Nursing director wins Good Sam’s top staff award

Published 9:50 am Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The nursing director at Good Samaritan Society of Albert Lea has been honored with the top-employee award for all of the Good Samaritan Society facilities nationwide.

During the organization’s awards banquet in Sioux Falls at the end of June, Albert Lean Renae Peterson received the Augusta Award, which is given out to one employee every year out of all of the employees at about 240 Good Samaritan facilities in the country.

“I’m still speechless, shocked,” Peterson said. “You feel so very humbled. There are 25,000 employees out there who are so deserving.”

Email newsletter signup

Peterson, who has been the director of nursing at the facility since 2003, initially began working at the center in 1990 as a licensed practical nurse.

She worked nights as a general staff nurse and later returned to school to become a registered nurse.

After graduating, she became the center’s rehabilitation coordinator, and instituted a wellness program through the center’s therapy services.

“I came to work here and really fell in love with the society and its mission,” Peterson said. “There aren’t too many opportunities out there to work for an organization that is Christian-based and is devoted to its mission.”

As the director of nursing, she is responsible for ensuring the quality of care delivered by nurses, she said. Though she’s in her office Monday through Fridays, she’s frequently at the center in the evenings and on weekends, too.

She’s even conducted inservices at 11 p.m. for the night shift staff, she said.

“The people that I work with are wonderful,” she said. “They’re so innovative and forward thinking. They make it a pleasure.”

Together, they care for 134 residents in the local facility, she said.

“She is there for everyone,” said Recreation Wellness Director Theresa Thorland. “Her dedication to this facility is just phenomenal. She’ll do whatever it takes to make it a successful day. She’s not pretentious, and she’s not arrogant about what she does.”

In Peterson’s nomination form, Thorland described Peterson as having “the ability to make each person feel special. When she is approached by an individual they have her full and undivided attention.”

The nomination said staff can call Peterson at any time of the day or night to ask questions or to be reassured about a decision about the care of a resident.

She “always listens and will gently guide those who depend upon her through difficult situations,” the nomination stated. “She is open minded and does not pre-judge a situation before she has information from all parties involved.”

One example of Peterson’s dedication, the nomination stated, was the investigation into the alleged abuse case at the facility that started in the spring of 2008.

The nomination stated Peterson was called into the facility on a Sunday morning and began the internal investigation into the allegations.

“She has demonstrated extraordinary professionalism and consideration for residents, families and staff when communicating with the media,” the nomination continued. “Renae from the beginning of the investigation to the present, has worked closely with Albert Lea law enforcement and Minnesota Department of Health in gathering information in order to move the investigation forward.”

According to Thorland’s nomination, Peterson has led bedside memorial services, assisted residents to devotional services and informed the facility chaplain when she feels residents and families need spiritual support.

During the time of the alleged abuse investigation, “Renae worked closely with resident and staff family members,” Thorland said. “She has not been afraid to cry with family members and show her vulnerable side as well in this very trying and emotional time.”

She speaks in a soft and calm tone of voice, familiarizes herself with every resident and diligently follows through with care concerns, the nomination continued.

Outside of work, Peterson and her husband have served as foster parents.

They have two children of their own and are also volunteers with the American Red Cross.