SGCMH CNO approaches career milestone
As a surprise for her upcoming “50th” anniversary, the hospital arranged for Rita and a few of her friends to get some “field time.” It was a cold day for the game, so not many players were on the field prior to the game, but Rita did manage to snag Trevor Rosenthal’s autograph. Pictured left to right are Naomi Glassey, Rita Brumfield, Diana LaRose, Lisa Bird and Wand Roth.
“My grandma was always looking for a nun, a teacher or a nurse in the family. The first two didn’t do much for me.”
Now well into her 50th year as a nurse, Rita Brumfield, Chief Nursing Officer (CNO) at Ste. Genevieve County Memorial Hospital still thanks her Grandma Meyer for planting the seed.
When Rita was attending Valle High School, one of her class assignments was to write an essay about why Ste. Genevieve needs a hospital. It was sponsored by American Legion Post 150 to promote the plans for the proposed Ste. Genevieve County Hospital and the bond issue to be voted on May 5, 1964. Rita won first place and $25 for her efforts. Little did she know that her nursing career would bring her full circle.
She attended Southeast Missouri State University and enrolled in their nursing program, the first university in the state to offer the associates degree in nursing.
“I was used to the uniforms at Valle, but I didn’t expect to have to wear them at a public college,” she said. “SEMO was almost as strict. Your hair had to be a certain way, you couldn’t wear jewelry, skirts had to be a certain length, etc.”
SEMO was obviously preparing nurses for the “lovely uniforms” they would be wearing in their profession.
“Those were the days of the white nursing uniform, white hose, white shoes and a white cap that seemed like it had wings and would always get caught on the curtains,” she said. “It’s a different world today. Sometimes I think we’ve relaxed a little too much, with some of our present day scrubs looking almost like pajamas. But when I think logically about it, it’s not the uniform that makes the nurse. People should know you’re a nurse by your actions. So maybe the uniform isn’t such a big deal.”
When Rita was in school, the nursing curriculum prepared her and her fellow students to be a nurse in a school, a nursing home or a hospital.
“The field of nursing is so wide open now, it’s amazing,” she said. “The basics are still the same, but there are so many more options for nursing. Nurses can specialize in oncology, occupational medicine, emergency, the list goes on. They can become nurse practitioners in specialized fields, work with information systems—it’s wide open.”
Nurses continually rate as one of the most respected professions, and Rita is very proud of that.
“I cringe when I hear on the news that a nurse has done something that’s not ethical,” she says. “I think it tarnishes the profession as a whole. So I’m very protective of our profession. I don’t like to see people who are not following our code of ethics.”
Rita’s nursing profession started up the road at Jefferson Regional.
“Those were the days when the mortuaries also worked the accidents as an ambulance,” she said. “We’d get patients from all sorts of wrecks on Highway 61—there was no Highway 55 yet,” she said. “When you heard a siren, you had no clue as to what was coming and you kind of cringed when you went to the ER door. Every time I hear a siren, I think back to those days.”
Rita has crossed paths with a lot of patients and their families as she has worked as nurse in a variety of environments, beginning with Jefferson Regional. In 1969 she opened the then Riverview Manor Nursing Home as Director of Nurses (DON) for eight years. She traveled south to Perry County Hospital as staff nurse, house charge and DON before working at Mineral Area Hospital for two years as the RN director of the in emergency department (ED). In 2001, at the urging of Dr. Joe Sharlow, she came to work at SGCMH.
Her work in the ED and currently in administrative nursing would run neck and neck as to her favorite nursing positions.
“Nursing is hard work, it really is—physically, emotionally and mentally,” she said. “Many times you’re dealing with life and death issues, and you not only deal with the patients, but with their families as well. We’re taking care of patients at some of their most vulnerable times, and you do what you can at the moment to support your patient and their family. It’s very rewarding.”
Rita also explained that technology has changed the field of nursing, just as it has medicine in general.
“People went into all the computer upgrades kicking and screaming,” she laughed. “They didn’t want to go there. They thought it would take away from bedside nursing, but we found that it helps, it really does. You have all the information at our fingertips. You don’t have to dig to find all the paper copies. Of course it’s all electronic now. It was hard to get used to for a lot of people, but this younger generation is so computer savvy, it’s no longer an issue.”
Rita gives advice often to students wanting to get into nursing. Nursing school is not a “given” anymore, as it’s sometimes very hard to get accepted. She explained that it’s more of a nursing faculty shortage that keeps schools from accepting more students, so they’re very selective.
“I encourage students to go through a CNA (certified nursing assistant) class much like what Ste. Gen High School and other high schools offer,” she said. “That not only gives them an opportunity to get a feel for healthcare as they work right alongside our CNAs and nurses, but also to interact with patients so when they actually get into nursing school, they’re one step ahead of their counterparts. We have a very rich tuition reimbursement program here at SGCMH, and provide flexible schedules for those who are in school.
“We also have working relationships with various schools and accept clinical students in nursing, pharmacy, diagnostics, even medical assistants. I’m very proud of that. To me it’s a recruitment opportunity and is a way to showcase our facility.”
Rita has served on a number of nursing boards regionally and at the state level throughout the years. At last fall’s Missouri Hospital Association Conference she was awarded the Nurse Leader Legacy Award for her 50 years of dedication to the nursing profession.
For those who know Rita well, they’ll tell you she has to keep busy, so if you think when Rita reaches her actual 50 year nursing milestone in August it will be her swan song, think again. She emphatically says she has no plans to retire.
“When I think back on all the experiences that I’ve been able to have, I’d have to say it’s been a great ride and a great profession,” she said. “I tell students if they get one fourth of the satisfaction that I got out of nursing, they will have a very fulfilled life. I just can’t imagine not being a nurse.”
In honor of Rita’s 50th year in nursing, a group photo at the Cardinals game with “50” signs was apropos.