NBHH nurse Rita Unruh receives Face of Our Future Nurses award

Ryan Fitzmaurice

North Big Horn Hospital nurse Rita Unruh has been recognized as one of the top young registered nurses in the state, receiving the Face of Our Future Nurses award in October.
The award is given to one nurse from each Wyoming region that has been licensed as a registered nurse for five years or less. According to the award description, the nominee will have become known in that time of practice since graduation for innovative practice, service in the community or a specific program that will serve the public in the area they practice.
According to Faith Jones from Powell Valley Healthcare, who nominated Unruh for the award, it is her work in the NBHH clinic that has set her apart.
“Her desire to serve the people of her community was important to her, and due to her dedication to her organization she was presented with an opportunity to oversee care coordination for the NBHH clinic,” Jones wrote in her nomination. “This role affords her the opportunity to demonstrate autonomy and build long-lasting relationships with patients in the program. She seamlessly transitioned her long-term care skill set into care coordination where relationships are the foundation of nursing care.”
Jones said it is Unruh’s relationships with her coworkers and patients which has truly set her apart in the role.
“Although she has only led this program for three months, she has demonstrated confidence and knowledge working with physicians. This is evident by the level of interaction she has with physicians and other providers to recruit new patients and create individualized care plans and make suggestions to treatment plans to improve patient outcomes,” Jones said. “Since assuming leadership of the program Rita has assured 100 percent of the enrolled patients have received care coordination services every month and has been responsible for revenue production in the clinic.”
Overall, Jones said, Unruh has shown confidence and personal direction that is far greater than many at the early stages of a career.
“As a new face to the nursing profession, Rita has already demonstrated leadership characteristics beyond her years, and we look forward to the impact she makes in the state of Wyoming,” Jones said. “Her eagerness to take on new challenges and deliver care in new and innovative ways is commendable.”
Unruh said she began in NBHH in housekeeping in 2016, where her call to be a nurse slowly became evident to her.
“My favorite part of my job was spending time with residents and patients,” Unruh said. “Every resident had some sort of individual story or experience to share. Shortly after I started working here,  I realized that I wanted to be able to do more to make a difference in residents and patients lives. This is what influenced me to take the CNA course at Northwest College.”
After three years as a CNA, Unruh said Vicki Croft pushed her to go further, telling her that she would be great at being a nurse.
Unruh said her success at the care coordination position is due to the support she has received, both within NBHH and outside of it.
“After graduation I started looking for another job outside of NBHH. And then the Chronic Care Management position was opened. At the time I did not fully understand what this all included. All I knew was that I would be used as a tool between patients and their needs,” Unruh said.  “My predecessor was a great source of support and guidance. It was very intimidating at first to step into this position knowing how big of shoes I would have to attempt to fill. I was hesitant to apply for this position because I knew I have not had a lot of acute care experience, and all through school you are always told you need that before you can advance your career.”
Unruh specifically mentioned the mentorship of Jones as a reason for her success.
 “Again, I had a few people from leadership come to me and encourage me to step up and take on this roll. I then met Faith Jones, who is a care coordinator  the facility uses for management of our program. She was the one who nominated me for this award,” Unruh said. “She is an amazing mentor and is always a call away.”
Unruh said receiving the award is further evidence that she is doing what she is meant to do.
“I really was blown away by the nomination. I never would have thought in a hundred years that I would have this kind of opportunity. I really just want to thank mostly my family but also my work family for allowing me and encouraging me to grow in this field,” Unruh said. “I truly love my job and what I do. In nursing school we were asked to find our ‘why’ for nursing. Mine was to be the advocate my patients need. That is my why, that is what gets me out of bed in the morning. I feel that I have found that here at NBHH and am excited to continue this path and see where it takes me.”