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Two LIJ Forest Hills nurses applauded after a combined 90 years in healthcare

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(Left to right) Nurses Phyllis Prawzinsky and Tracey Basta and LIJ Forest Hills Executive Director Lorraine Chambers Lewis, PA-C (Photo by LIJ Forest Hills)

Friends and colleagues of two LIJ Forest Hills nurses gathered Thursday to honor them as they prepare to retire. Nurses Phyllis Prawzinsky and Tracey Basta were surprised with a round of applause as they prepared to finish their final shifts.

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Nurse Phyllis Prawzinsky being clapped out (Photo by LIJ Forest Hills)

Both nurses began their careers in the healthcare industry in the 1970s. They have more than 90 years of combined experience. They also both worked tirelessly throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

Prawzinsky, 67, started out as an ICU nurse at a Manhattan hospital. She’s spent 43 years as a nurse, including 10 as the nurse manager of a step-down intensive care unit. As a nurse manager, she cared for the 1,000th COVID-19 patient at LIJ Forest Hills, who was released in June 2020.

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Photo by LIJ Forest Hills

“It was a very, very exciting day,” Prawzinsky said. “The patient had been in the hospital for five weeks. He represented so many patients who were struggling  at that time to get better and get out of the hospital. Representatives from every hospital unit within the building came down to clap him out, from the 10th floor all the way to second floor. It was not just clapping for him, but clapping for each other and what we’d been through.”

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Tracey Basta (Photo courtesy of LIJ Forest Hills)

Basta, 61, began her nursing career when she was just 16 years old at LIJ Valley Stream, back when it was known as Franklin General Hospital. After starting out as an electrocardiography (EKG) technician, she then became a licensed practical nurse, registered nurse then earned a bachelor’s in science in nursing (BSN). Of the 45 years she’s spent working at Northwell Health hospitals, 14 of them have been at LIJ Forest Hills, acting as the nurse manager of the emergency department.

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Photo by LIJ Forest Hills

“I love taking care of the elderly,” Basta said. “I sing to them. I hold their hand. We have mothers come in with babies and you can see they’re scared out of their minds and I make them comfortable. That’s how I put my head on my pillow at night, because I know I took good care of them. That’s what being a nurse is: it’s medicine, it’s keeping them safe and it’s making them know everything is going to be OK, even when it’s not.”

While they may be retiring, both nurses said they plan to come back to LIJ Forest Hills on a per diem basis.

As they look forward to their lives as retirees, Prawzinsky intends to enjoy more time with her grandchildren while Basta intends to help out with her family’s East Hampton flower farm.

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