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NYS Association of Occupational Health Nurses

Member Spotlight - Rita Wicks, BSN, RN, COHN-S/CM - Recipient of 2017 Ada Mayo Stewart Award

Posted 9 months ago by Patricia Sadowski

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Congratulations to NYSAOHN member Rita A. Wicks, BSN, RN, COHN-S/CM,  the recipient of the 2017 Ada Mayo Stewart Excellence in Occupational Health Case Management award. 

This prestigious award is presented annually by the American Board for Occupational Health Nurses (ABOHN) to the individual who achieved the highest score on the previous year’s Case Management (CM) certification examination. This award was established in January 2000 to honor Ada Mayo Stewart.   In 1895, Ms. Stewart was one of the first industrial health nurses in the United States.  Her practice at the Vermont Marble Company involved many facets of occupational health case management.  She worked in the clinic, provided health education for employees and their families and made home visits.  She was the first case manager in occupational health nursing as we know it today.

Read Rita's comments below:

How did nursing become my career choice?  My mother made me do it.  My mother told me I had no direction in my life and signed me up for nursing school.  Little did I know at 18 years old my mother had given me a gift, being my purpose in life.  I found I struggled with book work but excelled at taking care of people.   As I navigated through school I found I was drawn towards emergency medicine.  I took an EMT class and from that point on I was hooked.  One day, the nursing school administrator pulled me aside and told me nursing was not for everyone.  What? Did she just tell me I couldn’t do something?  Well, that was all that needed to be said.  I buckled down, graduated nursing school, and within six months was working in the emergency room.

While working in the ER I also obtained my Paramedic certification and started working as a flight RN/Paramedic.   During this time, I was honored with seven life-saving awards from Onondaga County.  As I started the family chapter of my life, I looked for a job that would align nicely with my needs, and found a position as an Occupational health nurse with Daimler Chrysler.  My emergency experience made it a smooth transition into the Occupational Health role. 

During my career I have taken every opportunity to experience different types of nursing.  I have worked in home care, home infusion, corrections, insurance, and hospitals.  I have been a floor nurse to Director of Nursing.  I believe my broad scope of practice has given me the ability to bring a fresh perspective to the Occupational health role.  So where have I landed?  I am currently an Occupational Health Supervisor in the Northeast District for UPS. I support five states and over 13,000 employees. My managers and director have given me the support I need to be successful and I cannot thank them enough. 

 I am also a volunteer firefighter/EMT with my local Volunteer Fire Department and was the first female Lieutenant in the department.  I am also a member of a motorcycle club for firefighters (FIFL) and currently the Treasurer for our organization. 

This year I am excited to participate in new experiences with AAOHN.  I have been a member of the American Association of Occupational Health Nurses (AAOHN), the New York State Association of Occupational Health Nurses (NYSAOHN) state chapter, and the Central New York Association of Occupational Health Nurses (CNYAOHN) local chapter in the Syracuse, NY region since 2014.  I am assisting the NYSAOHN with its conference this June.  I will also be assisting with the development of the AAOHN’s Online Case Manager Certification Review Course for those who wish to sit for the Case Management Certification exam. 

So, if someone tells you can’t do something, find the inner strength and prove them wrong.  Show them you are more than what they see on the outside. Experience all this profession has to offer, and don’t ever let anyone tell you what you can or cannot achieve.  Also make sure you give Occupational Health nursing a try if it presents itself.

Thank you to my daily inspiration; my family, my daughter Taylor, husband Terry, and fur baby Lily.


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