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Nurse earns national honors posthumously

Rhonda Skelton

Registered nurse Rhonda Kay Skelton of Moose Lake 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 Moose Lake's Mercy Hospital, which in February became one of only two critical access hospitals in the state to earn the international "Baby-Friendly" designation from Baby-Friendly USA. She died Nov. 3, 2016.

Skelton's family accepted the award to a standing ovation on her behalf at the NRHA's annual conference May 10 in New Orleans. Mercy's "Baby-Friendly" designation was achieved through Skelton's foresight, leadership and commitment to patients, according to Mike Delfs, chief executive officer at Mercy.

"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," said Trina Lower, Mercy's director of quality and 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," Lower said.

Skelton is Moose Lake's second Louis Gorin Award recipient. Dr. Ray Christensen also received the award in 1989.

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