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1988 Miss America Inspires Mountainside RNs, Students

Kaye Lani Rae Rafko-Wilson, RN, Miss America of 1988, celebrated Nurses Week on May 6 with nurses, nursing students, administrators, and physicians at Mountainside Hospital in Montclair, N.J.

After everyone was welcomed by Bonnie Michaels, RN, CNAA-BC, FACHE, CNO of Mountainside, the former pageant queen spoke of her journey as a nurse and as Miss America. “My true calling was to become a nurse — the crown gave me the chance to touch many more patients’ lives and to let the world know about our profession. So many people had no idea what we do,” she says.

Jubilise Valentin, standing, and students from Mountainside Hospital School of Nursing, from left, Jessica Lueddeke, Kim DiCostanzo, and Amanda Holland, join in Nurses Week celebrations.

During her time as Miss America, Rafko-Wilson traveled to 49 states and six countries and went to Washington, D.C., to speak to Congress about nursing salaries, work conditions, and nursing education funding.

Rafko-Wilson told countless stories of patients who influenced her life and her professional career. “It’s the personal rewards that keep us all in the profession. Never forget what’s really important — that we support one another during difficult times, that we look at our patients as people and not diseases or bed numbers, and that we empower ourselves and others to make a difference in this world.”

Having worked on an oncology unit, Rafko-Wilson dreamed about opening a program for patients with cancer. The first and only RN crowned Miss America, Rafko-Wilson achieved her dream. She is executive director of Gabby’s Ladder, a family grief program in Monroe, Mich., which offers counseling and support groups to children, teens, and adults. A bereavement facilitator, Rafko-Wilson loves her work, “I have found my niche,” she said.

Chief Nursing Officer Bonnie Michaels, RN, celebrates Nurses Week with RNs from the OR and ED.

Nursing students from Mountainside Hospital School of Nursing also heard Rafko-Wilson’s inspiring words.

The nurses from Mountainside did more than just celebrate National Nurses Week within the hospital. Michaels announced the nurses raised $1,000 and will send care packages to nurses and staff of a 50-bed military hospital on the front lines in Afghanistan.

By | 2020-04-15T14:49:00-04:00 June 1st, 2009|Categories: New York/New Jersey Metro, Regional|0 Comments

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