For Arnita Ridgeway-Henry, cleaning a patient’s room means more than changing the bedsheets, emptying the trash and sanitizing surfaces. Those are the big things, of course, but Ridgeway-Henry knows the little things also matter, like greeting patients with a smile, making them feel seen – and heard – and recognizing when someone might need a pick-me-up just because.

Arnita Ridgeway-Henry

Service Assistant, Wilmington Hospital 

Proud Mom of a Nurse, World Traveler, Artist 

Just like the time she arranged for some of her coworkers to sign and decorate a birthday card for a patient who had been in the hospital for months and was celebrating the milestone alone.

“The patient could not believe it,” recalled Nancy Mburu, operations manager for Environmental Services. “She cried because someone had taken the time to think of her like that.”

Serving with love and excellence – and a smile

It’s all in a day’s work for Ridgeway-Henry, whose overflowing enthusiasm for her job as a service assistant and trainer in Environmental Services, has kept her – and countless others – smiling for more than 20 years.

Arnita Ridgeway-Henry is known for being the unofficial party planner on the staff. She has a knack for remembering the important milestones of patients and caregivers.

“Our patients are the ones who come first,” said Ridgeway-Henry, who works on 4 West in Wilmington Hospital.

“I know that I can make a difference by providing exceptional environmental cleaning services that keep our patients, families and staff safe.”

Anyone can walk into a room and go through the checklist of what needs to be done, Mburu said. Ridgeway-Henry stands out because of her overwhelming compassion — she’s always looking for little ways to help patients while also doing her job.

There was the day Ridgeway-Henry went in to clean a room and discovered the patient wanted to take a shower. The room had been recently renovated, but the rod to hang the shower curtain hadn’t yet been installed. Ridgeway-Henry reached out to one of the Environmental Services managers and the pair brainstormed a way to hang a curtain from one end of the shower to the other so the patient could bathe with privacy.

Ridgeway-Henry believes when you can make someone’s day better, you should.

“I really believe that we serve together with love and excellence – and a smile. I don’t do these things because I have to. I do them because I care,” Ridgeway-Henry said.

Anticipating the needs of others

When a patient called out to Ridgeway-Henry that she needed to change her hospital gown, she could have passed along the request to another caregiver and moved on to the next room. Instead, Ridgeway-Henry asked the nurse if the patient could walk on her own. The nurse said she could, so Ridgeway-Henry helped the patient move to the chair in the room.

Arnita Ridgeway-Henry has worked for ChristianaCare for more than 20 years.

Then she stripped the bed, put on new sheets, gave the patient a towel, washcloth and clean gown. It took only a few moments of Ridgeway-Henry’s day but it made a lasting impact.

“That patient sent us a letter after that saying that experience made her believe in humanity,” Mburu said.

Ridgeway-Henry’s positive energy and knack for problem solving are two of the reasons she was selected to help train other new caregivers in Environmental Services. She has also played an important role in pioneering the Making Tomorrow Happen – a systemwide initiative toward continuous improvement  framework among Environmental Services caregivers.

Arnita Ridgeway-Henry’s favorite places to visit include Jamaica and Mexico. 

“Caregivers gravitate to her, and her energy has rubbed off to the others. She’s been a great ambassador,” said Mburu, adding Ridgeway-Henry is also known for celebrating her co-worker’s birthdays, anniversaries and other important days.

Wearing a heart on her sleeve

Inspired in part by her mother’s dedication to work, her daughter, Nyeema Ridgeway, is making her own way at ChristianaCare, where she is training as a nurse extern. Although the two have different jobs, they share the same perspective on what matters most as caregivers.

“I’ve told her it takes a special kind of person to work in health care. You really have to love this job,” Ridgeway-Henry said.

“We wear our heart on our sleeves and for that, I’m actually proud.”

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