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Posted: Monday, December 9, 2013 1:31 pm

By Bud Chambers/Correspondent 

Rochelle Byrd moved here from Waco in 8th grade, soon gaining her first experience in health care via Brenham High’s HOSA program. This involved moving up from “kitchen work” at Brenham Rest Home & Rehabilitation and qualifying as a certified nurses aide (CNA) while still employed part-time as a high school student.

Now fast-forward nearly 15 years to late Oct. 2013 and a 30-year-old Rochelle Byrd Adams — having completed a long journey to a four-year B.S. nursing degree from Prairie View A&M University, 2009 — would be wondering why an executive with the Texas Health Care Association needed to talk with BRH&R’s director of nursing on the telephone.

Rochelle wasn’t even aware she was a nominee for this year’s state-wide THCA-DON (director of nursing) honor, and obviously surprised and pleased to be asked by the group’s policy and regulatory analyst Dorothy Crawford to please, if at all possible, attend the THCA’s upcoming major meeting in Austin.

At this point, Rochelle was delighted to discovered she was one of three finalists for THCA’s DON of the Year.

And that Nov. 5 luncheon banquet would bring Rochelle one of the truly stunning surprises of her young life: she would be called to the podium and honored as the THCA’s most outstanding Director of Nurses for 2013.

Some local folks who have driven past Brenham Rest Home’s 406 Cottonwood St. address (near its corner with Academy) in recent weeks may well have noticed a large banner in the frontyard recognizing Rochelle’s achievement.

 Yet “the rest of the story” behind this high honor can perhaps best be told by drawing heavily from the words of BRH&R’s administrator Catherine Mahlmann (LNFA) in nominating Rochelle for this very special state-wide honor:

 “I have had the honor and privilege to work with Rochelle as she has served our elders as the Director of Nurses for the past three and a half years. Since she was a relatively new RN/BSN, I was hesitant to hire her because our facility had recently gone through an IJ (immediate jeopardy) process and I was uncertain how she would be able to handle the damage control and recovery; and all of the stress that goes along with it.

“Rochelle not only embraced the challenge of working with an uncooperative (examination) team, but rose to the occasion which culminated in having a zero deficiency Health Survey in only her second year of tenure …

“Her strong work ethic, leadership and passion to provide care to this most vulnerable population is evident and shows daily. Rochelle’s desire to help the elderly started early in her healthcare career as she began working in the kitchen here (as a high school student) and soon realized she needed a more hands on position.

“So (while still in high school) she went to school to get her Certified Nurse’s Aide certificate; and then continued the educational steps to become a Certified Medication Aide, a Licensed Vocational Nurse (Blinn College, 2005) and a Registered Nurse/Bachelors in Science of Nursing (Prairie View A&M, 2009).

“Her dedication to the elderly in our area is marked by the ownership she takes on a day-to-day basis to make sure that her staff gives the highest quality of care while adhering to her budget. She has successfully accomplished this for 2012 and to date (in 2013).

“Rochelle will not ask her staff to do anything that she herself is not willing to do. Many days I will find her lending a hand with incontinent care, medication pass or mentoring a staff employee who may just need someone to talk to.

“Her inspiration and enthusiasm are contagious … and Rochelle’s passion and dependability enable her to provide continuity of care to our residents using our Quality of Life meetings and quality measures and quality indicators.

 “In turn, this helps our elders with the quality of care that they so richly deserve in this stage of their lives.

A difference maker

BNH&R’s administrator Mahlmann then cited an example demonstrating how Rochelle’s extremely caring attitude made a remarkable difference in the life of a gentleman in his 90s who was severely depressed as he arrived at the home much earlier this year.

 “The (resident)was so severely distressed that he had lost his desire to live … and the physician and family were opposed to any aggressive treatment (of this gentleman’s rather numerous health problems).

“Rochelle conferenced with the man’s family on multiple occasions. She would be told this resident was a very stubborn man and once he got something in his head, there was simply no changing his mind.

