Nurse Becky Cox named hospital’s Caregiver of Year

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Becky Cox works as a registered nurse in the emergency department at North Valley Hospital. (Heidi Desch/Whitefish Pilot)

Registered Nurse Becky Cox says working in the emergency department gives her the chance to be the source of comfort on what may be one of the worst days of their lives.

“We encounter many different people in many different situations and have a limited time and ability to connect with them,” she said. “I like to be able to help people work through that challenging time.”

Cox has been a nurse for 24 years with the last six in the emergency department at North Valley Hospital.

She was recently selected as the Planetree Caregiver of the Year at North Valley Hospital. The award is given to a hospital employee that is “fully invested in the Planetree philosophy of patient-centered care and shows exemplary skill and attention to being a caregiver to patients, and also in their overall demeanor.”

Those nominating Cox for the award describe her as “a pleasure to work with and an incredible leader” and she is “genuinely caring and understanding of all patients” while working to improve care in the community.

“I’m honored to accept the award on behalf of our ER team,” Cox said. “We have a super great team that encourages one another to do our best.”

Cox grew up in West Kootenai, a small rural community in Lincoln County not far from the Canada border, where as a child she rode along with her mother, who as an emergency medical technician who provided care to their neighbors. Cox’s grandmother served as a missionary nurse.

Both connections had a huge impact on her decision to become a nurse and she went onto to attend what is now Montana State University — Northern in Havre. She has also worked at hospitals in Havre and Great Falls.

In 2009, Cox, along with her husband and two daughters moved to Ethiopia. She worked with a non-governmental organization, eventually setting up a hospice program for patients dieing of HIV/AIDS.

“I had done some short term medical missions and I wanted to take the opportunity to do one full time and raise our kids in a different country for awhile,” Cox recalled of the decision to move to Ethiopia.

The hospice program continues today, and Cox tries to return every few years to visit. She says now that her daughters, ages 18 and 22, are grown she’d like to again serve on medical missions.

“I really enjoy learning from other cultures,” she said. “It was such a great place to build relationships. In Ethiopia, you’re in one of the poorest counties and the people there are just living life to the fullest without any material things. We found ourselves really being so served and blessed by the people there — it was a huge blessing.”

In the meantime, Cox sees the world come through the doors of the emergency department as she estimates during the peak summer travel season about two-thirds of her patients are here working or visiting from outside Montana or another country.

“North Valley Hospital is a great place to connect with the community and the people that visit our community,” she said.

The hospital each year selects recipients for its Planetree awards, which are based on employee nominations evaluated by a committee of staff and administrators.

Other awards include:

The Jake Heckathorn Spirit of Community Award given to Alan Satterlee.

Satterlee is the Executive Director of the North Valley Hospital Foundation, a role he has served in for three years. Satterlee was nominated by two of his employees for his spirit of community in philanthropic efforts and in his leadership role at the hospital.

Nominations for him said, “Everyone in the community knows Alan, and I am positive that Jake Heckathorn would agree he is a worthy recipient of an award named in honor of a caring community advocate, which Alan most definitely is.”

“In the greatest spirit of community, Alan considers patients, the Whitefish community, and staff in his philanthropic efforts so that the Foundation addresses needs that benefit everyone who comes in the doors of North Valley Hospital,” said another nomination.

The Planetree Provider Champion was awarded to Brittany Coburn.

Coburn, nurse practitioner at North Valley Professional Center, oversees the School Based Health Clinic in Columbia Falls and has been an advocate for access to healthcare in the Columbia Falls community. Coburn also coordinates the Food Rx program, currently in its first year, which provides outreach and medical/nutritional support for food insecure families in the valley.

Coburn joined North Valley Hospital in October 2010 as a nurse practitioner at the North Valley Professional Center, and has been a strong leader at the clinic and in School Based Health for the last 10 years. A nomination said that she “is willing to take on new projects and always has patients’ best interest in mind.”

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