Rhonda Kay Skelton, RN, has been posthumously awarded the Louis Gorin Award for Outstanding Achievement in Rural Health Care from the National Rural Health Association (NRHA). Skelton served as the obstetrics department manager at Mercy Hospital in Moose Lake which in February became one of only two critical access hospitals in the state to earn the prestigious international Baby-Friendly designation from Baby-Friendly USA.
Skelton’s family accepted the award to a standing ovation on her behalf at the NRHA’s 41st Annual Rural Health Conference on May 10 in New Orleans. The conference brings together more than 800 rural health professionals and students from around the country.
“We’re extremely proud of this year’s [NRHA award] winners,” says Alan Morgan, NRHA CEO. “They have each made tremendous strides to advance rural health care, and we’re confident they will continue to help improve the lives of rural Americans.”
The Louis Gorin Award for Outstanding Achievement in Rural Health Care is presented annually in memory of Louis Gorin, a federal employee who for 25 years helped lead the design and authorization of health initiatives for rural America. Award recipients are selected based on their creativity, unselfishness, compassion and cooperative attitude in seeking ways to make lasting contributions to rural health care.
Mercy’s Baby-Friendly designation was achieved through Skelton’s foresight, leadership, and commitment to patients, according to Mike Delfs, Mercy CEO. “At a time when many rural hospitals are eliminating OB services, the Rhonda Kay Skelton Birthing Center at Mercy Hospital continues to provide our rural communities with compassionate, skilled maternity and infant care,” he said.
“Rhonda initiated the process to seek the Baby-Friendly designation over 10 years ago because it was the right thing to do to improve the health of our new mothers and babies,” stated Trina Lower, Mercy’s Director of Quality & Health Information, in her nomination letter. “About a year before the final Baby-Friendly site survey, Rhonda died unexpectedly and tragically while giving the gift of life to her husband through a lifesaving liver transplant. The work on the Baby-Friendly initiative could have stopped or been delayed, but her devastated and devoted staff did not hesitate. On behalf of our mothers and babies and in Rhonda’s honor, they worked extremely hard to complete the work Rhonda started. Mercy received Baby-Friendly designation in February, 2018.”
To view the acceptance video featured at the NRHA conference, go to this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=toT9XJ6GIjA
Skelton is Moose Lake’s second Louis Gorin Award recipient. Ray Christensen, M.D., also received this national award in 1989.