She is an ambassador for Riley on and off the clock

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Nurse Brenda Phillips is a mother, a grandmother and a big kid at heart who believes we are all called to help each other.

By Maureen Gilmer, IU Health senior journalist,

If it’s not the rock star pins weighing her down, it’s the Daisy, the Red Shoe, the kidney pin and any other recognition that will fit on Brenda Phillips’ ID badge.

She laughs when asked if it’s hard to carry around all those commendations.

“The children like to look at the pins, so I leave them on so the kids have something to talk about.”

That bling tells you something about Phillips, an IU Health team member for 26 years, the past 10 at Riley Hospital for Children.

Valued by patients, families and her co-workers, Phillips is a registered nurse who takes to heart her job as caretaker of so many precious lives.

Brenda Phillips Riley RN Badge

“I feel like if we’re going to do this work, we all need to operate as a unit, we all need to be respectful of each other,” she said. “This hospital is our community, especially with the transplant kids, and we need to be that village for them. That’s what we’re here for.”

Phillips, who previously worked as a medical assistant at IU Health Methodist Hospital, went back to school to become a registered nurse more than a decade ago after her children were grown. She spends every Monday morning in the transplant clinic at Riley, working with patients who’ve had kidney transplants. The rest of the week she works in the surgery medical service area on the second floor of the Riley Outpatient Clinic.

It was Tina Ray, pediatric renal transplant coordinator, who wanted to call attention to Phillips and what she brings to Riley, describing her as “remarkable.”

In addition to looking out for her patients medically, she makes it her purpose to see to it that they have the resources they need outside of Riley, Ray said, whether that be educational support or something else.

“There are so many caring things that Brenda quietly does. She makes sure that the patients who have little resources have food. And this winter, she has been taking blankets, hats and hot meals to the homeless people in our community,” Ray said. “She is such an inspiration to me.”

Phillips didn’t set out to be an inspiration, but she does believe in doing her part to help others.

“If you see someone and you’re blessed enough to help, you should help.”

It’s as simple as that.

It’s why she, her husband Al and daughter frequently distribute items to the homeless around Indianapolis.

“These tent cities, they’re everywhere,” she said, “especially since the pandemic. “We started getting together things we thought they would need, and I asked co-workers to bring in blankets, scarves, gloves, socks. We just dropped some things off yesterday.”

Brenda outside with a bike

Among the treats she shared was Girl Scout cookies because, after all, she said, “Who doesn’t like Girl Scout cookies?”

Phillips is most definitely a people person. The mother of three and grandmother of two is also a kid at heart, she says.

“I’m just a big kid. I like to ride my bicycle (a pink Cadillac bike). You get some exercise, but it still feels like fun. And nothing makes you feel more like a kid than riding a bike. I love to color in my coloring book. And I like to bake and drop off baskets of goodies for the neighborhood kids,” she said.

“Anybody who knows me knows I love children. I don’t know what my life would be if I wasn’t doing something for children,” she added. “And Riley is the best place to be for that.”

When she and her husband are out and about and she is wearing her Riley uniform, someone is guaranteed to stop her and want to share their Riley story.

“My husband knows if anyone stops me and wants to talk about Riley, I’m going to stop and listen because they’re so proud. And they’re grateful. I take the time to listen because it’s important.”

Photos by Mike Dickbernd, IU Health visual journalist,