SFCC nursing grad wins national award

Published: Wednesday, February 1, 2006 at 2:23 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, February 1, 2006 at 2:21 p.m.

Exceptional service, sacrifice, innovation and a positive impact on others' lives -- these are the qualities that earned Santa Fe Community College nursing graduate Voncea Brusha the 2005 Cherokee Inspired Comfort Award. Brusha is one of fourteen healthcare professionals to receive this award nationwide.

Brusha, who graduated from Santa Fe in 1972 with an associate of science degree in nursing, has worked at Shands at the University of Florida Hospital in Gainesville for 36 years.

"I'm a charge nurse in the Mother/Baby Unit and there's never a dull day around here," said Brusha. "I'm learning something every day and I pass it on."

Brusha said that they have sad times and happy times in the unit. "We have a lot of high risk undelivered patients who come here, too, and they get bored so we try to keep them occupied."

Brusha's first career choice was social work, and for this she earned an associate of arts degree in 1965 at Hampton Junior College in her native Ocala. But when she realized how much she was drawn to take care of people's needs when they got sick, she entered nurses training.

"Before I was born," said Brusha, "my aunt used to rub my mother's stomach and pray that the baby inside would be born a girl and a nurse."

Brusha says nursing is a strong passion of hers, and she shares her skills in many ways. She chairs the Rosa B. Williams Scholarship Committee at Shands. Williams, an African-American community activist, was a founding member of the Shands board of directors.

The scholarship allows African-American employees who have worked at Shands for at least one year, or their dependents, to study health-related professions at Santa Fe Community College. Brusha said that currently four Rosa B. Williams Scholarship students who graduated from Santa Fe and passed their boards work at Shands.

Brusha organizes health fairs at her own and other churches. She makes presentations on lupus and diabetes or does high blood pressure screenings for community organizations.

She is also a member of the African-American Accountability Alliance, BASE (Black Aids Service Education) and the Florida Voters League.

In 2002 Brusha traveled to China with a delegation of 168 U.S. nurses under the People to People Ambassador Program. They attended a 10 day conference on the role of nursing in the 21st century across cultures and beyond boundaries.

"I learned a lot of traditional ways and even visited a pharmacy which dispensed herbal medications," said Brusha.

Brusha also co-founded, with retired Santa Fe Community College Nursing Professor Vivian Filer, the Gainesville Chapter of the National Black Nurses Association in 1995. "We went door-to-door and made phone calls to get it started," she said. The group now has 75 members.

She is in her second term as Gainesville chapter president, is liaison to the national organization for all Florida chapters, serves on the national membership and finance committees and co-chairs the public relations committee.

Brusha heads to Washington, D.C. every year for the first Thursday of February, which is National Black Nurses Day. The nurses meet with congressional black caucus members to discuss federal healthcare initiatives, the nursing shortage, healthcare finance, and nursing education and research. They also visit their congressional representatives and have dinner with a keynote speaker.

Brusha, whose energy seems inexhaustible, earned yet another degree in her busy life. She received a bachelor of science degree in business administration from Nova Southeastern University in 1987.

When asked what she plans for the future, Brusha said she'll continue to work and do as she is doing. "I like being at Shands, it's like home to me," she said.

Brusha's award includes an all expense paid trip to a 2006 U.S. medical conference of her choosing, an annual membership in a clinical organization, uniforms from award sponsor Cherokee, footwear, a trophy, and placement in Cherokee's 2006 Inspired Comfort Award calendar.

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