Editor’s Note: McKnight’s Long-Term Care News and McKnight’s Senior Living are profiling the McKnight’s 2021 Women of Distinction honorees daily July 6 through Aug. 9. To see the 2021 McKnight’s 2021 Women of Distinction awards ceremony, register for free here. For additional profiles of McKnight’s Women of Distinction, visit this page.

Nemse Paguntalan headshot
Nemse Paguntalan

Beginning a career in healthcare and being able to care for others are difficult enough on their own, but add a limited knowledge of English and U.S. culture, and it becomes all the more daunting. But not for Nemse Paguntalan.

Paguntalan immigrated to the United States after receiving a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree from the University of St. La Salle in the Philippines. She then became a registered nurse and began her career in long-term care. For the past 23 years, she has held leadership positions and now is the assistant director of nursing at Fellowship Senior Living, a life plan community in Basking Ridge, NJ. 

Although colleagues have been able to recognize many of her talents, she is best known for her knowledge of infection control and compliance. This has helped her become an essential member of Fellowship’s clinical team and has helped the skilled nursing facility to maintain a five-star rating from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. 

Paguntalan was asked to step in as interim director of nursing in what her colleagues describe as one of the most demanding times for nursing and care staff. During the COVID-19 pandemic, she assumed responsibility for more than 100 residents and took a “boots on the ground” approach to their care. She was able to provide necessary attention to these residents, support staff members and employees, continue clinical training and educate others on infection control protocols. 

Fellowship Human Resources Director Luisa Mota says Paguntalan has made a huge difference in residents’ lives. 

“She embodies everything a nursing professional should be,” Mota says. “Through her unquestionable commitment to the long-term care industry, older adults, their families and especially her ability to successfully lead a team through a pandemic, she has exceedingly demonstrated her leadership acumen.”

Paguntalan herself describes serving older adults as her passion. She constantly makes herself an available resource to team members, families and residents. Colleagues say she is an invaluable asset to the organization.

The McKnight’s Women of Distinction program is jointly administered by McKnight’s Long-Term Care News and McKnight’s Senior Living. The program’s Diamond sponsor is PointClickCare, and the Roundtable Sponsor is Paycor.