“Indeed the family said the man never went for medical care even after falling in his home and breaking his hip. Thus when he arrived at BRH&R the physician ordered a bare minimum of procedures — but Rochelle and her staff worked with the responsible party, physician and along with our QI/QA process for a mind change … and after numerous meetings with all involved an aggressive treatment regimen was ordered, and which was most successful. .

“This resident who had been so depressed and refused to eat, was bedbound and with no will to live, was now getting up; eating all three meals and his snacks; taking his medications and interacting with staff.

“There was an obvious overall increase in this elderly gentleman’s quality of life.”

This story of Rochelle’s never-say-die attitude, and her determination to make “a positive difference” in this man’s life would obviously catch the eye, and favor, of the THCA’s 2013 DON of the Year judging team.

Onward and upward

Meanwhile, Rochelle had also managed to have “a personal life” in conjunction with her never-ending determination to continue moving onward and upward in pursuit of higher level of knowledge in her chosen profession: Nursing.

Earning her CNA certification during high school was simply be Step 1 on a decade long education journey.

Within a short time after completing Brenham High School in 2001, this young woman would also gain certification as a CMA (certified medication aide) and go to work with Trinity Care Center, where she worked for a total of nine years and moved up to assume licensed vocational nursing duties after finishing a one-year LVN program at Blinn, 2005.

While in that stepping-stone program at the Brenham community college, Rochelle would meet her future husband, Quincy Adams. This ambitious and hard-working couple would soon begin planning a future together by continuing their respective educations in the fields of nursing and teaching.

Rochelle’s immediate challenge was to complete her Blinn College associates degree in science, 2007.

Then even beyond this level of professional nursing-related education, this dedicated young woman persisted to earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (RN) from Prairie View A&M University, 2009. Thankfully in pursuit of this highly valuable level of training, Rochelle would have outstanding help, in her role as “mom” to two young children, from three valuable family members — her sister, Jessica Lewis, Aunt Ruby Phillips and mother-in-law Gwen Adams.

Their assistance would continue to be most important when Rochelle was chosen for her current position as Director of Nursing for the Brenham Rest Home facility — the same place she had first been introduced to a nursing profession as a young high school student nearly a dozen years earlier.

Today Quincy — who played a year of college basketball at Schreiner College in Kerrville after finishing Brenham High and later served a year in the U.S. Marines, prior to a medical discharge due to allergies — is currently actively substitute teaching frequently on BISD campuses while also nearing his four-year teaching certification through a program at an on-line university. He and Rochelle have both been active coaching Optimist Club Youth Basketball.

 Rochelle and Quincy were married in 2008 and are devotedly raising three children— sons Quan, 10, and B.Q, 4, and daughter Abygale, 2 — are greatly enjoying taking part in their respective age-group programs at First Baptist Church School in Brenham.

The Adams couple and their children are also most active in the worship services and programs of the Rev. Artis Edwards’ New Beginnings Baptist Church in Brenham.

As this correspondent talked by phone with Rochelle on Friday, the Quincy Adams family was looking ahead to another busy weekend primarily centered around their children.

Quincy, an assistant coach for Quan’s age-group team at First Baptist Church School was planning to head out to Austin for a Saturday basketball tournament (weather-permitting). Meanwhile, Rochelle and the two younger kids (the whole Adams family are big Cub football fans); and with a cancellation of Austin games, it turns out everyone was able to be at Tully Stadium in Houston Saturday to cheer the Cubs on to a 35-6 victory over Richmond George Ranch.

Rochelle, Quincy and their family are likely to continue making all the Cubs remaining state playoff games, if at all possible — but it’s an even greater certainty that BRH&R’s Director of Nursing Rochelle Adams will be at her job today with the same positive attitude “to do whatever it takes to get the job done properly.”

That is the same responsible attitude which earned her the recent high honor as THCA’s No. 1 Director of Nursing for 2013.

 As administrator Mahlmann emphasized in nominating her for that award, Rochelle Adams has certainly proved the point that, “One person really CAN make a difference!”

In a final personal note requested by Rochelle, she simply wants to add, “Go Cubs, Win State!”