We have partnered with KUDZU MEDICAL to highlight some of the Lowcountry’s top nurses. HealthLinks Charleston wants to recognize nurses as the backbone of our medical community and thank them for all their efforts!
2021 Best Nurses
Charleston Nurses – Jan/Feb 2021
CIELITA K. HALYARD, MSN, FNP-C
Nursing was a goal for Cielita K. Halyard since high school. She actually knew at that time that she wanted to be a nurse practitioner but decided to work as a nurse first before pursuing her masters degree. For 10 years, Halyard worked as a bedside nurse and then finally obtained her MSN. Her specialty of choice was family practice/ primary care.
“I get bored very easily and thrive on variety,” she said. “Therefore I knew family practice/primary care would be the best fit for me.”
Now with Palmetto Primary Care Physicians, she hasn’t looked back.
“It doesn’t matter how you start the race; it only matters how you finish. Therefore, don’t let anything or anyone deter you from pursuing your goal,” she said.
ESTEE PERLMUTTER, FNP-BC
Estee Perlmutter grew up with parents who were both teachers, so when it came to choosing a profession, she knew it would be one that gave back to the community in some way.
She has worked in both hospice and med/surg, but what she ended up specializing in was family practice. Now, as a family nurse practitioner with Liberty Doctors, she feels right at home.
“I love working in family practice because it allows me to treat patients of all ages with a variety of health concerns. I may treat a person with congestive heart failure and diabetes followed by a person with a poison ivy outbreak,” she attested.
She loves the opportunities she has been afforded with a career in nursing: “I’ve lived in many different cities and have always been fortunate to find work.”
Ultimately, her love for nursing lies with helping people.
“My goal is to help people feel well and live the life they would like to live,” she said.
SANDY JONES, AGACNP
It was a commercial on TV that piqued Sandy Jones’ interest in nursing. She saw a nurse caring for crying babies and thought that might be something she would like to do. Once she graduated from nursing school, she had a hard time finding a job and, as fate would have it, she started working in trauma.
Jones eventually moved from trauma into ICU, which is where she is now at Roper St. Francis Healthcare, and has never looked back.
“I am obsessed with critical care,” she said. “I can’t imagine doing anything else at this point.”
What she loves about nursing is the variety: “If you decide you don’t like one area, you can find a different specialty that better fits your lifestyle and personality.”
Her advice to other nurses: “There will always be hard days, but the good days are so good. We are experiencing such trying times, but it won’t be like this forever. Keep your head up and keep saving lives because this is what we were made to do.”
JOSEPH TREVINO, RN, BSN
As a primary care nurse care manager at the Goose Creek VA Outpatient Clinic, which is a part of the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center, Joseph Trevino said he really enjoys having the opportunity to help veterans maintain their overall health, rather than just focusing on treating the specific problem for which they are admitted.
“Having worked in multiple inpatient settings, primary care was a nice transition,” he said.
He now looks to the future and hopes to one day move into a role of educating future nurses.
“My advice to new nurses is to find a mentor who can guide you and help you recognize your own blind spots,” he said.
Upstate Nurses – Jan/Feb 2021
HEATHER JACKSON, RN, BSN, CCDS
A career in graphic design was where Heather Jackson was headed after graduating from college. She actually worked for the Greenville News when she decided to go back to school for nursing.
“I loved nursing immediately after getting in the program, and knew I was where I was meant to be,” she said. After several years in bedside nursing, Jackson learned about a different role in health care that piqued her interest – clinical documentation specialist.
“I took the job as a CDS at Spartanburg Regional and have really enjoyed reviewing patients’ medical records and doing my part to ensure that all the information is documented accurately with the severity of illness, which in turn improves patient care,” she explained.
Jackson is now certified as a clinical documentation specialist.
“If I could give any advice to an aspiring nurse, it would be to stay open-minded because you never know what opportunity lies around the corner,” she said.
KEELY INGRAHAM, MSN, RN
Keely Ingraham decided to pursue nursing after her father was diagnosed with esophageal cancer when she was 19 years old.
“I witnessed the excellent care given to my dad, and I wanted to be a part of that,” she said.
She has now worked as a nurse for six years, first in the Emergency Department and then in vascular access before she moved into oncology, which is where she is now.
