They are an integral part of any medical experience. Most of the time, it’s the doctor who gets the glory, but it’s the nurse who serves the important and multifaceted supporting role.

Wilton resident Jill Ely, a nurse in the Diabetes Center at Stamford Hospital, was recognized for her work as a recipient of the Nightingale Award for Excellence for Nursing. The award was developed by the Visiting Nurse Association of Southwestern Connecticut.

The honor celebrates outstanding nurses who have made a significant impact on patient care and have gone above what is nominally expected.

“The award is very meaningful to me,” Ms. Ely said. “I was nominated by a nurse from another department and my director. It is an honor to be recognized by another nurse. I felt I was just doing my job, so to me I was not doing anything that was exemplary.”

Including Ms. Ely, 13 Stamford Hospital nurses received the Nightingale Award.

“Our nurses are experts in their field who make a lasting and significant contribution to the nursing profession every day,” said Ellen Komar, Stamford Hospital’s vice president of patient care services and chief nursing officer. “We are proud to have their commitment to excellence recognized and to have so many of our professionals honored year over year with the Nightingale award.”

In a career that spans three decades, Ms. Ely has been at Stamford Hospital for five years. Other career stops include Yale-New Haven Hospital and Norwalk Hospital, where she spent 20 years as a diabetes educator.

A 1975 graduate of Wilton High School, she received her bachelor’s degree in nursing from Salve Regina University in Newport, R.I. She continued her education by earning a master’s degree in nursing from Sacred Heart University in Fairfield and a master’s in health sciences from Quinnipiac University in Hamden. She is also a member of the Sigma Theta Tau honor society for nursing.

Ms. Ely continues to live in Wilton with her husband, Bill. The couple have three grown children, Sarah, Jamie, and Will. Her parents still call Wilton home as well, and that’s where the foundation was laid for her career.

“I always was interested in the sciences as a child,” she said. “My mother is a nurse, so I had an idea what nurses did, and felt it would be something I would like to do. I also considered a career as a teacher, but my interest in medicine was my passion.

“As a teenager, I was very lucky to have a job in a doctor’s office, who happened to be a specialist in diabetes. It was that experience that started my love of working with people with diabetes.”

Ms. Ely’s son, Will, is an EMT, and she said two nieces are considering going into nursing.

“I hope I have been a role model for them,” she said.

She also serves on the board of directors at Giant Steps School in Southport, a private school for students diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder.

“As a parent of a child on the autism spectrum, I am an advocate for children and adults with special needs,” she said.

According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, there are 3.1 million registered nurses in the United States. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that number will grow faster than most occupations by 2018.

Ms. Ely’s credentials are extensive, given her career and education. Besides being an advanced practice registered nurse, she is also a family nurse practitioner, and a certified diabetes educator.

Now she’s a winner of an award that celebrates outstanding nurses and elevates the nursing profession.

According to a press release, the goals of the Nightingale Award are “to encourage retention, inspire future nurses, focus public attention, and recognize the breadth and scope of nursing practice at the local level.”

Stamford Hospital’s Diabetes and Endocrine Center recently participated in a two-year clinical trial for oral insulin. The hospital’s website called it “a breakthrough for patients who have insurmountable difficulties with injectable insulin.”

Results of the study, however, are not available yet.

In a 2011 patient satisfaction survey, over 95% said they would recommend the center to friends and family. The center received a 97% rating “for friendliness and sensitivity of staff.”

That, of course, includes Ms. Ely.

“I cannot think of any other career that would be more rewarding to me,” she said. “I am able to use so many skills as a nurse practitioner. You can be a caregiver, a counselor, a teacher, and a healer. I cannot think of any other job in health care that can provide you with more satisfaction.”

For more about the nursing program, visit Sacred Heart University.