A newsmaker you should know: Nurse at Heritage Valley Beaver recognized as exceptional

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When asked if she enjoys her job as a registered nurse on the Level 2 Medical Unit at Heritage Valley Beaver, Rhonda Brightwell of Chippewa said she always emphatically gives this answer — "absolutely."

Ms. Brightwell recently was recognized for her passion for the profession at the 15th Cameos of Caring Awards Gala Nov. 2 at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, Downtown.

The Cameos of Caring Award honors exceptional bedside nurses who work in acute care hospitals. Recipients must demonstrate a commitment to consistent, evidenced based clinical decision-making and excellence in nursing care; serve as an effective advocate for patients and their families; encourage and motivate others, and be recognized as a role model for the profession of nursing.

They must also practice nursing involving direct patient care, be a licensed RN, and be a direct employee of the hospital.

Ms. Brightwell said she was very surprised to have been selected as an awardee because it is such a high honor in her field.

“There are a lot of nurses that you kind of compare yourself to and so to be put into that category is very humbling,” she said. “It’s a very nice compliment. It really speaks to what others think of me so it’s a really great honor.”

Though she appreciated the recognition, Ms. Brightwell said the glory of her profession rests in the lives she’s touched or that were made better while she was on shift.

She described herself as a bedside nurse and said often it’s the simple things she does that have the most meaning to her patients, such as taking a couple of extra minutes to go over hospital discharge instructions, teaching them about a new medication, or holding their hand when they’re scared.

“It’s part of what you do, but they feel better because you did that,” she said. “That’s what I take out of what I do and it’s what keeps me going back. It’s just so rewarding.”

Though becoming a nurse is the culmination of a long-time dream that began when she was in middle school, Ms. Brightwell shelved her dream upon graduating from high school -- she says that life got in the way -- and began waitressing, and then got married and started a family.

However, after the birth of her third child, she said she was beginning to feel stagnant and that she really needed to challenge herself, so she enrolled in a scholarship program at Ohio Valley General Hospital that allowed her to go to nursing school.

“It was perfect timing and everything just kind of fell into place,” she said. “I began the next chapter.”

Upon completion of the program, she worked at Ohio Valley General Hospital for two years, and then came to Heritage Valley Beaver in November 2006.

Though Ms. Brightwell said becoming a nurse was one of the hardest things she’s ever done, particularly while caring for a young family, it’s something she has never regretted and it’s a chapter in her life that she doesn’t plan to close any time soon.

“At the end of day, would I do something else? Never. This is it,” she said.

Shannon Nass, freelance writer: suburbanliving@post-gazette.com

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