Winning a prestigious award is a career-changing experience. In Illinois, no professional recognition is more impactful for nurses than the Illinois Nurse of the Year Award.
Last year’s winner, Jackie Kelley, sat down in an exclusive interview to share how the Nurse of the Year Award opened doors for her.
Winning the Nurse of the Year in One Word: Shocking
For Jackie, the moment she found out she was the winner of the INF Nurse of the Year Award was nothing short of shocking.
“If I had to describe it in one word, it would be shocking, I just didn’t see it coming.”
Jackie was surprised to have even been nominated for the award, so hearing herself be announced as its winner was quite a revelation. “It was such an honor. It was incredibly heartwarming and reaffirming that what I do makes a difference,” she said.
At the 2022 Illinois Nurses Foundation Holiday Gala, Jackie had the chance to meet all of the nominees for the award and learn about the many contributions the group had made to nursing. It was an exciting opportunity to network and make outstanding connections within the nursing community.
The Gala gave her a chance to learn about the nursing opportunities that the INF offered. “Seeing all of the things that the INF had set up and all the opportunities that they talked about that I just wasn’t really aware of. It was really great. I immediately was like, oh, I’m coming next year!”
Nurse of the Year: A Life and Career-Changing Impact for Jackie
One of the most significant changes in Jackie’s career since winning the INF Nurse of the Year Award was stepping into nursing
education. Jackie took on the role of a pediatric nursing clinical instructor for undergraduate BSN students at Loyola University—the opportunity arose when she met a mentor on campus. She fell in love with teaching. “It’s been so much fun to see the students be really excited about nursing.”
Winning the Illinois Nurse of the Year award has had a profound impact not just on Jackie’s professional life, but her personal life as well. It served as a reminder that her work is vital and makes a difference in patients’ lives. “I need to remember that it is important,” she acknowledged.
The award reignited her passion and pride in being a nurse, providing her with validation and a sense of purpose, especially coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Inspiration for Future Winners
Jackie’s advice for future Nurse of the Year award winners is to recognize they are deserving of the recognition and to not underestimate their contributions.
“You do deserve it,” she emphasized. “No matter what we do in nursing, no matter what area we practice in or clinical, non-clinical, we should all be really proud to be a nurse.”
She also believes that nurses, no matter their specialization, should be proud of their profession and continue making a difference. She encourages future winners to stay passionate about nursing and potentially explore new opportunities within the field, as she did with teaching.
Supporting Illinois’ Nurses: There For Us When We Need Them Most
If you are excited about supporting the nursing profession, the Illinois Nurses Foundation’s Holiday Gala is right around the corner. The Illinois Nurses Foundation recognizes the impact Illinois’ nurses have in our communities, as well as provides a variety of support services for Illinois’ nurses.
Illinois’ nurses are there for us when we need them most—we ask you to join us in celebrating their commitment and accomplishments.