Robyn Dunckhorst Named 'Nightingale Nurse of the Year'

A Humboldt County nurse described as a passionate educator has been named the 2013 "Nightingale Nurse of the Year" by Humboldt General Hospital.

Robyn Dunckhorst, RN, received the news at a special luncheon on Thursday, May 9. She was one of nine candidates nominated for the honor, including Charlotte Bailey, LPN; Denice Bauer, RN; Jacqueline Dalley, RN; Lisa Davis, RN; Linda Goodale, RN; Bertha Higbee, RN; Candice Hotz, RN; and Tina Maestrejuan, RN.

Chief Nursing Officer Darlene Bryan shared some bits and pieces from Dunckhorst's nominations, showing that not only is the Nightingale winner a spectacular nurse, but a great educator as well, taking a lead role in the hospital's preceptor program, which trains new recruits on the job.

The nominations also painted a picture of an RN who is a dedicated patient educator, always making sure those in her charge understand their role in the healing process.

The 13-year employee of Humboldt General Hospital said she was deeply honored by the tribute.

"Thank you for nominating me," said Dunckhorst. "I love taking care of patients and I love training. Thank for giving me the chance to do both."

She added, "All nurses are Nightingale nurses of the year."

Dunckhorst works in the Emergency Department and also regularly crosses over to the Obstetrics Department.

During her time at HGH, she has certainly made an impression on her co-workers. She was the subject of several nominations for the award that nursing leadership said epitomizes the very essence of Florence Nightingale, a celebrated English nurse, writer and statistician who came to prominence for her pioneering work in nursing during the Crimean War where she tended to wounded soldiers. Nightingale was dubbed "The Lady with the Lamp" after her habit of making rounds at night.

Nightingale laid the foundation of professional nursing with the establishment, in 1860, of her nursing school at St Thomas' Hospital in London, the first secular nursing school in the world, now part of King's College London. The Nightingale Pledge taken by new nurses was named in her honor, and the annual International Nurses Day is celebrated around the world on her birthday.

Bryan said the HGH "Nightingale Nurse of the Year Award" was created to recognize nurses who, like Nightingale, go above and beyond in their duties, who go out of their way to provide exceptional care, who elevate themselves and their profession through education and knowledge, and who can innovate by coming up with new and better ideas.

"In short, we are looking for nurses who inspire, elevate, innovate and energize," she said.

Bryan continued, "As I go to other hospitals, I see good nurses. But rural nurses have to be very versatile, and that's what makes us special. We don't get complaints about the nursing care, we get compliments. I appreciate all you do to provide exceptional care to our patients."

HGH CEO/Administrator Jim Parrish agreed the award is a landmark event in a nurse's life, and also a fitting tribute to HGH's nurses.

"I hope that the nurses in this room realize the extreme power you have, not in the medications or procedures, but in the healing power you have. I want you to know I am very proud to be associated with you. This is the best nursing group I have ever worked with in 39 years. You are truly valued in this organization and in this community and I thank you all for your hard work."

Nominators likened Dunckhorst to Florence Nightingale, noting the way she goes above and beyond in her work, inspiring, elevating, innovating and energizing as she works.

One nominator wrote: "With rare exception, she makes her way through even a difficult shift with a sense of humor and an ability to appeal to the vast majority of patients even if they aren't in their best learning moments."

Another added, "Robyn is not only a great nurse she is also very compassionate about what she does. Her nursing skills go well beyond her outstanding practical skills when she creates great rapport with patients almost immediately and educates them on their health and wellbeing and shows compassion to not only the patient but their family and friends as well."

Dunckhorst was presented with a plaque and some beautiful flowers by Parrish. She also received a stipend to attend the educational opportunity of her choice.

Parrish said he didn't know who the winner of the award was until he announced it. Once he did, he said he was very pleased, noting that Dunckhorst has been a stellar example of "taking care of those in need."

"We will be proud to add your name to the board of past recipients of this prestigious award," he said.

This is the third year for the HGH Nightingale Nurse of the Year Award. Past recipients include Diane Nevis, LPN, and Pam Ruark, RN.

A new wall display was recently added to the HGH lobby area explaining the award and honoring past and present recipients.