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Phoenix Children's Appoints Chief Nursing Officer, VP of Critical Care Services

PHOENIX [August 3, 2021] – In an ongoing effort to expand and elevate health care for children and families, Phoenix Children’s tapped two senior nursing leaders to serve in executive positions for the growing pediatric health system. Rhonda Thompson, DNP, MBA, RN, NEA-BC, is chief nursing officer (CNO) and senior vice president of patient care services, and Katie Penson, MBA, RN, NEA-BC, now serves as vice president of critical care services at Phoenix Children’s.  

“Nurses are essential to our mission of providing hope, healing and the best health care for Arizona’s children,” said Robert L. Meyer, President & CEO, Phoenix Children’s. “Together, Rhonda and Katie bring decades of leadership experience in nursing, health care management and strategic planning, which is important as we grow our nursing workforce at Phoenix Children’s to serve more families.”

Rhonda Thompson, DNP, MBA, RN, NEA-BC

Thompson was selected as CNO after a year-long, nationwide search for a candidate who possessed a specific mix of skills along with expertise in leading multi-facility health systems. As CNO at Phoenix Children’s, she is responsible for developing and advocating for the organization’s more than 1,400 nurses, collaborating with physician leadership to drive continuous improvements in clinical services and patient outcomes, and is taking an active role in the organization’s strategic planning and expansion efforts.  

“I look forward to partnering with Phoenix Children’s nursing and patient care teams and supporting the exceptional pediatric care to the families we are privileged to serve,” said Thompson. “It’s an honor to bring my experience in strategic planning, staffing and operations to one of the largest pediatric health systems in the country.”

Prior to joining Phoenix Children’s, Thompson served as CNO for The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio and as the William H. Parry, M.D., Endowed Chair of Pediatric Nursing. In addition, she held pediatric nursing leadership posts at Memorial Hermann in Houston, including director of Pediatric Special Care Services, along with leadership roles at Texas Children’s Hospital. Thompson holds a Master of Science in Nursing, a Master of Business Administration and a Doctor of Nursing Practice in systems leadership from Rush University. She also holds a Nurse Executive Advanced-Board Certification.

Katie Penson, MBA, RN, NEA-BC

Penson, too, was hired after an extensive national search. As VP of Critical Care Services, she provides strategic leadership, operational oversight and quality and performance improvement support in the neonatal intensive care unit (ICU), pediatric ICU, cardiovascular ICU, emergency department, respiratory care services and Phoenix Children’s extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) program.

“There is no better time to join Phoenix Children’s and it’s my privilege to be part of the health system’s booming growth,” Penson said. “Our critical care services are expanding to additional locations as the Phoenix Children’s footprint grows, and I look forward to supporting quality and performance improvement efforts to ensure patients and families continue to receive the high level of care they have come to expect from Phoenix Children’s.”

Penson comes to Phoenix Children’s after serving in a variety of patient care and leadership roles during her near-20-year career at Children’s Minnesota. Most recently, she served as Senior Director of Clinical Services – Critical Care and Emergency Services. In this role, she was responsible for critical care and emergency services across two hospitals, three ICUs, two emergency departments, respiratory services, ECMO services, diagnostic services, ground transport services and cardiac transplant services. Penson earned a Bachelor of Science in Nursing and a Master of Business Administration. She also holds a Nurse Executive Advanced-Board Certification.

About Phoenix Children’s

Phoenix Children’s is one of the nation’s largest pediatric health systems. It comprises Phoenix Children’s Hospital–Main Campus, Phoenix Children’s Hospital–East Valley at Dignity Health Mercy Gilbert Medical Center, four pediatric specialty and urgent care centers, 11 community pediatric practices, 20 outpatient clinics, two ambulatory surgery centers and six community-service-related outpatient clinics throughout the state of Arizona. The system has provided world-class inpatient, outpatient, trauma, emergency and urgent care to children and families for more than 35 years. Phoenix Children’s Care Network includes more than 850 pediatric primary care providers and specialists who deliver care across more than 75 subspecialties. For more information, visit us at

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