Described by her mentors as exemplifying Florence Nightingale’s vision of nursing, Karen Reyes Benzi, RN, was named Yale New Haven Hospital’s 2019 Magnet Nurse of the Year on July 3 for her outstanding contributions to the field of nursing. Benzi is a Navy veteran, an infusion nurse at Yale New Haven Hospital’s Smilow Cancer Center, and a student in Southern’s RN to BSN online program. Benzi has helped many patients who are also veterans access services from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and other organizations.
Benzi began the BSN program uncertain if she would have the self-discipline to complete a course load fully online, but she was quick to find her footing. She has gained a new level of courage, she says, as she has submitted a clinical nurse II package this past October. “It was tough writing it all up but I could see how school was helping me see things differently,” Benzi wrote in an email voicing her gratitude to her professors at Southern. She also expresses her desire to mentor others, and she has been succeeding at it. Benzi writes, “Two women I mentor via the Literacy Volunteers of Greater New Haven successfully finished their first semester at Gateway Community College.”
Benzi’s latest accolade is one of many, according to Dr. Kim Lacey, RN-BSN program director. “In May 2019, Karen received the Immaculata Alba Excellence in Nursing Award,” Lacey says, “which was recommended by SCSU nursing faculty for her demonstrated high degree of excellence in nursing, and she was also the recipient of the Nightingale Award for Excellence in Nursing, a prestigious award that recognizes nurses who have demonstrated exceptional nursing practice and strive to advance the profession.”
Lacey recognizes Benzi’s unique, hardworking, and compassionate approach, explaining, “The effort that [Benzi] puts into her work is beyond expectations and not achievable by all students. Her level of commitment to nursing and her advocacy, especially for her patients, is exceptional.” Regarding Benzi’s status as a Navy veteran, Lacey comments, “She is able to bring a perspective to the classroom unlike others in her peer group. Be it her experience in the military, a woman in the VA system, or as a nurse, she offers insight into nursing and healthcare that is eye-opening at times, but at the very least, makes one pause to consider.”
SCSU Nursing Department Chair Cheryl Resha comments, “Karen is a shining example of the benefits of an RN to BSN program. She has not only applied her learning to advance high-quality patient care, but she has shown how furthering her education can advanced her career and leadership potential.”
The RN to BSN program at Southern is dedicated to offering individualized attention to students and considers the rich background of experience of the RN in terms of both clinical and classroom settings. The faculty and staff recognize the unique experiences that these nurses bring to the program and build on these experiences through leadership, informatics, evidence-based practices, and advanced clinical concepts.