Gina Russo-Sonafelt

Gina Russo-Sonafelt

Gina Russo-Sonafelt, RN, BSN

Psychiatric Consult & Liaison
Western Psychiatric Institute & Clinic
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
United States
Every day Gina spends countless hours advocating for excellent care and compassion for patients and their families while supporting the staff so they can be engaged to serve patients and families better themselves.

There really are no words to adequately describe the wonderful amalgam of professionalism and collegiality, dedicated work ethic and ever-readiness to share a smile or laugh, true humanism and empathy, specialized clinical ability and plain old-fashioned gumption that Gina is.

I entered East and immediately recognized that while I was a stranger in a new land, I was being introduced into the East community by a member who knew and was liked by all, Psychiatrist, Consult-Liaison Service, the “mayor” if you will. I personally appreciated it, as it made me feel part of the team right away, and I have seen her do that with other new staff consistently. She engages with the East community not just because she is a friend to all, but because she always makes a special effort to collaborate with every staff member of every discipline and department in order to further better care for her patients and their families. She is truly a “love me, love my friends” sort of person, and she shows every patient, patient’s family member, and staff member that she values them as a friend would.

This has a contagion factor more endemic than any virus or bacteria because there is a visible trail of aftermath when Gina has interactions with people, varying from relief of suffering to respect for others, and while she would never believe it her humble self, I can attest to the fact that she serves as a key role model to the East community.

Every day she spends countless hours advocating for excellent care and compassion for patients and their families while supporting the staff so they can be engaged to serve patients and families better themselves. There are clinical decisions to be made every day for patients, whether that means coordinating transfers to inpatient psychiatric units or assisting with outpatient services and supports or just gaining rapport with patients so they are empowered to choose care for themselves. Medications, mindfulness exercises, sometimes just an hour of conversation to help a person or a family member in distress – all are presented without pressure or judgment, and everyone is given the chance to participate in their own healing process. Capacity assessments often require liaison work more than a simple capacity evaluation, and the efforts of this work can be the daily above and beyond Gina does without question or reserve. She does not clock out and she does not check out; her work is hugely important to her and her identity as a nurse, a healer, a caregiver is evident within 30 seconds of meeting her. When patients are depressed or families in crisis, she provides an ear, a shoulder, a warm clasp of the hand and a connection truly healing in its nature. She also makes a practical difference, culling all resources in the hospital and community and finding ways to enact change for the sake of patient care. When patients or families have been intimidating or thrown racial slurs at me, a visible minority, she has physically placed herself between them and me in a protective stance to ensure safety and always established appropriate boundaries that showed respect to all. When staff were upset by a tough situation, she comes in with solutions and smiles to alleviate the angst. Figuring out the kinks in any difficult scenario takes persistence, perseverance, and patience, and somehow when Gina is involved, the unworkable situation smooths out so that the patients get to the proper care setting, the family’s anxieties are quelled, the staff’s stress is diminished, and everyone feels heard and valued.

I cannot count the number of times that patients and families or friends have unsolicited told me how wonderful, compassionate, helpful, and all around amazing Gina was with them. As one patient put it quite expressively, “That Gina – she is the S--T!” While the word choice is comical, it shows how much reciprocal enthusiasm she garners from the people she encounters. Suffice it to say, she gets to know every patient, bonds with families and friends, and never ever looks at her watch. She is what every nurse should strive to be. In reality, she is what every person should strive to be, we are all the winners for having known her.


Gina possesses a number of qualities that would make her a DAISY Nurse. She is a committed hard worker who exudes compassion, empathy, and clinical professionalism. On behalf of the care managers and social workers who work frequently with Gina, I cannot express how much we value her and depend on her. We would not be able to do our jobs without her role in general, but her attitude and willingness to help is such an asset.

Gina has a work ethic that is unmatched. She stays late and comes in on days off to attend to the needs of her patients. She also has touched base with patients once they’ve discharged to nursing facilities to ensure that they are doing well. These are things that Gina doesn’t need to do but does anyway to ensure the wellbeing of her patients. She offers guidance consistently to our department with her clinical knowledge, which we depend on. Gina makes herself available and never makes you feel like she’s busy or doesn’t have time to talk. Although, she is frequently busy.

Gina advocates for her patients on a daily basis. She works with the peer navigator, social workers, nurses, care managers, and doctors to ensure that the patient receives the services needed and appropriate for discharge. Recently, there was a patient who Gina was able to reach and reason with while the rest of the team could not. This allowed for Gina to help in assisting with the best plan of action for the patient.

Gina is the type of colleague who helps motivate and encourage others. She is selfless and positive. In every way, she is what others aspire to be professionally.