A third-generation Petaluman, Corda has been chosen as the recipient of the 2010 Gene and Evelyn Benedetti Leadership Award. She will be honored at the seventh annual Benedetti Leadership Celebration on May 7.

"I was pretty shocked to learn I received the award," said Corda. "I'm honored."

When growing up, her father always used to tell her and her sister that they should go to college to become either a nurse or a teacher.

"He said if you're a nurse or a teacher, you'll always have a job," she said. "That's not necessarily true now, but back then it was. He just said that in case we had to work, those were two good professions to fall back on."

It was during a hospital stay in the mid-1960s that Corda decided on a career path. There was a national nurse shortage at the time and she remembers having her call light on for a nurse all night — but nobody answered.

"I also liked sciences, so I decided to become a nurse," said Corda. "As it happens, my sister became a teacher."

Corda has been a nurse for 39 years, working 37 of those years in Petaluma at the old Hillcrest Hospital and at Petaluma Valley Hospital. She's found nursing to be very rewarding career for a couple of reasons.

"First of all, working with the patients, I find rewarding," she said. "No matter what the outcome for the patient, it's always the most rewarding thing — being with people and working with them. The other part that's rewarding for me is the intellectual challenge. There's always so much to learn and things change so rapidly that keeping up the pace challenges you to keep learning. It's your experience and how you challenge yourself that keeps you growing. I'm really passionate about nursing."

The keynote speaker at this year's Benedetti Leadership Celebration is Sorrel King, author and internationally known patient-safety advocate. King's daughter, Josie, was preparing to be discharged from a hospital when a breakdown in the hospital's communication led to her being given a fatal shot of methadone, sending her into cardiac arrest.

"I saw King's story several years ago," said Corda. "I actually shared it with all our staff a few times. There's some important key points, including listening to the patient and to the family, as well as listening to and communicating clearly with other health-care workers."

Corda recalls an incident that occurred early in her career that made her personally aware of the importance of listening and clear communication.

"I had to wake up a doctor in regards to a patient," she said. "He gave me an order for medication, which I wrote down and repeated back to him twice. The order was for two large injections. I turned to another nurse and said, &‘This doesn't sound right.' We dug out some books and found that the dosage was enough for a 24-hour period, but it wasn't recommended that the dosage be given all at once.

"My gut was telling me that something wasn't right. I called our on-call pharmacist who said the same thing as the books did — we could give the patient that dosage, but it wasn't ideal. I ended up calling the doctor back and he woke up pretty rapidly, realizing the dosage order he had given me was wrong.

"That incident was the first time in my career that really brought out the importance of clear communication, as well as common sense. If it doesn't sound right, question it."

The Gene and Evelyn Benedetti Leadership celebration begins at 6 p.m. with a no-host reception at the Petaluma Sheraton, followed by dinner and award presentation at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $125.

For details and tickets, call 778-2796.

(Contact Yovanna Bieberich at yovanna. bieberich@arguscourier.com)