Rhonda Heim is easily identifiable in the halls at Mercy.
She’s the one wearing the signature starched white nurse’s hat you rarely see these days. “It’s part of my uniform,” she pledges.
And just as much as that symbolic white hat is an understood part of her job, that’s how she feels about her donations to Mercy Foundation. No one needed to ask her to do it—it was just the right thing to do. It’s her responsibility to ensure future nurses receive the same high quality education that she was able to benefit from.
Rhonda gives to the Mercy College General Scholarship Fund in order to continue the tradition of nursing that welcomed her with open arms over 30 years ago and hasn’t let go since. “I’m affecting a whole generation of nursing. I want to help them love it as much as I do,” claims Rhonda. “If you’re going to give money, make sure it will do good. What better place than nursing?”
Rhonda graduated from what was the Mercy School of Nursing in 1973. So many things have changed since then, the uniforms, the technology, even the name, but the goal is still the same—to prepare students for service and leadership roles in health care. “Mercy College of Health Sciences [as it is now known] is doing a wonderful job. It’s so much more academic,” praises Rhonda.
It was a different time when Rhonda first set foot on the Mercy campus. “I was a student when the Sisters visited every patient at the hospital. They no longer do that, so as a nurse, it’s our job to carry on that same spirit each and every day,” explains Rhonda. “I think they’d be very proud of all the advances we’ve made. Of course, they might miss the starched uniforms!”
When Rhonda began her education at the School of Nursing, she helped out everywhere she could—to gain experience, to earn money. On the floor as a student, at the desk as a secretary, “wherever they needed me.”
While Rhonda donates to Mercy Medical Center’s Area of Greatest Need, Mercy Hospice, and House of Mercy, it’s the Mercy College General Scholarship Fund that might be the closest to her heart. According to Rhonda, “I was one of the millions that paid their way through school. While I’m able to contribute to nursing education through instruction and example, contributing monetarily is a very important part as well. Nowadays that can be a staggering debt to nurses.”
The Mercy College General Scholarship Fund exists today to help offset the cost many students accrue while gaining their education. It’s what enables many of those who strive to one day work in the health care profession to fulfill their lifelong dream.
Rhonda remembers her first patient fondly, “I’ve always been a nurse. My mother said it since I was four and taking care of her, putting a washcloth on her forehead.” She says it with a smile, but there’s an early example of her dedication to the well-being of others and her strong sense of family. Perhaps that’s what helped lead Rhonda to her position at Mercy today.
Rhonda is a nurse in the Mother/Baby unit. She was one of the original Mother/Baby nurses when Mercy inaugurated the program in 1985. “It just clicked. Helping families start their lives together is so much more fulfilling,” says Rhonda, stressing the word families. Her role is unique, in that it’s her responsibility to care for both the mother and baby in the same setting so those important first few days or weeks are spent together—as a family.
“I’m glad to get them started out right. We have to begin with the families. It’s important to love our kids,” says Rhonda. “That’s my ultimate goal. I’m changing society one family at a time.”
With her knowledge, passion, and sheer love of the job, Rhonda is an example of how far an education can take you, and why Mercy is proud to offer financial assistance to today’s aspiring nurses. With the help of generous people like Rhonda, Mercy Foundation can continue providing support for our students and future health care professionals. We’ll continue changing the field of nursing—one donation at a time.