Our ministry would like to congratulate Emma Barksdale and thank her for nearly 42 years of service to Bon Secours St. Francis in Greenville, S.C. as she prepares to retire this year.
However, even though she is retiring she says she has no intention of backing down from her commitment to the mission of being good help to those in need.
“Even when I retire, I’m going to continue my community work,” Emma shares. “I’ll continue to be an integral part of the Greenville Awareness Community Engagement (GACE) committee, the Diversity and Inclusion committee as well as Meals on Wheels. So yeah, I’ll be around.”
Helping people is a passion Emma has had since she was a young child. It is one that she believes put her on the path to health care from the very beginning.
“I always knew I was going to be a nurse,” she recalls. “When I was in first grade, anybody that got hurt on the playground, I would be the first one there to take care of them and tell them they were going to be OK. That was just something in my heart – I’ve always liked helping people and being there for people. So, if something’s going on with you, I’m going to see about you and help you.”
Emma started her career with our ministry in September of 1980. She says it was her new husband that influenced her decision.
“The other hospital in town was trying to recruit me, but I didn’t want to work there because of my husband,” she explains. “He was on the board there, and I didn’t want to work some place where he was on the board because I didn’t want preferential treatment.”
As it turns out, Emma was perfectly capable of shining all on her own.
After starting off as a nurse on the third floor step down unit at Bon Secours St. Francis Downtown Hospital, she was promoted to charge nurse and then head nurse, making her one of the first African American head nurses in the health system. During that time, she helped establish the hospital’s first acuity system, which helps identify the amount of nursing care needed for each patient to determine a unit’s staffing needs. Emma went on to serve in nursing administration followed by infection control.
“I enjoyed every moment and every day, because I was able to interact with a lot of colleagues and develop friendships for life,” she says. “I started doing risk management in 1987, and I’ve been doing it ever since. I love it because no day is the same. You can plan what you’re going to do, but your day will be totally different, and the environment can change every day. It’s fun because it gives you a challenge and an opportunity to help patients, visitors, colleagues and providers. I love making a difference and helping others.”
As the administrative director of risk management, Emma serves as a resource on risk-related issues, providing around-the-clock assistance to all leaders, medical staff and co-workers. During her time in the role, she’s implemented our first electronic-reporting system, called Quantros, to ensure timely reporting of safety events. She was the driving force in the development and implementation of safety huddles to cultivate a culture of safety for patients and employees. She’s also used the hospital’s faith-based mission to her advantage.
“I love when staff come to see me so I can pray with them. It’s just wonderful – being able to work where you can express your faith, because I have to pray a lot as a risk manager,” she laughs. “The spiritual care team even sometimes jokes and calls me their honorary chaplain.”
Emma is known just as much for the effort she gives when off the clock as she is for her work at the hospital. She sits on the board and actively volunteers with Meals on Wheels. She’s chaired the hospital’s United Way campaign for more than 15 years, many of which she has rallied staff to surpass their fundraising goals. She also mentors young leaders and works with many other organizations to give back to the community.
“It’s just fulfilling to help somebody and make a difference in their life,” Emma says. “I believe my time at Bon Secours has served as a platform. I frequently think of my awesome journey with St. Francis and all the opportunities afforded me.”
Those opportunities include the Legacy and Leadership program, the Ministry Leadership Formation program, Leadership Greenville Class 32 and the Called to Serve program. Emma was also named the 2015 Dedicated Service Award winner and served as a participant in the McKinsey Black Academy Leadership program.
“I feel blessed to be part of the St. Francis family, as it is truly a ministry where we promote compassion, liberation and healing for all.”
While she doesn’t plan to give up helping people anytime soon, Emma does look forward to the days when she’s no longer on call 24/7 so she can enjoy some uninterrupted family time. Her work family likely won’t miss her too much, though, as she promises to continue to be a familiar face in the years to come.
“I just like helping people however I can, and I truly love everybody at this hospital. I love them all! They’re all my best friends and I just get excited about seeing them.”
Learn about the health care services we offer at Bon Secours.