Even though it was nearly two decades ago, Brenda Houff remembers sitting in room 101 at Augusta Health with her 3-year-old daughter, who was struggling through recurrent kidney issues, and realizing her career needed to change.
Back then, she was in elementary education because she’d always been drawn to helping children. But it wasn’t until her daughter went in and out of multiple hospitals that she was exposed to pediatric nurses, and saw the incredible opportunity they had to make a positive difference for the children and families who depended on them. She especially felt that difference here at Augusta Health, the local community hospital.
“I was in that chair, in that hospital room, watching one of the best nurses I’ve ever seen caring for my daughter, and instantly I thought: I’m going back to school. I’m becoming a pediatric nurse, and I’m going to work at Augusta,” Houff recalls.
And that’s exactly what happened.
After graduating from nursing school and doing clinical work in a few specialties, in 2008, Houff landed exactly where she’d planned, as a pediatric nurse at Augusta Health. She was even able to work with the excellent nurses who’d cared for her daughter.
In May 2018, Houff moved to Richmond, where she resides with her husband, who she recently married. But Houff remains dedicated to Augusta Health and its pediatrics department, so she makes the hour and a half drive three or four days a week, joking that it helps when her husband hands her a big cup of coffee as she walks out the door.
“This is where my heart and soul are, with the children and families of this community and the community within the walls of Augusta Health,” she says, adding that her favorite part of the job is helping families as a whole, not just individual patients. Family dynamics matter when children are ill or injured, and supporting everyone is important, Houff believes. She remembers how well her own child did under expert nursing care, and how comforted she felt as a mother to see that level of professionalism and compassion.
“When your child is sick, you need people who are not only highly skilled but don’t just focus on symptoms or talk only about treatment,” she says. “You want a team who can give you education about what’s happening, who honor and respect you as a caregiver and patient, who teach you to be an advocate for your child. That’s what we do here, and I’m happy to be able to work with families in that way.”
Houff also feels blessed to be part of such a solid, supportive team in the pediatrics department. For example, in the spring, her mother was battling cancer and had to go through chemotherapy at Augusta Health. Houff’s colleagues worked together to ensure she could sit with her mom during her shift breaks. She remains thankful for those extra minutes she spent with her mother, who passed away in May. Her co-workers also were a source of comfort.
With a skilled compassionate team surrounding her, and patients and families who adore her — she even gets thanked by former patients at the local drive-thru! — Houff feels thrilled to be doing what she was born to do in the place she wanted to work.
“This is a community, where we all feel like family helping one another,” she says. “I’m so grateful to be part of that.”