When she moved with her family to Roslyn in 1995, Rhonda Holden never counted on falling in love.
Holden, then manager of a birthing center in Monroe, was at best a reluctant transplant. "I came kicking and screaming," she admits with a laugh. But Kittitas County's allure can be hard to resist. Holden soon realized that "just driving across Snoqualmie Pass you could feel the stress slipping away."
Seventeen years after her arrival, Holden is now Chief Nursing Officer at Kittitas Valley Healthcare and one of the organization's six senior leaders. She oversees the quality of nursing care throughout the hospital and clinics and is accountable for nursing practice standards, a baseline for quality nursing care.
Ensuring quality nursing care is more than a profession for Holden. It's a passion. "Patient safety and quality care are my heart," she says. "As a patient, you need to have a say in your health care and have care designed around your needs. My challenge is making sure that every patient who comes through the door receives quality care and is safe."
Holden's interest in health care started early. By 10, she was organizing carnivals in her Springfield, Missouri neighborhood to benefit Jerry's Kids, a muscular dystrophy fundraiser. At 15, she landed a job washing glassware in a hospital lab. By 16, she was working on a cancer floor. Holden went on to a three year nursing school, then completed a BS and went on to earn an MS in nursing.
In 1992, she moved to Seattle. "I'd heard it was gorgeous," says Holden, who also came to the Northwest looking for broader career opportunities. She found them. After moving to Roslyn, she did a three year stint with the Kittitas County Public Health Department. When her mother was diagnosed with cancer, Holden moved back to Missouri for five years.
Returning to Washington in 2008, she was offered two positions, one at Virginia Mason in Seattle, the second at Wenatchee's Central Washington Hospital. Enamored with this part of the state, she chose the latter.
In December 2009, Holden joined Kittitas Valley Healthcare, a place she says goes the extra mile for quality patient care. Case in point: though it's not required by law to do so, KVH voluntarily reports the quality of its care to the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS), a federal agency.
"We've been doing that for ten years," says Holden who makes no secret of her pride in the hospital's reputation as a leader in rural health care in Washington State. She's equally proud of KVH's 2011-2012 designation as one of the Top 100 Critical Access Hospitals in the country. (By definition, a critical access hospital has 25 or fewer beds and is 30 or more miles from another hospital.)
"I think we have a real gem of a hospital here," Holden says. "I think sometimes people take you for granted when you're in their own backyard. The transformation the hospital has undergone in the last few years is tremendous. We have a strong team here. We work well together. We're also good stewards of the resources we have."
And as for the place where she lives and works, consider Kittitas County to have worked its predictable magic. "My heart is in central Washington," she says with a smile. "I love the lifestyle. It just feels like home."