Willi Kirenko receives the Jerry Gerow Award (Photo via NPAOntario Twitter)

Local nurse practitioner receives prestigious award

A Chatham woman is being honoured for her outstanding work in the nursing field.

Last week, Willi Kirenko was given the Jerry Gerow Award during The Nurse Practitioners’ Association of Ontario conference in Toronto. The award was named after Jerry Gerow, a founding member of the provincial nurse practitioner’s association and was created in honour of her leadership in the association.

Born and raised in Chatham, Kirenko has been a registered nurse for 40 years and a nurse practitioner for 20. She was nominated by her peers for her work as a nurse practitioner and her own leadership both in the field and in the Nurse Practitioners’ Association of Ontario.

“I was recognized for my headship skills in the association, I was a past president. Currently, as a nurse practitioner, I specialize in assisting people with exploring medical assistance in dying. So that’s what I was recognized for,” she explained.

Kirenko has co-lead several training sessions to teach fellow nurse practitioners and physicians how to follow medical assistance in dying laws and processes. She said it was an honour to receive an award with such an important history.

“It was simply amazing,” Kirenko exclaimed. “It was honestly unexpected. It feels like my specialty in this assisted dying work is something that I’m quite passionate about that I would help others with and help with training and guidance whether there was an award or not.”

Kirenko has received a few awards throughout her career but said the Jerry Gerow award was the most “remarkable” one. Despite being in the industry for over four decades, she still has a deep love for what she does. She encourages people who are just starting out in their careers or people who are looking for a career change to consider the healthcare field.

“There are so many opportunities to talk with patients and their families and improve health in communities,” she said. “I think the nurse practitioner role is an outstanding role for anyone considering advanced practice nursing. I would encourage everyone to consider a career in nursing and then in advanced practice nursing.”