Breaking Through a Language Barrier

Elyssa Pennington, RN Receives DAISY Award

Imagine being homeless, not able to speak or understand English and in labor, preparing to give birth to your fourth child. That’s the stressful situation a woman found herself in while at The University of Vermont Health Network – Champlain Valley Physicians Hospital’s (CVPH) Alice T. Miner Women and Children’s Center (WCC). Elyssa Pennington, RN did all she could to give the mother, new baby and their family what they needed to be able to safely leave the hospital. That’s why she has been honored as the latest recipient of The DAISY Award for Extraordinary Nurses.

Pennington, who was presented the award during a surprise ceremony with her WCC team as a part of the celebration of National Nurses Week, is the 22nd staff nurse to receive the honor since its inception in 2018. She was nominated by WCC Assistant Nurse Manager Katie Dubrey, who witnessed the extraordinary care and support Pennington delivered.

In her nomination, Dubrey explains that the patient was from the Congo and could only speak Lingala, one of four national languages there.

“Each time Elyssa went into the patient’s room, she worked with our language line to communicate as best she could with the new mother,” Dubrey adds.

The patient and her family, which includes her husband, the new baby and their three other children, were homeless at the time and trying to find a new place to stay, according to Dubrey.

“Elyssa worked tirelessly to get them what they needed, and she was successful. The patient left happy and thankful. This is a great example of a compassionate, kind and caring nurse,” she continues. “When Elyssa is confronted with an obstacle, she sees it as a challenge that she accepts and overcomes, just like this.”

Pennington is in her second year as a nurse at CVPH. Those who work with her, including Dubrey, note her desire to learn and grow in her role at the WCC.

“I’ve watched her blossom so much in the short time she’s been with us,” continues Dubrey. “Elyssa doesn’t stop at her learned skill set. She continues to keep herself up-to-date on any new information. She has taken on the development of new policies and updating old ones. Elyssa is constantly trying to improve patient care any way she can.”

During the award presentation, Pennington was presented with a certificate commending her as an extraordinary nurse. She, like all honorees, also received a DAISY Award pin and a beautiful and meaningful sculpture called “A Healer’s Touch,” which is hand-carved by artists of the Shona Tribe in Zimbabwe.

CVPH launched the DAISY Award for Extraordinary Nurses in 2018 as a way to recognize and reward licensed nurses for making a meaningful difference in the lives of their patients. Nomination forms and boxes are located at each of the hospital’s main entrances and online at Nurses may be nominated by patients, families, and colleagues.  A committee reviews nominations and awards a deserving nurse each quarter.

The award is part of the DAISY Foundation’s mission to recognize the extraordinary, compassionate nursing care they provide patients and families every day. The DAISY Foundation is a national not-for-profit organization, established in memory of J. Patrick Barnes, by members of his family. Patrick died at the age of 33 in late 1999 from complications of idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP), a little known but not uncommon auto-immune disease (DAISY is an acronym for Diseases Attacking the Immune System). The care Patrick and his family received from nurses while he was ill inspired this unique means of thanking nurses for making a profound difference in the lives of their patients and patient families. More information is available at