Journeys to excellence: Stories of three award-winning nurses

Cassandra is a nurse at Boston Children's Hospital.
Cassandra Fleurentin

Every year, the New England Regional Black Nurses Association (NERBNA) recognizes nurses for their outstanding commitment to their profession and for going above and beyond in their designated specialty area. Read the stories of the three Boston Children’s Hospital nurses honored with this year’s Excellence in Nursing Awards.

Cassandra Fleurentin: BSN, staff nurse I, 9 South

Growing up, Cassandra’s mother had a chronic illness. Sitting by her bedside day in and day out and spending much of her childhood in hospitals and emergency rooms motivated Cassandra to become a nurse.

“My family is Haitian and we speak fluent Creole. As a child, I saw how my mother struggled to communicate with her doctors and nurses and how that affected her care,” says Cassandra. “I became a nurse because I want to bridge the language gap in health care, I want to provide patients with culturally-competent care and be the person they can relate to and feel comfortable talking to.”Nurse at Boston Children's Hospital.Cassandra began her nursing career while pursuing her bachelor’s degree at Curry College. While in school, she became a clinical assistant at Boston Children’s on 7 west, and two years later transitioned into a staff nursing position just two floors up, where she cares for patients with pulmonary and gastrointestinal (GI) diseases.

Throughout her time here, she has had many opportunities to translate for Haitian families, and has been a source of support for non-English speaking patients during their stay. Cassandra was awarded the Excellence in Nursing Practice Award for her compassion and dedication to quality patient care.

“Getting to see my patients when they first come in, and then building a relationship for the months, or even years, that they stay here is the best part of the job,” says Cassandra. “Nurses are the first and last people parents see every day, and being their outlet for support and care is such an honor.”

Lynnetta Akins (Crichlow): BSN, RN, CNRN, senior clinical informatics nurse specialist

Lynnetta wins nursing award 2017.

If she had to describe her journey in nursing, Lynnetta could do it in one word: perseverance. Despite having to withdraw from nursing school to raise her son, Lynnetta never lost sight of her end goal. She worked and took community college classes, and after landing on the dean’s list, was offered a scholarship to Simmons College’s Nursing Program. At Simmons, she completed an 18-month accelerated program to earn her Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN).

Lynnetta came to Boston Children’s in 1998, as a neurology nurse on 9NW. After 14 years as a bedside nurse, she transitioned to medical education and informatics, where she is an essential part in the hospital-wide implementation of electronic medical records.

“As a bedside nurse, I advocated for my patients directly, now through medical education I advocate for them through the medical and clinical staff,” says Lynnetta. “I do miss bedside nursing, but I’ve grown to love digital health and innovation — it has opened up a whole new world of nursing.”

Due to her dedication to nursing education, Lynnetta was the only recipient in New England to be awarded the Excellence in Nursing Education/Teaching Award by NERBNA. This is Lynnetta’s second recognition for her nursing excellence. In 2007, she received the Excellence in Nursing Practice Award after becoming the first black nurse to climb the professional clinical ladder to a level 3 nurse.

“Even though I didn’t have a typical journey, I think the bumps along the way made me that much stronger,” says Lynnetta. “Starting off as a teenage mother, going through school and never stopping — it has all paid off.”

Pascale Audain: RN, BSN, CCRN, staff nurse II, MICU

Pascale wins nursing award 2017.

At 7 years old, Pascale was more confident about her future career than your average college senior. Pascale’s mother was a nurse, and growing up she dreamed of following in her footsteps.

“My sister and I never played ‘house’ really, we played ‘nurse,’” says Pascale. “My mom would bring home blank charts from work and we would fill them in and ask her what normal vital signs were”

Pascale began her nursing career at Northeastern University, where she completed three co-op programs in emergency medicine, cardiology and a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), but she had never thought of working in pediatrics. However, after graduation, Pascale received a call from a new graduate nursing recruiter at Boston Children’s. She answered that call on a Thursday, interviewed for the 11 south medical intensive care unit (MICU) staff nursing position on the following Monday, and by the end of that week had been offered the job. She’s been been working there ever since.

Pascale wins nursing award.

Pascale was awarded the Excellence in Nursing Practice Award for her extraordinary care and dedication to improving the quality of care at Boston Children’s. “One of my favorite professors during nursing school once told our class: ‘Listen to your patients. They’ll teach you everything.’ This has been my motto ever since,” says Pascale. “In pediatrics, parents have PhDs in their children’s care and there is so much to learn from their experiences.”

Learn more about Nursing at Boston Children’s Hospital.