Obici VP wins award

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 27, 2003

Three of Barbara Ridenhour’s favorite things are nursing, people and action. The way she combines them helped earn the Obici Hospital vice president of patient services the first-ever leadership award from an area chapter of a national nursing honor society.

Old Dominion University’s Epsilon Chi, part of Sigma Theta Tau International, honored Ms. Ridenour for leadership, vision, innovation, enhancing the image of nurses, and developing nurse leaders. She has spent 42 years in nursing, including 23 in the Navy and 15 years at Obici.

Lynn Wiles, a faculty member in the ODU School of Nursing and a member of the Epsilon Chi board, nominated Ms. Ridenhour for the award.


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&uot;She is the most visible nurse executive that I’ve ever met,&uot; Ms. Wiles said.

&uot;Nursing is in my blood. I spend very little time in this office. I’m always out and about,&uot; the perpetual motion administrator said recently. &uot;Interacting with people energizes me. I thrive on crisis and spontaneity.&uot;

Ms. Wiles said, &uot;The first time that I met with Barbara, she offered to give me a tour of the hospital. As we walked around, I was amazed that she spoke to everyone we passed and everyone spoke to her by name. She knew who had a sick son and asked about that child. She asked how another nurse was doing with her smoking cessation plan. Her professionalism and commitment to everyone – not just nurses – show by the way that staff treat each other and visitors in the building.&uot;

William C. Giermak, president and CEO of Obici Health System, said Ms. Ridenhour not only knows the nurses on the units, she’s familiar with most of the patients. &uot;I’ve always been impressed with her in that regard. You’d think a nurse administrator might be a little bit removed from patient care, but it’s far from that with Barbara.&uot;

As the closing of Obici’s nursing school approached, Ms. Ridenhour recognized that the hospital would need new ways to recruit nurses. She arranged for nursing students from ODU, Hampton University and Paul D. Camp Community College in Franklin to get clinical experience at Obici.

&uot;She played an excellent leadership role in getting other students here,&uot; said Virginia Savage, RN, Obici’s community case manager. &uot;Barbara is a visionary. She can definitely see how things need to be.&uot;

Amy Lee is an ODU School of Nursing faculty member in charge of senior nursing students’ clinical experience. She said when her students work at Obici, thanks to Ms. Ridenhour’s example, &uot;It’s just so welcoming. The nurses here are so excited and happy to see us. It’s her vision that if you are nice to students, they will come and work for you.&uot;

&uot;We get to look at them and they get to look at us,&uot; Ms. Ridenhour said. &uot;It’s a good investment in the future.&uot;

Ridenhour, who lives in Suffolk, enjoys quilting, gardening and cooking. She and her husband Charles, a retired civil servant, raised two grandchildren, Billy Johnson, a senior civil engineering student at George Mason University in Fairfax, and Jessica Johnson, a freshman at Virginia Tech.

Billy was named his college’s outstanding senior by the Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C. branch of the American Society of Civil Engineers. Jessica is a private first class in Tech’s Corps of Cadets and a drummer in the Highty Tighties. If you want Ms. Ridenhour to pause in her daily activities, ask her about her grandchildren.

Ms. Ridenhour earned her nursing diploma at Trumbull Memorial Hospital School of Nursing in Warren Ohio, her bachelor of science degree from Ohio State University, a master of arts from George Washington University in Washington, D.C., and a master of science in nursing administration from The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.

She was in the Navy from 1964-86, retiring as a captain. She served at naval hospitals in Bethesda, Md.; Philadelphia, Penn.; Guantanamo Bay, Cuba; and Portsmouth. She earned the Meritorious Service Medal and was named an honorary chaplain by the chief of Navy chaplains.

The nursing executive started her career at Obici as an administrative nursing supervisor in 1988. She also served as director of quality assurance and risk management, and director of nursing services. She was named vice president of patient care services in 1990 and plans to retire from Obici this summer.

However, she expects she won’t be able to stay away from nursing entirely. &uot;I predict I will be back in the workforce within three months,&uot; said the award winner who thrives on nursing, people and action.

The 138-bed Obici Hospital offers the people of western Tidewater and northeastern North Carolina the latest in health care close to home. In a stunning and soothing new building with every square inch devoted to healing, the Suffolk, facility continues to honor the legacy of Amedeo Obici, who founded the hospital in memory of his wife, Louise.

Obici Hospital is accredited by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Health Care Organizations and offers a wide range of inpatient and outpatient treatment and services. As a member of the Planetree network of health-care providers, the hospital is committed to offering care that emphasizes a holistic, patient-centered approach and to providing services that improve the quality of health in our community.