Cheeri Barnhart ,'77 BSN & ’12 MSN, (right) encouraged her daughters Ellie ’11 (left) and Eliza '09 (middle) to join her in continuing their nursing education at EMU in the MSN program. (Photo courtesy of Ellie Barnhart)

Award-winning nurse in Oregon inspires daughters to follow her path

Some people go far beyond what is required in order to raise the standards and bar of achievement in their workplaces. Cheeri Barnhart (’77 BSN and ’12 MSN) – the  nurse manager of the Cardiovascular Care Unit (CVCU) at Salem Hospital in Salem, Ore. – is one of those people.

Barnhart oversees 114 staff in a 30-bed unit that is a “Beacon Unit,” a title conferred by the American Association of Critical Care Nurses. It is situated within Salem Hospital, which is “Magnet Recognized” by the American Nursing Credentialing Center. Magnet hospitals strive to attract and retain top quality staff and to consistently improve in all that they do.

After the hospital received Magnet Recognition, it developed an annual award called the Transformational Leadership Award, which highlights a staff member who challenges the status quo, promotes creativity and inspires a new vision for how the hospital can improve. 

Nominated anonymously by one of the nurses in her unit, Barnhart received the Transformational Leadership Award at a banquet in May 2013.

“She was so surprised,” said her daughter, Ellie Barnhart ’11. “She didn’t even know she was nominated. When they called her name at the banquet, she was just in shock.”

Heather Rideout, the CVCU nurse who nominated her, wrote in her nomination that Barnhart “continually raises the bar of excellence, then checks and adjusts while taking us [the staff] on this journey. She challenges us as staff to achieve the established vision and to add to it.”

Rideout also credited Barnhart for encouraging her staff to continue their education, for setting up an idea board (and implementing 20 of the ideas received), and for maintaining an open-door policy with her staff. As a result, Barnhart is a dynamic and supportive leader who inspires change when needed, said Rideout.

Barnhart said the quality, scope and kind of education she received as undergraduate nursing student in the late 1970s prompted her to return to EMU for her graduate degree in 2011. In fact, when both of her daughters decided that they too wanted to be nurses, she strongly encouraged them to choose EMU for their education. Eliza graduated in 2009 with a BSN, then married a fellow alum, Chris Burkholder ’08, and settled in Harrisonburg. Ellie graduated with a BSN two years after Eliza and returned to Oregon to work. Now both are enrolled in EMU’s Internet-based MSN program.

Cheeri Barnhart said that her EMU education was fundamental in her growth as a person, nurse and manager and that the servant-leadership model demonstrated by her professors has inspired her own work.

“While I learned much [at EMU] in the areas of healthcare finance, quality and safety, ethics, and instructional strategies,” she said, “the focus on communication, emotional intelligence, and conflict resolution has been especially meaningful and applicable to my role as manager.”

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