Betty Harlowe Breeden had a profound influence on the health status of Virginia citizens that extended well beyond Charlottesville where she practiced nursing for forty-eight years. A pioneer in the area of quality assurance, utilization review, and risk management, Breeden developed the role of the risk management director at the University of Virginia and established a department that was frequently copied by other health care organizations throughout the Commonwealth. Her interests spanned a broad spectrum of health care from nursing supervision and administration to nursing education and health care quality.
"[Betty] is a woman of indefinable strength, integrity, and honor, who engenders trust at the deepest levels from all with whom she interacts, allowing her to delve to the heart of problems and to provide emotional and personal support unmatched by others." - Kathleen Fletcher, RN, FAAN, Distinguished Alumni Award Nomination, 2002
Betty Harlowe Breeden began her nursing career at the University of Virginia Hospitals rising from staff nurse to supervisor. In 1968, she made a change and devoted four years to working in nursing homes as director of nursing ultimately obtaining a license as a nursing home administrator. Breeden returned to the University of Virginia Hospitals in 1972 and remained there until her untimely death in 2003. She served as acting Director of Nursing for two years before moving into the position of Director of Utilization Review. Breeden's next move was to establish the hospital's Risk Management Department where she began the phase of her career that has left the most lasting impact on the quality of health care. As Director of this new department for fifteen years she not only made a difference at the University of Virginia Hospitals, but also through workshops, classes, and other programs, she shared her knowledge across the Commonwealth and to other states.
Breeden continued her own education by obtaining a Bachelor of Arts in Allied Health Administration from Mary Baldwin College and certificates in Health Services Management and Healthcare Risk Management. In addition to the many presentations she gave, she wrote and published several articles.
In 1994 Breeden retired, but she remained passionate about her work and recognized that more needed to be done. Though her health was declining, she used a motorized wheelchair and continued to provide education and consultation one day a week to the staff at the hospital until her death. Breeden was often recognized for her outstanding work and she never lost her gift for listening. In 1974, a staff nurse said, "When one talks to Mrs. Betty Breeden one gets the impression she has all the time in the world." Kathleen Fletcher, in her nomination of Breeden for the Hall of Fame wrote, "Betty always appeared as if she had unlimited time for us, and nursing and health have suffered a personal loss with her early death."
Despite the responsibilities of continuing employment over the years and of home and family, Breeden found time for professional service. She served two terms as president of the University of Virginia Nursing Alumni and she was president of District 7, Virginia Nurses Association in 1962. Breeden was a charter member of the National Association for Healthcare Quality, theVirginia Quality Association, and the Virginia Society of Healthcare Risk Management. She was a member of the American Society of Healthcare Risk Management and the Risk and Insurance Management Society. She served as president of the Virginia Society of Healthcare Risk Management.
A number of honors were presented to Breeden during her career. In 1975 she was honored as the outstanding member of District 7 of the VNA. She was recognized with the Outstanding Contribution Award by the University of Virginia Hospitals in 1991 and received the first Ronald Hodges Award for Law and Medicine in 1998 from the University of Virginia Hospitals and the Piedmont Liability Trust. In 1993, the Virginia Society for Healthcare Risk Management presented her with its first Distinguished Member Award which was renamed the Betty Breeden Award for Excellence in Risk Management in 1994. The University of Virginia Nursing Alumni Association honored Breeden in 2002 with its Distinguished Alumni Award.