“I’m new to oncology and still learning, but I’ve finally found where I’m supposed to be serving my community. It is such an honor to care for my patients, and I’m so grateful to be a part of their journey.”
Ingraham’s advice to new nurses: “Be compassionate. Take care of your patients and not just their diagnoses. Be the nurse you would want caring for you.”
LISA ROBINSON, RN
When it comes to having a “rewarding” career, Lisa Robinson believes she has found it. She started her journey in nursing in the NICU, but, for the past 25 years, she has been working with medically fragile children as the school nurse at McCarthy Teszler School in Spartanburg.
“I enjoy working with my students as it provides me with daily challenges. I use my critical thinking skills every day,” she said.
Many of her students are nonverbal or lack the ability to articulate how they are feeling. Lucky for them, Robinson is a natural caregiver.
She also enjoys teaching nursing students who come to work with her for clinical rotation about the various medical syndromes and diagnoses of the McCarthy Teszler population.
“Unfortunately, people with disabilities are often invisible because we are not taught how to interact with them. We are only taught not to stare. My advice to nursing students is to acknowledge a child with a disability. Let them know you ‘saw’ them,” she concluded.
2020 Best Nurses
Charleston Nurses – Nov/Dec 2020
BARRETT WALTON, RN
Barrett Walton knew that the health care field was for him but wasn’t so sure about nursing. But, after just a few courses in college, he fell in love with every aspect of nursing and is now working in the progressive care unit at East Cooper Medical Center. New to the field, Walton is one of the youngest nurses in the department and strives to learn from his team every day.
“Everyone here is really great to work with. I was welcomed with open arms, and it’s so nice to have that,” he said.
His advice for anyone thinking about becoming a nurse: “It’s not easy, but you learn something new every day and that makes it really exciting.”
Barrett has resided in the Lowcountry his whole life and enjoys every aspect of living here, including spending time on his boat and being active outdoors.
NICOLE MOSLEY, BSN, RN
Nicole Mosley credits her upbringing in a military family with her passion for giving back to the men and women who serve our country. Now as an assistant nurse manager for the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center’s Savannah Community Based Outpatient Clinic, Mosley said she is proud of the work the VA has done during this unprecedented time.
“We have done a great job caring for the veterans, especially making sure they have access to care even if it is not face-to-face,” she said.
Mosley said the VA’s telehealth services have been successful: “We have been creative with care utilizing video and telephone appointments to keep veterans and our employees safe.”
She concluded, “Being a nurse is not just a job or career. It is who you are. Loving what you do shows in the care you provide to your patients. Patients put their trust in you. Don’t ever lose focus of that.”
KORI FRANK, MSN, ARNP, FNP-C
Kori Frank graduated from Jacksonville University with a bachelor of science degree in nursing and then worked for 10 years as a nurse before pursuing her master’s in nursing from the University of South Carolina. She is now a nurse practitioner with Palmetto Primary Care Physicians in family medicine.“I chose the primary care setting as it enables me to prevent disease and educate my patients on how to live healthier lifestyles, which is one of my passions. I love family medicine particularly because I am able to take care of mom, dad, brother, baby and the grandparents. This in turn helps me take better care of the patient as a whole. I really get to know these people. They are like family at the end of the day,” she said.
Her advice to anyone wanting to pursue a career in nursing: “Never stop learning, and always ask questions. This field, no matter what specialty you are in, will require lifelong learning, as guidelines change day to day.”
SHERRI JONES, MSN, RN, CNOR
It was a doctor Sherri Jones met while at the College of Charleston that encouraged her to pursue nursing.
“I have always loved helping and taking care of people,” she said.
And, as for her specialty in the operating room: “It was during my rotation in nursing school that I fell in love with OR nursing.”
Now she is chief nurse of the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center’s operative services.
“I started my nursing career as an LPN, and, after eight years, decided to go back to school. I continue to see the value that education has played in my development.”
She concluded: “Being a nurse offers you an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of others, and this will bring you more joy than you can imagine.”
Upstate Nurses – Nov/Dec 2020
KAREN BLAKE, RN
When Karen Blake looks back at what made her decide to become a nurse, one thing stands out: “I knew I wanted a career where I could help people.” And what better career than nursing to do just that.
