Houston Chronicle Salute to Nurses: Top 15 nurses receive honors

Rhonda Bolin, Registered Nurse, Spina Bifida Clinic

Dr. Heidi Castillo, who nominated Rhonda Bolin, wrote:

“The words that describe Rhonda best are kind, self-sacrificing and compassionate. She not only offers care and compassion to her patients (individuals with spina bifida), but she also does this for her co-workers. I often tell her she is the mother to all around her. She treats others how she would want her children or friends to be treated and seems to have endless kindness she extends to all of those around her.

“I would also describe Rhonda as a team player. I don’t think I have ever heard her refuse a request from a family or co-worker.”

“Countless times in spina bifida clinic, I have seen her complete some of the most basic tasks (such as changing a diaper), but I have also seen her excel in academically rigorous environments (like competing internationally to present spina bifida research). Rhonda takes excellent care of children, adolescents and young adults with spina bifida seen in the clinic for the last 18 years. I often hear mothers refer to her as their ‘best friend.’”

“Until recently she has been the primary nurse for this clinic of approximately 500 children with special needs. Rhonda organized a way to feed lunch to the families of patients who come to our day-long clinic. She also offers them a time of fellowship with each other and needed breaks from the day’s appointments.

“Rhonda spends whatever time is needed to take excellent care of her patients. She is often the last one to leave clinic as she spends her time counseling families and making sure all their needs are met.

“She also reviews the plans with them and makes sure they have a good understanding of all that took place during such a long day. If the families don’t quite understand, she often calls them outside of clinic. This has made for quite a loyal following of her patient population.

“Rhonda has organized, led and staffed (and I suspect often helped fund) a Spina Bifida Family Fun Day for the last 16 years.

“As she feels it is important for her patients to get out in the community and enjoy life, she has organized this annual event, which is usually outdoors and includes food, music, games with prizes, and adaptive sporting equipment (such as a bicycles for children who are wheelchair dependent). I have heard that it is a highlight of their year for many of the kids who come.”

“I have been a doctor for nearly two decades at two of the best five children’s hospitals in the world and I have never worked with a nurse who has been more deserving of this award than Rhonda Bolin.”

Allison Carter, Registered Nurse, Baylor College of Medicine/Transition Medicine

A nurse since 2015, Allison Carter grew up in Richmond.

“Not knowing where I wanted to go or what I wanted to do, Dad suggested nursing,” she said. “Honestly, I had never thought about it, but I fell in love and knew instantly it was what I was supposed to be doing because every day brought something different, along with the opportunity for a connection with families.

“I also knew I was making a difference.”

Working with patients with disabilities and special needs, Carter said she is continually inspired by her patients and their families.

“Just their tenacity, the fight the families have to break down barriers to get what the patients need; even simple things can sometimes be challenging, like getting meds refilled,” she said. “These families never take ‘no’ for an answer, and they know we’re also not going to give up – like writing letters, making calls. You know you’re doing something for people. These families consider it a speed bump, not a road block.”

The nurse also is hopeful the stigma often faced by patients with special needs will gradually disappear and said the entertainment industry, by producing TV shows like Speechless and Born This Way, that educate the public about individuals with special needs are making a real difference.

“If community would come together and get to know that our patients are really just people like the rest of us, through volunteering at Special Olympics or in programs like Celebration or others serving people with special needs,” she said, “they will find people who are phenomenally talented as artists, in various crafts and we also have patients who aspire to be DJs and newscasters. And I love telling people what I do because my patients and their families open my eyes. I want to share that knowledge with others.”

Nominated by Dr. Cynthia Peacock, Carter is described as “an incredible, caring individual who has no bias on what people should be or not be. She amazes me every day with her communication skills and how she motivates her patients. She worked her way from being a medical assistant to be an RN, all while working with the same population of patients.

“When she was a medical assistant, she won an award at the end of the year for best in her field that came with a monetary award and dinner. She is gifted and talented, and she is being considered for nursing leadership within the college.

“She is a rare and beautiful individual who is a rock star with her patients. Her calming and caring demeanor can change the most difficult patient. She has become a friend and colleague who I would miss deeply if she were ever to leave this position.”