CMC alumna receives national recognition
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado ” Upon starting a new business nine years ago to help staff hospitals around the world with nurses, Pat Guenther would get the occasional call from a nurse wanting to do mission work in a developing country.
The inquiries stood in stark contrast to the sometimes demanding requests of nurse clients wanting their expenses covered to relocate.
“It was a real dichotomy,” Guenther said. “Here was someone who was willing to volunteer their time to go to a developing country in need of nursing services. It helped me to develop a love for giving back my own time to help out a developing country.”
In 2006 she started a new nonprofit organization, Nurses with Purpose, which connects caregivers with volunteer opportunities in disaster- and poverty-stricken areas stateside and throughout the world.
Nurses with Purpose has provided volunteer nurses to Hurricane Katrina-ravaged Biloxi, Miss., and tornado-flattened Holly, Colo. Guenther and other nurses also travel abroad to Uganda, India, Ethiopia and elsewhere to care for those in need.
Guenther’s life work might not have been possible had Colorado Mountain College not given her what she calls “a hand up” to put her on an education path to become a nurse.
Now, the CMC alumna has been chosen to receive a 2009 Outstanding Alumni Award from the American Association of Community Colleges. Guenther is being honored at a gala dinner held during AACC’s annual convention April 6 in Phoenix. She will be featured along with four other outstanding alumni in an exclusive video presentation created about her life.
Guenther graduated from Rifle High School in 1979 before marrying and moving to Australia. In 1993, she moved back to Carbondale, a single mom with two young children. But she had a lifelong goal to become a nurse.
With help from CMC counselors, staff and faculty, she found a way to attend nursing classes on a scholarship and public assistance programs, while working full-time at Heritage Park Care Center.
“They reached out and gave me a hand up,” Guenther said of CMC. “It was hard, but people believed in me, and I believed in myself. Without them, I never would have become a nurse.”
Guenther eventually received her associate degree in nursing from Trinidad State College.
In 2000, she started Stat Nurses International, a for-profit business to match nurses with temporary nursing positions at hospitals, growing it into a $6 million enterprise before investors took it over in 2006.
That’s when she started Nurses with Purpose. To help fund her humanitarian efforts, she also launched her second for-profit company, US NurseLink, which provides nurse staffing software to hospitals to staff their facilities with their own nurses before utilizing expensive temporary-agency nurses.
Guenther now looks forward to possibly building a medical clinic in Uganda that can train Ugandan nurses in providing consistent access to medical care.
In 2007-08, CMC honored Guenther with its Alumn of the Year award for her creation of Nurses with Purpose.
“I really feel like I’m representing a huge group of people who do the same thing I did through nursing, and do it every day,” she said.
Joining Guenther at the AACC convention from CMC will be Brad Bankhead, vice president for student affairs; Mark McCabe, dean of students; and the college’s head of noncredit learning, Sunny Schmitt.
Contact John Stroud: 384-9160
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