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St. Joseph Health names Chief Nursing Officer for Sonoma County; “leader to watch” Rhonda R. Foster accepts post after interim role

Rhonda R. Foster, EdD, MPH, MS, RN, NEA-BC, has been named Chief Nursing Officer (CNO) for St. Joseph Health, Sonoma County. Ms. Foster began serving as the organization's interim CNO in March 2012.

A native of Toledo, Ohio, Ms. Foster began her career in healthcare nearly 35 years ago as a medical/ surgical staff nurse and, prior to joining St. Joseph Health this past spring, served the prior seven years as CNO for the Children's Hospital of Michigan in Detroit. Her knowledge and strength as an inspirational leader have helped her to realize many accomplishments, including obtaining Magnet designation for Children's Hospital in 2008, making it the first hospital within the Detroit Medical Center system to obtain Magnet status. The Magnet Recognition Program® recognizes healthcare organizations for quality patient care, nursing excellence and innovations in professional nursing practice.

In a December 2011 cover profile of Ms. Foster, the journal Nurse Leader identified her as a nursing "leader to watch." (Read the article at

In additional to her leadership in Michigan to achieve Magnet recognition, Ms. Foster also worked to implement a 29-minute ER response initiative with 85 percent of patients seen by a physician within the targeted timeframe. In addition, Rhonda led implementation of Electronic Medical Records (EMR) including computerized physician order entry, nursing documentation, and medication administration.

Sonoma County's new CNO said she was attracted to her current position by the people who work here, their capacity to care and grow, and by St. Joseph Health's mission, vision and values of Perfect Care, Sacred Encounters and Healthiest Communities.

Shared decision-making and involving people "closest to the work" are among her top priorities, along with fostering employee engagement, improving patients' experience, and developing leaders.

"We ought to provide excellence in care every single day, no matter who's providing that care," Ms. Foster said. "As a leader, I need to provide a foundation that supports excellence."

"As we are constantly challenged by regulatory agencies, by competitors and by patients who want more, we need to do more," she added. "Our staff members absolutely have the talent and commitment to meet these challenges.''

President Todd Salnas of St. Joseph Health, Sonoma County, to whom Ms. Foster reports, praised her innovative thinking and motivational leadership.

"We're very proud to have Rhonda as our chief nurse in Sonoma County," said Mr. Salnas, who oversees St. Joseph's 2,287 employees in the county. "Her positive viewpoints and good sense of humor make working with her a joy. Rhonda also brings fresh ideas and an approach that will help further engage all of us in driving for clinical excellence and maintaining best practices."

In accepting an executive post with St. Joseph, Ms. Foster joins a health care organization which has gained local, state and national recognition for quality. These commendations include:

  • Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital, named the Consumer Choice winner as Santa Rosa's preferred hospital, 2011/2012 (Memorial has won this distinction from the National Research Corporation 15 times)
  • Leapfrog "A" grade for hospital safety, Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital
  • 3rd in the Nation for reducing readmissions for heart attack treatment (source: Becker's Hospital Review), Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital
  • Joint Commission "Top Performer" award for clinical quality, Petaluma Valley Hospital, placing it in the top 7 % nationally on select clinical quality measures

Biographical background for Rhonda R. Foster

First jobs in nursing: staff nurse on a medical/surgical unit (3 years), followed by 3 years working as a staff nurse in labor and delivery

Hometown: Toledo, Ohio

Education: associates degree, Owens Technical College; bachelors of science in nursing, University of Toledo; masters degree in science, Georgetown University; masters in public health, Northwest Ohio Consortium for Public Health; doctor of education degree, Bowling Green State University.

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