Longtime nurse finds ‘a blessing every day’ in helping patients in Madison, Indiana

Rhonda Bruther, R.N., has nearly a half-century of experience caring for patients in Madison, Indiana

When asked about her nearly 46 years in nursing, Rhonda Bruther, R.N., smiled and then teared up a bit. If you know Rhonda, her reaction is not surprising. A patient advocate at heart, she remains a pillar of strength and love for those who entrust her with their care.

“I love being a patient advocate,” Rhonda said. “It’s very rewarding to help someone who is going through something difficult in their life. Knowing you have been part of something bigger, to help them feel safe and secure — there is a blessing every day. Something that often seems small can change someone’s life.”

Thinking further, while wiping away a tear of joy, Rhonda relayed a story about an emergency call she received one Christmas Eve. Quickly responding to the hospital as her family left to attend evening worship, Rhonda helped save two lives. Knowing both patients went home safely made the challenges and critical moments worthwhile.

“It’s why nurses do what they do,” Rhonda said. “Those are the moments that make you want to come back to work.”

Rhonda first arrived at what is now Norton King’s Daughters’ Health in Madison, Indiana in June 1978, after completing her coursework at Indiana University Southeast in New Albany. Initially, she had planned on working for one year as part of her scholarship agreement. Those plans changed quickly once she developed a passion for her work and her teammates. 

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Although she started her career in the emergency department three nights a week — floating in other locations on her other two days — Rhonda found her true calling in 1980, transferring to the surgical department. She has been part of the surgery team ever since.

“All nursing areas are different,” Rhonda said. “In pre-operations [pre-surgery], you’re the patient advocate. You talk to the patient, comfort them, answer questions and help communicate with the physician if the patient has any concerns. In the surgery room, you are the doctor’s right hand. You anticipate what they need before they need it. You always have to be ready. In post-operations, you help patients with any pain or concerns. You serve again as the patient advocate.”

One thing Rhonda has learned in 40-plus years as a surgical nurse: There really is nothing routine. With enhancements in technology, equipment and techniques, it becomes easier to overlook the training and expertise of everyone involved.

“We can become accustomed to thinking surgery is routine, but it can never become commonplace or routine,” Rhonda said. “You have to bring your A-game.”

Away from her nursing role, Rhonda and her husband, Tom, enjoy traveling. Rhonda said she has been to all but two states: Oregon and Washington. She also has been to Europe, South America, Central America, the Caribbean and Hawaii. Her favorite? That would be Alaska.

Rhonda arrived in Alaska to meet up with her daughter, Ashley, who was completing a pharmacy residency. Simply put, she said the beauty was stunning.

When it comes to winding down her career, Rhonda has no definitive plans. She relishes her role as a mentor, sharing her expertise with others. Her patients are always close to her heart.

“I’ve had some of the best mentors,” Rhonda said. “If I ever got into a crisis, they would be right there with me. I learned how to manage situations and find ways to make it work.”

Nurses often share a unique bond, having witnessed some of life’s best and worst moments. Those relationships are something Rhonda cherishes.

“We have a lot of wonderful people in the nursing profession, with great compassion,” she said. “For them, it’s all about the patient and the family — being there to help them through a tough time.”

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