Nurse to the core honored for all the right reasons

When Vanessa Randolph sat by her critically ill grandmother’s bedside, it went against every instinct she had to let go.

Not only did she confront the reality that she may have to let go of a loved one, but, as a trained nurse, Randolph also had to allow someone else to take care of that person. She admits it took some convincing.

And that’s how she knew Hanna Hobbs wasn’t just a good nurse. She was a great one.

“Hanna gave me permission, not verbally but clearly enough, to be a family member and not a nurse,” said Randolph, now a PRN for Convenient Care at Champaign on Curtis. “She would tell me, ‘I will treat your grandmother as if she’s my own.’ You can say that as a nurse all you want, but she made me believe it.

“It was in her eyes. It was in the way she put her arm around me and my entire family.”

In moments of grief, an individual stretches too thin bear all the burden. So when Randolph needed someone, Hobbs was there.

That moment serves as just one in a long history between these two nurses. Randolph and Hobbs began working together in the early 1990s as Intensive Care nurses. Then they reunited just four years ago through Convenient Care at Curtis.

Suddenly, Randolph remembered all the traits she admired in Hobbs: the relentless work ethic; the ability to always put the patient first; the way she helped others before doing anything for herself.

For months she wanted to nominate Hobbs for a DAISY Award at Carle. She believed this award adequately recognized her colleague’s efforts in nursing. And for months she regretted letting time slip by.

After Hobbs recently passed away from breast cancer, Randolph couldn’t let go this time. She knew she still had to nominate her friend and caregiver.

This fall, Hobbs earned that DAISY Award.

A conference room at the Curtis location filled with family members, coworkers and friends. They talked about the nurse Hobbs was every day she came to work. They talked about the kind of wife she was to Ernie for 53 years. They talked about the type of mother and grandmother she became.

Randolph had the moment she was looking for. Finally, everyone stopped to honor Hobbs for the tremendous devotion she showed to nursing.

Afterward, family members agreed the celebration hit all the right notes.

Ernie watched on alongside daughters, Yvonne and Sherry, and son, Roger. Each described the DAISY ceremony with same word: honor.

“I think she would’ve felt honored,” Roger said. “If you knew Hanna, you know she probably would not have communicated that, though. She was stoic. She would’ve tried to find a way to express her appreciation, but she might’ve been a little embarrassed."

The most impressive part to Ernie was who it all came from.

“What’s great about this is to hear all these words from the other nurses, and from Vanessa – who nominated her for it. To her, nursing was all about her patients and her fellow nurses,” he said.

Hanna’s inspiration to become a nurse didn’t come until later in life.

She joined Carle in 1992. Before that she dedicated herself to some different pursuits, including a degree in agronomy and a real estate license. She continued to use the latter even after she became a nurse.

Ernie said his wife accomplished it all because she always wanted to improve herself through education.

Hanna immigrated to the United States in 1964, after she and Ernie married in her hometown of Stuttgart, Germany. They met at a little restaurant downtown after he bought a guitar. He considered that guitar a nice diversion while serving in the military overseas, but didn’t know he was about to find the person who would serve as his life-long diversion.

“Her mother even told me that since Hanna was young she always believed she would come to the U.S. for the education,” Ernie said. “They didn’t have that same level of education in Germany then, and she loved to learn.”

After establishing herself in the United States through work, education and raising a family, one of her daughters posed a question.

“I asked her to take an anatomy class with me,” Sherry said. “It was a lot of fun, but she was also competitive as a student. But she soon told me during that class that she wanted to go into nursing, and I told her I wanted to go into occupational therapy.”

Ernie remembered that once Hanna got into nursing, there was no going back.

The news may have surprised the kids – who all said their mother ran the other way at the sight of blood when one would get a cut. But they soon found out how effective she could be in the role.

“She believed that as a nurse you could make a difference with each individual you encountered,” Sherry said. “Mom believed she could meet patients’ needs uniquely, and that nurses had to cater to each person so they felt cared for.

“She was a perfectionist, and she wanted the best for everyone she came across.”

Randolph saw that every day the two worked together.

Hanna never took time off. She was usually right at a patient’s side. If she wasn’t, she would be doing something logistical to help the team. And Hanna managed to treat patients with the respect she would’ve liked in return.

“I think you can ask any one of the nurses here, and we’d tell you the same thing,” Randolph said. “We all joked about it, but it was true. We all wanted to be like Hanna when we grew up. We just haven’t accomplished it yet.”

So at last month’s DAISY ceremony, everyone gathered not just to celebrate a great nurse – but a great person, as well.

When asked to find one way to describe Hanna, Roger said she provided the balance in the family. Sherry said her mother always had purpose behind her actions. Yvonne explained that Hanna always seemed to know the right thing to do.

Going last, Ernie said those reasons indicated why he loved her. But more than anything, he believed Hanna had a meticulous nature that drove her to the right choices in life – whether she was at home or at work.

Randolph recognized all those things in her co-worker and her friend. And it’s her belief that Hanna Hobbs combined all those traits to become the most dedicated nurse she's encountered.

“Hanna was a nurse, because that’s who she was,” Randolph said. “Somewhere within her, she had this amazing ability to take care of others. By giving to others, she made herself whole.

“I think everyone who worked with her recognized that.”