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story.lead_photo.caption Rhonda Shimmens holds the statue she was recently awarded for the DAISY Lifetime Achievement Award at St. Mary's Hospital. Shimmens has devoted her 43-year medical career to St. Mary's Hospital. Photo by Julie Smith / News Tribune.

Rhonda Shimmens recently became the first nurse at St. Mary's Hospital to receive a DAISY Lifetime Achievement Award.

Shimmens has been a nurse for 43 years — all of that time at St. Mary's Hospital.

She realized at a young age that being a nurse at the Jefferson City hospital was what she wanted to do with her life.

Nurses and physicians at the hospital had cared for family members, Shimmens said. She recollects that she was 14 or 15 when she determined working at the faith-based hospital in her hometown was her goal.

"I applied and didn't hear back for quite some time," she said. "My mom was encouraging me to look for other jobs."

But Shimmens refused.

"I just knew it was going to happen. It just had to be the right time," she said.

She was 16 and in high school when her mother called with an emergency. The hospital needed her to call immediately.

St. Mary's hired Shimmens right then.

Back then, the job was called a nursing assistant.

Now, the job is called a patient care technician.

The work required assisting with basic care for patients, such as helping them use the restroom, serving meals or changing bedding.

It wasn't glamorous.

Shimmens didn't care.

She was working closely with and helping people.

That's a part of why the DAISY Foundation program selected her for the award.

This year marks the 20th year for the DAISY Foundation's recognition of nurses' care for patients. Family members of J. Patrick Barnes, who at 33 died in 1999 of an auto-immune disease, established the foundation to recognize the profound effect nurses may have on patients — and their families.

This is the first year the foundation is offering lifetime achievement awards.

Shimmens said she always wants to maintain direct contact with patients and their families.

"That's why I became a nurse. That's something I don't ever want to lose sight of," she said.

She currently serves as director of interventional services, which encapsulates numerous departments within the hospital — the operating room, ambulatory surgery, cardiac catheter lab, interventional radiology, endoscopy, readmission testing and several more.

"My role is to be present, engaged, receptive and responsive to our patients, team members, physicians, families and all customers," Shimmens said. "It is to promote accountability and to support and encourage them in an effort to provide exceptional service within the framework of our mission and values."

If there's a place in the hospital she feels most at home, it's in the surgical unit.

"Surgical was my background, and that's what I love to do," Shimmens said. "You can be there for the patients when they really need you at a vulnerable time in their lives. You can be that support and provide education. You can interact with families. You can make a difference."

Her family knows Shimmens' passion for the job.

When she received the DAISY award, her sister gave her a T-shirt.

"It said, 'I became a nurse because your life is worth my time.' That is so true," Shimmens said. "When I think about that statement, it really hits home for me."

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