents required in-home treatments over the years, it was RVNAhealth that provided it and Steinowitz experienced the agency from dual vantage points: as an employee as well as a patient’s loved one. I got to witness the quality of care from the other side of the fence and it’s pretty remarkable.” she said.
Exceptional standards are something to which Mary’s own patients are accustomed. Rod Thorn says of the care he received, “Mary treated the whole person and by doing so has helped make me whole again.” A comprehensive approach to healing is what RVNAhealth is known for since they offer services from prevention to end of life. Notes Steinowitz, “It has been such a blessing to watch RVNAhealth grow from a small-town provider to one that serves many territories. The teamwork and communication are something that just continues to get better and better. I love brainstorming with my colleagues on challenging cases to draw on collective experience for creating the best solution.”
A devoted Ridgefield resident, Steinowitz loves the intimate familial sense that the small town offers. In her spare time, she enjoys hiking on the town’s many trails, boating and fishing on the Long Island Sound with her family and reading suspense novels, noting Nelson DeMille as a favorite. “There’s nothing better than being able to work and live in such a wonderful community. Here I am, nearly thirty years later, and I still truly love it to this day.”