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ELIH’s Nurse of the Year honoree retiring after 36 years

When Patti Damuck and her husband, Jay, spent a pair of summers on Shelter Island more than 35 years ago, they never imagined they’d make a life there.

Ms. Damuck had recently quit her job as a nurse at a busy city hospital in Connecticut and the couple was enjoying time spent traveling.

She ended up working shifts as an emergency room nurse at Eastern Long Island Hospital those two summers and she hasn’t left since.

Ms. Damuck, who will retire this August after 40 years in health care, was recently named recipient of ELIH’s Laura Goodale Nurse of the Year Award.

“I’ve given all my time and career to the ER, so it’s really nice to be recognized,” Ms. Damuck said in an interview this week.

The award is given each year in memory of former nurse Laura Goodale, who, like Ms. Damuck, spent four decades in the profession. Ms. Goodale was once dubbed the “Florence Nightingale” of the North Fork. The award, initiated in 1986, is given by the Rotary clubs of Southold and Greenport, which will also make donations to ELIH in honor of Ms. Damuck’s commitment to nursing, according to a press release.

Ms. Damuck said that after a handful of years working in the “rat race” at a big city hospital, life at ELIH really grew on her.

“I was in my twenties; I never thought I would stay there,” she said, thinking back to days when it would often be just her and one doctor working alone at the small hospital on Manor Place in Greenport.

She said she now appreciates the uniqueness of the North Fork hospital, due to its smaller nature and community relationships.

“It’s such a community feeling,” Ms. Damuck said. “I was taking care of babies and then seeing them have children and taking care of their babies.”

Today, Ms. Damuck is the charge nurse for triage, trauma and patient care on the 3 to 11 p.m. shift and has earned awards in the past for perfect attendance. She has taken only one sick day in the past 10 years.

The honors don’t get old in her profession.

“A lot of times there is no one really except yourself to pat you on the back,” she said.

Ms. Damuck’s colleagues said they’re excited for her.

“I think it’s fantastic that she is being honored,” said nurse manager Peter Garofalo. “She is surely going to be missed. She is one of the best charge nurses we have.”

D. Patricia Pispisa, senior vice president for patient care services and chief nursing officer at ELIH, said Ms. Damuck is “extremely responsive to patients and families.”

“Her calm and friendly demeanor puts everyone at ease,” Ms. Pispisa said.

Ms. Damuck will be honored at a dinner hosted by the Rotary clubs on Tuesday, June 20, from 6 to 9 p.m. at Hellenic Snack Bar & Restaurant in East Marion.

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Photo: Patti Damuck outside Eastern Long Island Hospital. (Credit: Rachel Siford)