Cooper University Health Care RN Jamie Ritz is the recipient of this year’s William A. Schwartz, Jr. Nurse of the Year Award, an honor she received during National Nurses Week.
The award is named for a late member of the hospital’s board of trustees. Ritz, who works in Cooper’s Trauma Surgical ICU and also received the Excellence in Trauma Award, was nominated by her colleagues for her commitment to upholding the hospital’s mission “to serve, to heal, to educate,” and the award is supported by gifts from Cooper Foundation donors.
Ritz’s interest in the medical field began during high school, when an injury caused an extended hospital stay. She had surgery on both legs at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and credits the nurses who cared for her there with her decision to be a nurse after attending Rutgers-Camden.
“At Rutgers, I had an incredible experience and did a lot of my clinical rotations at Cooper,” she recalled. “I started from nothing there. Cooper has made me who I am. I started my rotation in the emergency trauma side and knew that I wanted something very fast-paced.
“That’s the kind of person I am,” Ritz added, “always up for a challenge.”
Ritz will approach 15 years at Cooper next month, having worked her way up the nursing ranks there. She now mentors younger nurses who remind her where she started.
“I work in all of the trauma places now, and i”m lucky to mentor the newer nurses to help them do what I do,” she explained, “ It’s absolutely incredible. I was proud and honored to be presented with the Excellence in Trauma Award that’s been recognized since … I have been here. So when I was first presented with that [award], I was in awe.”
Ritz said receiving the award from fellow nurse Diane Floyd made it extra special; the latter was her boss when she began her career in 2007.
“To hear my name and have Diane Floyd [present me the award], who was actually my direct boss when I started 15 years ago, it was even that much more special to me,” Ritz said. “It’s just absolutely incredible …
“I just can’t believe seeing my name next to that award,” she added. “It makes me very, very proud.”
Kathy Devine, senior VP and chief nursing executive at Cooper, praised Ritz in a statement for her commitment to the nursing profession.
“As a Trauma ICU nurse, Jamie cares for some of the most complicated and seriously injured patients at Cooper,” Devine said. “In the face of these challenges, she stands out for her knowledge, skills and the compassionate care she provides each of her patients.
“ Jamie is a role model and embodies what it means to be a Cooper nurse.”
Ritz said since winning the award has prompted co-workers, family members and friends to ask if she envisions herself in a future leadership role.
“I have always thought of myself as a very respected bedside nurse,” she acknowledged. “I love what I do. I am very passionate about it … and it’s hard to think of myself as doing anything else.”