Nevada Business magazine honored Patsy Ruchala, RN, DNSc, dean and professor of the Orvis School of Nursing, as its 2017 Northern Nevada Community Partner Healthcare Hero last week at a banquet held at the Peppermill Resort Spa Casino.
The magazine's annual awards program honors Nevadans making significant contributions to health care across 10 categories in both the northern and southern regions of the state. Proceeds from both banquets benefit students pursuing careers in health care education.
In a rare occurrence in the awards competition, Ruchala was nominated from two quarters: the Orvis School of Nursing and Northern Nevada Medical Center.
Those who work for and with Ruchala have high praise for her accomplishments during her 13 years at the University of Nevada, Reno.
In her nomination package, Kara Mays, assistant development director for the Orvis School of Nursing, said Ruchala has worked hard to elevate northern Nevada's only nursing school that confers advanced degrees to address the community's health care needs.
"With the lowest registered nurse-to-population ratio in the nation, the nursing shortage is critical in Nevada. Under Dr. Ruchala's leadership, Orvis has expanded its educational offerings to include four degrees and five certificate programs that address some of today's most pressing patient care needs such as adult gerontology, psychiatric-mental health, and nursing education," Mays said.
Stephanie DeBoor, associate dean for graduate programs at the Orvis School of Nursing, agrees on the positive growth enacted by Ruchala.
"Our pass rate is now 93 percent, and for the first time in 23 years, Orvis has been reinstated as a standalone school within the University," she said. "Dr. Ruchala has been instrumental in bringing more practice tracks to the Masters of Science programs. We now have Nurse Educator, Clinical Nurse Leader and Adult Geriatric Acute Care Nurse Practitioner. This is great both for our students and our community."
Under Ruchala's leadership, the Orvis School of Nursing has increased its undergraduate program from 48 students annually to approximately 128 annually. Those pursing a master's degree have swelled from fewer than 40 to about 127. Ultimately, this means more nurses in the community serving Nevada's health care needs.
Carla Adams, RN, MSN, Northern Nevada Medical Center Chief Nursing Officer, works with Ruchala on the NNMC Board of Directors and says it is rare to have someone from the nursing field sit on the hospital board. "We are proud to have Dr. Ruchala's clinical mind and brilliance at the table.'
She added that Ruchala is very active with NNMC's Nurse Staffing Committee and challenges the nurses "to think differently, to think beyond our city or state and look at what's going on nationally."
In addition to growing the nursing program at the University to produce well-educated health care providers for Nevada, Ruchala and a faculty committee began the Mae Orvis Health Care Symposium last year. This annual community engagement and service-oriented learning opportunity for all nurses in the community seeks to facilitate and encourage the examination of current evidence-based practice ideas and concepts relevant to the evolving and interdisciplinary health care team. Objectives are explored to provide best outcomes and best practices to Nevada's vast patient populations and beyond.
Mays added that through her leadership, Ruchala has built a strong community of donors and supporters from alumni and with community partnerships. She also maintains a strong relationship with the school's founding benefactors, the Arthur and Mae Orvis Foundation.
Ruchala said her school couldn't be successful without those community partnerships.
"You have to be a partner with the community to be successful as a school of nursing and I've tried very hard to nurture those relationships," she said, adding that she is often stopped and thanked by families of patients who have received care from Orvis students and graduates.
Adams perhaps said it best:
"Thanks to the good work and direction of Dr. Ruchala, Northern Nevada Medical Center and our community will continue to have an excellent pool of nurses in all fields...educated in our own hometown."