Rita Clement Named 2017 'Nightingale Nurse of the Year'

A Humboldt County nurse, who co-workers say has dedicated her career to providing exceptional care to patients, has retired—but not before she was named the 2017 Humboldt General Hospital “Nightingale Nurse of the Year.”

HGH Emergency Department Manager Rita Clement, RN, bid farewell to Humboldt General Hospital on May 25 after 27 years of dedicated service.

She was honored at a short reception where co-workers shared their fond memories and future wishes while enjoying cake and punch. Clement also received a check representing $100 for every year served along with beautiful flowers and a plaque.

But just a few weeks prior to that, Clement was also in the spotlight as she was recognized as this year’s HGH “Nightingale Nurse of the Year.”

Clement received the news at a special luncheon during National Nurses Week. She was one of three nurses nominated for the honor, including Rachel Anderson and Candice Hotz.

Florence Nightingale was 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.

HGH Interim Administrator and Chief Nursing Officer Darlene 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. “We are looking for our own ‘Lady with the Lamp’ at Humboldt General Hospital—someone who truly illuminates the art of nursing.”

Clement’s nominators certainly felt she fit the description.

“Rita has been a nursing leader and mentor. Through her leadership she has elevated the Emergency Department and nursing staff to be capable of rapidly, safely and competently managing the most extreme levels of illness and injury,” said one co-worker.

The nominator also commented on Clement’s ability to energize her staff through her easy and calm nature. “She may not realize how energizing it is to be able to take your daily frustrations and burdens to her and have her listen without judgment and give kind and caring advice.”

Another said, “Rita maintains a patient, professional attitude at work and has always, always taken care of her patients with a kind heart.”

Nominators also painted a picture of a nurse focused on inspiring others—both personally and professionally. “Rita has been part of my transition to a manager role. I could not have done it without her. She is full of energy, kind words, compassion and motivation.”

Clement, who said she does not consider herself an emotional person, was visibly touched with the announcement of her award and her peers’ kind words. “

“To get this from peers and the people I work with,” she said, wiping away tears, “well, I’m not an emotional person.”

Bryan said all three nurses qualify as Nightingales—as does the entire nursing staff. “Everyone is deserving of this award,” she said. “Nursing is a profession, not just a job, and the nurses here treat it as a profession.”

Clement was presented with a plaque and a beautiful bouquet of flowers. She also received a $3,000 stipend to participate in the educational opportunity of her choice.

This is the seventh year for the HGH Nightingale Nurse of the Year Award. Past recipients include Diane Nevis, LPN; Pam Ruark, RN; Robyn Dunckhorst RN; Michelle Chadwell, RN; Bertha Higbee, RN; and Tina Wilson, RN.

A wall display in the HGH lobby area explains the award and honors past and present recipients.