Kent State Alum Wins National Award
Maybe 40 really IS the new 20. Just ask Kent State Geauga alum Ronda McCaskey, who was recently named 2022 NICU Nurse of the Year. This national honor came after a midlife career switch from real estate to nursing. And that was made possible by McCaskey’s decision to pursue a nursing degree alongside her daughter.
Rising to the top from among more than 600 NICU nurses nominated for this award from across the U.S., McCaskey was endorsed by many of her patients, co-workers, and family members for the exceptional care she provides to babies and families at UH Rainbow Babies & Children Hospital, where she has worked in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) since September 2012… one month after earning her Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing from Kent State Geauga.
The national award is co-sponsored by NICU non-profits, 4moms Cares and Project Sweet Peas. 4moms Cares also donated 20 MamaRoo baby swings to McCaskey’s NICU at Rainbow. In their announcement, they declared, “It's clear after reading all of her nominations that this is her true calling in life, and she brightens the lives of the patients and staff at UH Rainbow Babies & Children's every day. We're honored to name Ronda the 2022 4moms NICU Nurse of the Year.”
McCaskey has worked at Rainbow for 10 years as a bedside nurse. Her job includes the care of her patients and their families, as well as managing the unit’s schedule of about 150 nurses.
“Every day, I feel like I make a difference, whether it be a patient, their family, or a co-worker,” McCaskey says. “I also continue to learn new things every day at my job. I am active now with my body and my mind. Now I feel like I am so fortunate to have a job that I love. I was meant to be a nurse.”
From the Beginning…[Text Wrapping Break]McCaskey’s lifelong dream was to go back to school to become a NICU nurse, but her pursuit of that dream was postponed until she was in her 40s.
McCaskey graduated from high school in 1983, then attended Wilmington College “with no true idea of what I wanted to study,” she recalls. She and Jim McCaskey got married in 1985 and they moved to Chardon, where they raised their family.
“I sold real estate and was a business coordinator for 23 years,” McCaskey explains. “But I was bored with my job and felt like I was stagnant. My daughter was in nursing school at Kent State Geauga already and I was helping her study. She talked me into following my dream of being a nurse. Kent State Geauga was the perfect fit for me. With it being close to home, it offered the BSN in an accelerated program, and the classes were of a good size. There was always extra help available and there were other non-traditional students.”
McCaskey says that her favorite instructor was Anatomy and Physiology professor Dr. Thomas Cole. “He was a hard teacher and expected a lot from the students, knowing that one day we would be working in health care. He was always willing to stay after class and teach us as much as he could. It was amazing, as I started my job, I realized how everything he taught us put all of our skills together and our understanding of physiology came together.”
When McCaskey started at Kent State Geauga, her eldest daughter, Caitlyn, was already enrolled in the nursing program. Mother and daughter took several classes together and often held study groups at their house.
“It was the best thing in the world to have each other for support throughout our schooling and starting our jobs,” McCaskey says. “Our youngest daughter, Nicole, was also taking classes at Kent Geauga as a senior in high school. Her first-ever college class was with her mom. My husband, Jim, is on the Kent State Geauga Advisory Board. He says he always knew there was a chance that we would have three in college at the same time, but he didn’t expect one to be his wife!”
McCaskey says, “My ultimate career goal is where I am at. I do not want to lose the feeling of knowing my patients. I love what I am doing. I have my dream job, thanks to the support of my husband and family. I am able to pour all the love and care into the babies and their families.
“This love I have for nursing is why I believe I won this award. I hug, I cry, I laugh, and I watch over these families as much as I can. It is an honor to be named 4Moms NICU Nurse of the Year!”