A bilingual nurse with roots in Venezuela is Nurse of the Year at Advocate Sherman Hospital in Elgin, where his father and older brother once worked.
Ben Castells, 31, works in the catheterization lab with a team of so-called "heart plumbers" who help heart attack patients with artery blockages. Castells' nomination was among 16 submitted to a panel of clinical nurses, said Cheri Goll, Sherman's vice president/chief nurse executive. The hospital employs more than 700 nurses.
"He's a skilled clinician, he's a compassionate, connected caregiver. He's a spectacular partner and wingman, and that came through (in the nomination)," Goll said. "He's also incredibly active in the community."
Castells, 31, is active at the Brazilian Community Seventh-day Adventist Church in Downers Grove, where services are in Portuguese, spoken by his wife. The couple are raising their kids to be trilingual.
Castells emigrated from Venezuela at age 2 after his father, a lay pastor, got a position with a Seventh-day Adventist church in California.
He moved to Illinois in 2007, the year he got married, and got a job at Sherman. His wife has family in the area and wanted to go to Northern Illinois University to get a master's degree, he explained. The couple live in Huntley and have three children.
Castells' father worked at Sherman in housekeeping, and his brother was a critical care nurse. That's who inspired him to get into nursing when he was younger, Castells said.
"To be an excellent nurse it takes compassion. It takes being able to be self-driven and being able to see the needs in others and be able to put that first," he said. "Having that joy in being a nurse ... that's another aspect, being able to love what you do."
His patients are often anxious first-timers and their unease worsens if they are not fluent in English, he said. That's when being bilingual really helps. "It's a sense of relief when they have someone in the room that's able to speak their same language," he said. "You can see it in their faces."
Castells' goal is to become a nurse anesthetist, which requires a master's degree. "It's a work in progress," said Castells, who has an associate degree in nursing and is working on getting a bachelor's from Chamberlain College of Nursing.
Sherman spokeswoman Jennifer Benson said Castells was "poached" from critical care by the cath lab team, which was impressed by the quality of his work when a patient was having a heart attack.
"They saw him at work and asked him if he wanted to join," she said. "His team chose him."