Growing up in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Rhona Henry found the inspiration to become a nurse from her grandmother and great-grandmother. They were very close and she helped care for them as they got older.
She eventually moved to New York City and went to nursing school, where she discovered her love for oncology nursing.
“I chose oncology because you make a difference in the lives of the people you encounter, and there is a different connection with patients,” Henry says.
When she came to Rochester in 2009, she joined Wilmot’s Samuel E. Durand Blood and Marrow Transplant Unit as a staff nurse. She moved up the ladder, eventually becoming assistant nurse manager and then the unit’s nurse manager in 2015. Along the way, she continued to build those connections.
“The relationships I develop with patients are what keep me going, and I don’t want to give that up,” she says.
During her career at Wilmot, Henry has been recognized by patients, families and colleagues with several awards and nominations for the compassion she brings to her work.
Patients typically stay on the BMT unit three weeks, but some stay longer. They are in critical condition as their immune systems rebuild after intensive chemotherapy and stem cell or marrow transplant for blood cancers such as leukemia, myeloma or lymphoma.
“You get to know them and also their family,” she says. “The impact you have on their lives is so rewarding.”
The unit, on the sixth floor of Wilmot Cancer Center, is often at capacity. In 2016, the BMT program performed a record 160 transplants.
It’s challenging work, but Henry says she would never choose anything — or anywhere — else.
“You always have to think critically. You have to expect the unexpected, and you have to be ready to respond,” she says. “But you’re never alone.”
Teamwork is at the heart of the BMT unit. As the nurse manager, Henry oversees 40 nurses, six patient care technicians and three secretaries. They were recently honored with a University of Rochester Medical Center Board Excellence Award, which recognized their commitment to high quality, excellent care, respect, accountability and professionalism.
“Wilmot is the best place to be. I love my team, I respect my team, and I couldn’t do this without them,” she says. “It’s a like a family. You can always count on each other.”