Top National Winner, RN Category
As a registered nurse at Poudre Valley Hospital, in Fort Collins, CO, Rita Stern, BS, BSN, RN, lives to help terminally ill cancer patients cope with two of their greatest concerns: pain management and unfinished business. She works late nights and early mornings to help patients and their loved ones in their struggles. A dedicated mentor, Stern is equally committed to teaching other nurses how to care for the terminally ill as they learn the vital skills of end-of-life care.
For the superior care and unrelenting support Stern provides for her patients, she has won the Cherokee Inspired Comfort Award. She is one of 10 honorees nationwide in 2008. The award is granted by Cherokee Uniforms to recognize nurses and other non-physician healthcare professionals who demonstrate exceptional service, sacrifice and innovation and have a positive impact on others' lives. This is the 6th year Cherokee Uniforms has honored inspirational caregivers, with hopes that the winners' stories will encourage the nation's brightest students to enter the healthcare professions.
"My greatest joy comes from giving the patients peace no matter what stage of the journey they are experiencing – this is my greatest job, my most critical and challenging role that makes me give 110 percent."
"Rita Stern prepares her terminally ill patients to die peacefully and their loved ones to live on with meaningful reminders and memories that she helped to craft," says Wendell Mobley, who directs the company's charitable and scholarship programs. "It's such a crucial time for those patients to feel they have emotional support, and Rita often puts their needs before her own."
One patient, the mother of small boys, experienced Stern's dedication first hand during the final two months of her struggle with malignant melanoma. The nurse worked after hours to videotape the patient reading her boys their favorite bedtime stories, talking about how she knew she loved their father and expressing the feelings she had during her pregnancy with them. Due to Stern's commitment, the woman was able to offer advice on topics such as qualities to look for in a wife and how to overcome adversity in life. Stern didn't stop there—she helped the woman prepare gifts to be given to her children at certain milestones in their lives, including key chains for their 16th birthdays and cards for every occasion.
There were others. When she cared for a man who was dying of a brain tumor, Stern learned that his only child resented him for divorcing his mother and remarrying. Although the son refused to communicate with his father at the time, Stern knew that both of them would require closure before the man's death. She suggested that the patient write letters to his son, created an outline for him when he struggled on topics to cover, and even penned the letters once he became too weak to do so himself.
Stern was nominated by Glenna Murdock, a woman who interviewed her for an article about her amazing work which appeared on a popular nursing website. As a Top National Winner in the award's Registered Nurse category, Stern receives an all-expense-paid trip to a 2009 medical conference, an annual membership to her preferred clinical association, a $500 donation to her preferred nonprofit organization, a $1000 wardrobe featuring the best of Cherokee Uniforms and Cherokee Footwear, and a crystal trophy. She also will appear in the nationally distributed Cherokee Inspired Comfort Award 2009 calendar.
"My greatest joy comes from giving the patients peace no matter what stage of the journey they are experiencing. However, there is a special time—a small window—when a patient is no longer on a curative path but a supportive one. This window is my biggest, most important opportunity. It is during this time that I help the patient participate in the future through my legacy projects. This is my greatest job, my most critical and challenging role that makes me give 110 percent," expresses Stern.
Since the Cherokee Inspired Comfort Award was established in 2003, nearly 7,000 healthcare professionals have been nominated in the Registered Nurse, Advanced Practice Nurse, Licensed Practical Nurse/Licensed Vocational Nurse, Student Nurse and Non-Physician Healthcare Professional categories. A panel of Cherokee representatives and past Cherokee Inspired Comfort Award recipients evaluates nominations and grants the awards.
For every nomination, Cherokee Uniforms donated $1 to Nurse's House, a national fund that provides short-term financial assistance to registered nurses facing serious hardship. Proceeds from Cherokee Uniforms products support healthcare professionals through initiatives such as the Cherokee Inspired Comfort Award, an annual calendar and the A Nurse I Am Film and Scholarship Program. Cherokee Uniforms will be accepting nominations for the 2009 Cherokee Inspired Comfort Award beginning March 1st through May 31st, 2009.