It was November 2000 when Ronda Hawkins, manager of Information Services Division (ISD) Service Desk and Operations, began working at Akron Children’s part time. Since then, she has played an integral role in the growth and success of ISD, all while continually leading those around her with kindness and encouragement.
During her time here, she implemented the first service desk system along with upgrading the telecommunications operations for the entire hospital.
Her accomplished skills in developing technology were matched by her influential support. Ronda excelled in coaching and mentoring her staff, many of whom went on to serve in other roles throughout ISD.
“That has been my biggest success here,” she said. “Seeing my staff grow, develop and move on to further their career here at the hospital is the most fulfilling aspect of the job.”
After 22 years of dedicated service, Ronda is retiring on March 31. She has experienced many highs and lows throughout this time, including the loss of her son. Her first priority after retiring is to establish a non-profit in his honor, with its focus on youth violence prevention and grief support.
What brought you to Children’s?
I came to the organization on a part-time basis over the weekends. I was working full-time at the Akron Beacon Journal as a PC technician.
What was going on in your life then?
I was a single mom at the time, and my oldest two were in high school. I was looking for a way to supplement their savings for college, so I took on a part-time job here as the computer operator.
What made you stay at Children’s for 22 years?
I love the hospital. I support its mission. I have my own children, but children have always been a passion. I’ve always done things outside of work that involve helping, supporting and developing kids, so this job was in perfect alignment with my passion.
What have your biggest contributions been while here?
I was the key principle in helping develop, design and configure the system for the service desk that we have today. I also did the first huddle of the organization with the service desk team, and now the entire organization is huddling after I brought the idea back from Nationwide Children’s Hospital.
Other than new buildings and construction, is there anything about the way that Akron Children’s has changed that you notice since you started here?
There are a lot more of us. When I started here, if ISD had 50 people, I would be amazed. It was small and close-knit. Everybody knew everybody. We knew we were growing, but once EPIC hit, it just exploded. We had to change how we were doing things, so all of the technology, the way we provide services, all of that was major change. It was good to be a part of, but it’s been a whirlwind.
What gave you the most satisfaction at work?
Having the opportunity to improve systems and make progressive change in the organization that help the end users, staff and the other ISD teams is very satisfying. For example, one thing we continue to develop is our standard work. We can bring a qualified staff member who doesn’t know how we do business here up to speed in two weeks to 30 days to understand the basics of supporting everything we do at the hospital. Throughout COVID, we were still able to provide good quality service, even with a lack of staffing, because of this awesome standard work.
What’s your most memorable moment at Akron Children’s?
In 2013, my son was killed. That was a horrible time, of course, but the outpouring of love and support from this organization, from everyone I worked with on a daily basis to the CEO at the time, was unbelievable. I felt enveloped in love and support when I really needed it. It helped to have a very caring environment to come back to.
During your time here, did someone or something especially touch your heart?
The people really touched me during that time, but they continually touch me because of the work we do for patients and their families. One thing we always speak to our staff about is making sure they recognize why they are here. We always tell them, if you’re having a bad day because of a frustrated clinician whose computer isn’t working, there is a reason behind that. They’re trying to provide care to children, and that is an emotional role. It reminds me why I am here. Our job is to send people back in a frame of mind that we would want them to be in if they were caring for our loved ones.
What do you look forward to the most in retirement?
Choosing to do whatever I want to do.
What’s your idea of a perfect day?
Lying on the beach with the sand, sun and blue skies. My husband, Troy, and I love to travel, and when we do, we usually go somewhere warm and spend the majority of the time, from sunup to sundown, on the beach. Earlier this year we went to Mexico for my sister’s 60th birthday, and we are currently planning a trip for my younger sister, who is turning 50.
Do you have any advice for people just starting at Children’s?
Embrace the mission, and go out and see why we are really here. Don’t just focus on your own work. Walk through the halls, and open your eyes to see the whole mission. And be authentically yourself.
Books, movies, music, TV and traveling. My husband and I binge-watch TV and are currently watching Ginny and Georgia and the Last of Us. I love baking too.
What do you like to do when you’re not at work?
I enjoy spending time with my family and friends and playing with my 2-year-old granddaughter. I also am involved in the community through local organizations. One is Stark County Minority Health Coalition, which consists of people in my professional network committed to promoting minority health initiatives. I also lead a grief ministry and coordinate annual minority health fairs (sponsored by the Ohio Commission on Minority Health) with my current church.