Rose Horton, Emory Healthcare

Rose Horton has a saying — even a hashtag — that declares, “Not on my watch.”

It reminds her and her fellow nurses to do all they can to ensure the safety of each birthing family they encounter.

“Rose is much more than just a leader. She is a mentor, an innovative thinker, a public speaker, an advocate for the birthing community, and a trendsetter,” said colleague LaShea Haynes, who nominated Horton for a 2022 Celebrating Nurses award.

Horton, a registered nurse at Emory Decatur Hospital, is laser-focused on improving maternal morbidity and mortality rates and attacking the problems of racism and implicit bias that can alter patient outcomes.

That’s why she was presented with an AJC Nurse Excellence Award on Tuesday afternoon, after being nominated last fall. More than 800 nurses were nominated, with 10 receiving awards.

The topic piqued her interest in 2017 when she came across statistics showing the United States’ maternal and infant mortality rates continue to rise. Horton said that of the 700 maternal deaths occurring every year, about 60% are classified as preventable.

“That broke my heart. It continues to break my heart, especially knowing some of these deaths are preventable,” she said. “That’s when I came up with the hashtag #Notonmywatch.”

Horton is convinced the United States — which has a higher maternal and infant mortality rate than 46 other industrialized nations — can do better. She’s equally convinced that the nation’s 4.2 million nurses need to be part of the solution.

Horton said she believes nurses can help improve outcomes by adhering to these principles: listen and believe the patient; standardize care and practice evidence-based care; advocate for the patient; and follow the American Nurse’s Association Code of Ethics, which says everyone will be treated with respect and dignity.

“I know we can make a huge difference,” she said.

President Joe Biden thinks so, too. He asked her in 2021 to be part of his administration’s Black Maternal Health Stakeholder’s Group, which is meeting twice annually for three years to look at reforms that might save mothers and infants.

“It is so very exciting and humbling to be in that small group looking at the problem through an equity lens,” Horton said. “It’s really like a brain trust of everyone who lays hands-on and cares for pregnant women and their babies.”

A native of New York City, Horton said she knew she wanted to be a nurse when she was 7. She wanted to follow in her mom’s footsteps, a nurse’s aide, who she saw going out the door every day in white clothes, stockings and shoes.

The 30-year veteran nurse picked obstetrics as her specialty.

“I am extremely passionate about the work I do, and I wanted to be an OB nurse after seeing my first delivery,” she said.

Haynes said Horton is willing to do the hard work it takes.

“Rose is doing her part by leading her group monthly in meetings that look at race and implicit bias and how that may impact the lives of birthing families at her facility,” she said. “Many of the surrounding facilities are not comfortable enough to have this form of accountability on a monthly basis.”

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Read more about the nurses honored at this year’s ceremony:

Shannan Browning, Piedmont Healthcare

Lauren DePietro, Wellstar Kennestone Hospital

Sarah Harper, Wellstar Cobb Hospital

Damar Lewis, Northside Hospital Duluth

Gina Papa, Clarkston Community Health Center

Deepa Patel, Wellstar Shared Services

Andrew Perea, Kaiser Permanente

Cherish Ramirez, Piedmont Healthcare

Julie Singleton, Northeast Georgia Health System

Denise Ray, Piedmont Healthcare: Nurse Leader Award


Current job: specialty director of Women & Infant Services at Emory Decatur Hospital

Lives in: Stone Mountain

Years of nursing experience: 30

Educational background: BSN, MSM, RNC-OB, NEA-C (Bachelor’s of Science degree in nursing, Master’s of Science in Management, certification for inpatient obstetrics, and certification for nurse executive advanced board)

Family: Married to John D. Horton, two daughters, Solange Quiller who is a nurse, and Lauren Horton, who is a marketing manager

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