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Department of Communications/
News Bureau
22 Davis Hall, 10 Lippitt Road, Kingston, RI 0288
Phone: 401-874-2116 Fax: 401-874-7872

Media Contact: Dave Lavallee 874-2116

Miriam Hospital official awarded URI
College of Nursing 8th annual alumni award

Barrington resident lauded for
commitment to highest standards of care

KINGSTON, R.I. -- May 7, 2003 -- Rebecca Burke talked about the fear of being on her own as a new graduate after earning her bachelor’s degree in nursing from the University of Rhode Island in 1976. As she talked about her first job in a Houston-area hospital, she told how she dropped a glass intravenous bottle during an emergency procedure that led to a doctor sliding across the floor and falling.

But she also remembers July 1977 when she started making home care visits to the home of a 42-year-old man who had a malignant brain tumor.

"In the peace and quiet of that home, I began my career of professional nursing practice," said Burke, now the vice president for patient care services and the chief nursing officer at The Miriam Hospital since 1999. "I was there to do health assessments, administer medication, and one night to assess a respiratory problem he was having and get him to the hospital (for a pulmonary edema)."

For her 27-year nursing career that has put the patient at the center of her work, Burke was awarded the URI College of Nursing 8th Annual Alumni Award in April.

Students, faculty and colleagues applauded the work of this Barrington resident who grew up in Scituate.

"We have a leader right in our own backyard, and I have had a wonderful opportunity to see her in action," said Dayle Joseph, dean of the URI College of Nursing. "We feel so fortunate to be an affiliate of The Miriam because it has in Rebecca a woman who has spirit and energy."

While reading from Burke’s student records, including a self-evaluation, Joseph said it was clear that the nursing student was developing leadership skills and values. In her self-assessment as a student, Burke cited the need to be responsible for her own behavior, not to depend on any one person and the need to be flexible.

"My career has been steady, consistent, but it hasn’t been glamorous," said Burke, who administers, manages and organizes activities for patient care services. "I haven’t been overseas, I haven’t served in the military, so I have no glorious battle stories."

But in preparing for her keynote address, she focused on what it was like to be a URI nursing student and what choices she made as a student and professional nurse.

"Time is everything, but we never have enough of it," Burke said "As a novice nurse, give yourself time to deal with the intensity of caring for another human being."

Burke, who at The Miriam is responsible for inpatient nursing, emergency services, endoscopy, ambulatory care, surgical services, respiratory therapy, epidemiology and clinical social work, sets standards for care consistent with professional standards practice.

After her work in Texas, she moved back to Rhode Island, and took a job at Rhode Island Hospital, and in 1980 moved to The Miriam as the manager of the cardiac telemetry unit.

"I was looking for new opportunities in management. I found that I liked it. I also found that at The Miriam, I was working in a very nurturing environment," said Burke, who also earned a master’s degree from Boston University.

More recently, Burke led the hospital through a reapplication process for recognition as a Magnet Hospital. "We have too many patients, not enough reimbursements and this is the world you are entering," she told the students.

"However, our hospital was committed to going for the gold medal," Burke said.

The Miriam was the first in Rhode Island to have earned Magnet status for excellence in nursing and is one of a few to have received the designation twice.

"I feel very strongly about maintaining nursing excellence through the Magnet standards," Burke said. "Time for the patient is critical whether you are a novice or an expert nurse.

"I want you to challenge yourself to consider a career in both clinical nursing and nurse management," she said. "But most of all, I want to jostle you out of your comfort zone. It is the only way to learn."

For Further Information: Dayle Joseph 874-2766, Eric White 444-7480

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File last updated: Wednesday, May 7, 2003

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