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EMS council honors Upstate University Hospital nurse for job well done

Joseph Zelenyak


Emergency departments are bustling with activity, filled with doctors and nurses treating a variety of patients in varying conditions. For emergency medical service (EMS) crews arriving by ambulance with their own patients, entering that environment can be difficult.

PEF Member Joseph Zelenyak, an RN and clinical leader at Upstate University Hosptial, makes it his mission every shift to keep the emergency department, and any other place patients enter the hospital, running efficiently.

“I serve as a kind of liaison between the emergency department and the EMS world,” Zelenyak said. “The clinical leader and/or charge nurse is the first point of contact for EMS arriving to the emergency department, making sure that we are getting the patients the care that they need in a timely manner.”

His efforts haven’t gone unnoticed.

On May 21, the Central New York EMS Regional Council named Zelenyak this year’s Registered Professional Nurse of Excellence. The annual award is given to an RN who “contributes to the EMS community by showing dedication, professional behavior, ingenuity, and insight into the pre-hospital environment,” according to a press release from Upstate University Hospital.

“When the ambulances are rolling in, a clinical leader is who they are coordinating with,” Zelenyak said of his job. “I also make sure staff assignments are appropriate and I intervene when there is a crisis. I deal with real time issues that arise within the department.”

If Zelenyak sees an EMS crew waiting too long in a hallway, he’ll approach and deal with the situation as best he can so the crew can get back out on the streets.

“I think it’s important to identify the EMS community as part of the whole health care team,” Zelenyak said. “I get a sense sometimes they don’t feel that way. They are bringing patients into crowded situations. There is a lot of activity going on and a lot of stress. They need to offload so they can get back out. I’ve just tried to facilitate that transition as efficiently as I can.”

Zelenyak was nominated by Doug Sandbrook, EMS liaison and director of EMS education at Upstate University Hospital. “While our area hospitals struggle with ED overcrowding and delays, Joe goes out of his way to acknowledge EMS staff, support the ED nursing staff, and find creative ways to expedite the offload process to ensure patients get access to quality care in a timely fashion,” Sandbrook stated in the Upstate University Hospital release.

For Zelenyak, making EMS crews a part of the team is a key part of the process. “Even just acknowledging them,” he said. “It’s just a level of civility and teamwork and respect for the role they provide. I’ve always welcomed them in as part of the team instead of an outsider. It’s all one team.”

Zelenyak began his career with Upstate University Hospital in 1991. He has served as a clinical leader at the hospital since 1999. Over the course of his more than 20 years as a nurse, he has received several recognition awards, including the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Classified Service in 2013 and nursing awards from Upstate University Hospital  in 2007 and 2011. Upstate University Hospital is part of SUNY Upstate Medical Center.

The CNY EMS Regional Council serves Cayuga, Cortland, Onondaga, Oswego and Tompkins counties.

Table of Contents – July-August 2019

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