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Highland Nurse Educator Named RBJ Health Care Hero

  By Marianne Benjamin
  Friday, March 27, 2020

A nurse can have many roles during the course of a career. A bedside nurse, a charge nurse, a supervisor, a program director, and an educator – just to name a few. Emily Winters, MS, RN-BC, NEA-BC, has shined in all of these roles during her 26-year career. Her dedication to her profession, to our community and to world health is what made her a natural choice for the 2020 RBJ Health Care Heroes Award in the Nursing category.

Winters began her career at Lakeside Memorial Hospital in Brockport and rose up the ladder there until the hospital closed in 2011. As a new graduate with a bachelor’s degree she was hired as a medical/surgical charge nurse and had to gain the respect of much more experienced nurses. She readily did that and became a nursing supervisor, then same day surgery charge nurse, followed by director of ambulatory services.

WintersRealizing the importance of additional education, Winters pursued her master’s degree while working 60-hour weeks. After the closure of Lakeside, her goal was to work for a hospital with exemplary quality and access to vital resources. She chose Highland Hospital.

Highland hired her as director of nursing education. Today she serves as nursing professional development specialist and program director of the Highland Nurse Residency Program. This year Highland received “accreditation with distinction” from the American Nurse Credentialing Center (ANCC) for the program. Highland is the first in the Rochester region to achieve this honor, and joins only 2 percent of hospitals nationwide to receive it.

At Highland she helps direct higher education programs for nurses who have a variety of advanced certification options available to them. She nurtures the adult learner and encourages others to be their best selves and reach their fullest potential.

When hurricanes ravaged Puerto Rico last year, Winters was one of eight URMC affiliate professionals who volunteered to help bring health care to the affected area. She calls it one of the most gratifying things she has ever done. The group slept on cots and sometimes saw 180 patients in one day. But Winters was re-energized by the kindness of a community so appreciative of the help and the most impoverished people who brought the volunteers food every day. Winters said she cried on the plane on the way home from Puerto Rico because she wished she could have done even more there. She says she’d go back in a heartbeat if given the opportunity.

Winters is always looking for ways to use her skills to make a difference in the community. When a customer collapsed in an Amish store in Orleans County, she saw a need for CPR training for the local population. Each time she offers the free training, about 60 members of the Amish community -- men, women, and children -- participate.

Winters says she’s grateful for the responsibility of being a nurse. “Nursing is an amazing and challenging profession, and it is so gratifying to be in a profession where we are able to have meaningful interactions with people every day. The more we give of ourselves, the more we gain.”

The most meaningful interaction takes place right at the patient bedside. “Holding hands, a caring touch, and actively listening to our patients is such a gift to all of us,” she said. “Small moments with each patient and knowing the impact you are making is so great. Nurses are amazing, smart and innovative. It blows my mind the wonderful things nurses can do.”

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