Where Nurses Mean the World: Rhonda Draper

Jan 9 2020

Meet Nurse of the Year Finalist Rhonda Draper, RN

When Rhonda Draper was just three years old, her father was struck by a car on a dark country road. His battle to survive and the accident’s long-lasting effects on him strongly influenced Rhonda’s desire to become a nurse.

“I just knew I wanted to help and give back, like nurses helped my dad,” she says.

Rhonda pursued her dream and is now a labor and delivery, maternal child charge nurse at Mercy Health – Lourdes Hospital in Paducah, KY. It’s the same obstetrics unit she joined for her first nursing job more than two decades ago and is the type of unit you just don’t want to leave.

“We have a very special, small obstetrics unit,” says Rhonda. “We want to be more of a family to the patient and not just a nurse.”

Supporting moms, babies and colleagues

Rhonda is known for bringing joy and enthusiasm to the unit. She helps mothers with her calm, encouraging, caring and upbeat demeanor. She also keeps families fully informed to ease their stress and helps them understand what to expect.

In addition to being a strong advocate for her patients, she continually teaches and coaches her team. Rhonda has been an instructor for the floor’s neonatal resuscitation program more than 15 years. She also serves as a preceptor, or someone who trains new staff. An important aspect of her role is teaching her nurses to be educators, too.

“You’re teaching the whole family about childbirth, about the new baby and going home,” she explains.

Rhonda adds that the most rewarding part of being a labor and delivery nurse is the patient’s appreciation.

“That means more to me than anything. Whether it was a normal delivery or a scary cesarean section, when they say ‘thank you,’ that’s all I need,” she says.

A prestigious honor

Rhonda’s dedication to providing extraordinary care was recently recognized with a prestigious honor: she was named one of two finalists for the 2019 Press Ganey Nurse of the Year Award, a highly respected recognition program.

The award states that it “recognizes the contributions of an outstanding direct care nurse who has gone above and beyond in his/her role and demonstrated care innovation, transformation and collaboration that supports an exceptional patient experience.”

“She’s just a stellar nurse and absolutely doing what she’s been called to do,” says Janet Simerly, chief nursing officer for Mercy Health’s hospitals in Kentucky.

Rhonda was delighted by the reward, but she feels that caring for babies and mothers at Lourdes Hospital is truly a team effort.

“I wouldn’t be able to do what I do if I didn’t have an excellent team,” Rhonda explains.

Learn about the maternity care services available at Mercy Health.

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