Nursing assistant at Valley Health Services receives statewide recognition

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COOPERSTOWN — Valley Health Services (VHS) and LeadingAge New York recently recognized the extraordinary service of Kathleen Cimino, a certified nursing assistant (CNA) and hairdresser at VHS, with a 2021 Employee of Distinction Award. Lisa Betrus, VHS president and Bassett Healthcare Network senior vice-president, presented Cimino with the award at a caregiver celebration in November. LeadingAge New York then recognized Cimino in their virtual Annual Awards Ceremony in early December.

“When I learned about this award, I cried,” says Cimino. “We kind of lose track of why we’re here in the day-to-day rush. You don’t go in each morning to do something good—you do it because you have to. Getting something like this focuses you again.”

Like so many other things, Cimino’s successful 24 year career as a hairdresser at VHS was interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020. Rather than just closing shop during the lockdown, she chose to enroll in CNA classes in order to serve VHS residents in a new capacity. When she was certified in August, 2020 she began the hardest job she’s ever done—and loved it.

“Kathy was among the first at VHS to volunteer to care for COVID positive patients,” says Betrus. “She is a family member of a VHS resident, so she understands on a very personal level how crucial it is for residents to have someone close on their toughest days. She put herself in the path of the virus to be the liaison they needed to listen, understand and help them. She has been an important source of comfort and support for our residents.”

As a CNA, Cimino monitors residents’ vitals, charts progress and helps them eat, use the restroom, and maintain good hygiene. But she also volunteers her own time with the Activities Department and continues to wash, set and primp residents’ hair.

“Kathy Cimino is very good to me,” explained a VHS resident in Cimino’s award nomination. “She calls me her ‘adopted grandmother.’ She has a way about her that makes residents feel comfortable. And as a hairdresser, Kathy makes me feel beautiful.”

Cimino understands hairdressing as a vital part of caring for residents’ emotional wellbeing. “When you look good, you feel good,” she explains.

LeadingAge New York, formerly the New York Association of Homes & Services for the Aging, represents over 600 not-for-profit continuing-care providers across New York State. Nominees for its annual Employee of Distinction awards come from member organizations but recipients are chosen by LeadingAge. Cimino is the 2021 winner for the eleven-county Central/North Region.

To learn more about Valley Health Services, go online to www.bassett.org/locations/valley-health-services or call 315-866-3330.

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