ST. LOUIS – WGU Missouri alum Eritrea Habtemariam was one of 10 nurses to be honored with the St. Louis Post Dispatch’s Nurses: Heart of Healthcare award. The program honors 10 St. Louis area nurses annually for their compassion, respect and empathy – all which Habtemariam demonstrates throughout her day-to-day tasks.
A cardiac telemetry nurse for SSM St. Mary’s Hospital, Habtemariam was recognized for going above and beyond to not only care for her patients, but to also inspire future nurses to carry on her mission to help others. With 14 years of service under her belt, she leads the cardiac telemetry floor and knows the challenges people may face, especially when it comes to healthcare. She goes beyond providing routine care and genuinely loves all her patients. Since graduating with a Master of Science in Nursing Leadership and Management from WGU Missouri in 2017, she’s also been serving as an adjunct professor at the Chamberlain College of Nursing.
Habtemariam was born in Ethiopia and came to the U.S. as a refugee. Her father, a native of Eritrea – a country located in the horn of Africa – was forced to flee to Sudan to avoid persecution after conflict broke out between the two countries, and at the age of five, Habtemariam and her mother and brother made the difficult, 500-mile journey by foot to join him. Six years later, her family had the opportunity to travel to the United States. Unable to speak or understand English, Habtemariam gained strength from watching her family overcome their struggles. After losing her grandmother to a fatal car accident at 16, she chose to devote her life to helping others and pursued a career in nursing.
"When I first met Eritrea, I was blown away by her determination and resilience,” said Dr. Angie Besendorfer, Chancellor of WGU Missouri. “She was a wonderful student who has grown into a phenomenal nurse. Her compassion and desire to help others make her a perfect fit for this career. I cannot imagine her doing anything else.”
More than 300 Heart of Healthcare nominations were received, and 101 area nurses were selected as finalists. Of the 10 chosen as 2019 honorees, nine were selected by independent judges, and one was voted in by readers. The contest is in its third consecutive year and is sponsored by BJC HealthCare, along with Centene Corporation and Mercy Hospital.