She received her associate degree in nursing from Greenville Technical College, and now she works as a nurse patient care coordinator/educator for New Horizon Family Health Services.
“Nursing is a great way to help people when they need it most, and at New Horizon Family Health Services, there are so many different programs to help all the underserved people in our community,” she said.
Her advice to anyone who is considering a career in nursing is to keep focused and remember why you wanted to work in the field to begin with.
“The work is never going to be easy, but knowing you made a difference in someone’s life is such a great feeling,” she concluded.
PAM TOLLESON, RN
Pam Tolleson’s family was shocked when she decided to pursue nursing in college: “I wasn’t exactly the nurturing type, but I loved biology, so I decided to give it a try.”
She determined that she wanted to work in surgery after a few semesters of nursing school.
“I started right after graduation working in surgery and then went to work privately for an orthopedic surgeon, where I assisted him in surgery. I thrived in the fast pace and quick thinking that orthopedic trauma offered,” she said.
But caring for her three children called for a more standard schedule. An old friend encouraged her to look into being a school nurse.
“School nursing is so much more that putting on Band-Aids. I work in the high school my children attend and the high school I graduated from. I would have never believed that I would like school nursing as much as I do,” she said.
She concluded, “Nursing has so many opportunities. Find your niche, and the rewards will be numerous.”
AMANDA DILL, RN, BSN, CCRN
What drove Amanda Dill to a career in nursing was helping to care for her grandfather when she was growing up. He had two open-heart surgeries and one severe car accident that almost cost him his life.
“I was determined to learn as much as I could to help him,” Dill explained.
She is now in critical care at Bon Secours St. Francis Hospital, where she said she “thrives in the fast-paced and stressful environment.”
She added, “Managing critically ill patients during their worst times and seeing them improve is such a rewarding experience. I could not ask for a better team to work side-byside with during these uncertain times.”
She is currently enrolled in the Walden University adult gerontology- acute care nurse practitioner program.
Dill concluded, “Nursing is not for everyone. It takes a special type of person to provide the highest level of care each day for people in their most vulnerable times.”
KIMBERLY STEWART, RN
Kimberly Stewart remembers the first time she realized that nursing was the right career path for her: “I was in the fourth grade, and we had to write a paper on our career goals. I knew I wanted to be a nurse.”
At that time, her grandfather, who was battling multiple sclerosis and a debilitating stroke, was living with her family. She helped care for him, which drew her to the nursing field.
Now in critical care at Bon Secours St. Francis Hospital, she said she takes “helping patients and their families during a difficult health scare” very seriously.
“It’s a huge responsibility knowing a patient cannot be transferred anywhere else if their health declines. I love the fast pace and could not do what I do without the great team at Palmetto Pulmonology, my fellow nurses and the amazing respiratory therapists.”
Now, at the age of 52, she is working toward her MSN in nursing education at the University of Texas-Arlington.
Charleston Nurses – Sep/Oct 2020
KHAILIALIAH YATES, RN, ADN
The most rewarding part of being a pediatric intensive care unit nurse at the MUSC Shawn Jenkins Children’s Hospital for Khailialiah Yates is being able to bring joy, light and hope to the children and the families that she cares for in probably what is the toughest time of their lives.
“I was working as a tech in the PICU when I decided to go to nursing school. I saw the care and compassion that the nurses showed the patients. I immediately went into nursing school, and now I get to do that,” she said.
She admitted that being a critical care nurse during a pandemic has been challenging in many ways but that she wouldn’t change it for anything.
“I love what I do and am grateful I get to do it,” she remarked.
She doesn’t take herself too seriously and she advises other nurses to do the same.
“It is OK to have fun in your job,” she said.
Yates is currently working on her BSN and aspires to obtain her CCRN and ACNP.
RICHETTA DEAS, MSN, APRN, ANP-BC
It was the painful death of Richetta Deas’ grandmother when she was just 7 years old that made her want to go into nursing.
“My grandmother – my angel – who gave me so much of the little she had, succumbed to a malignant tumor in her stomach that was deemed inoperable. She died alone in a nursing home. I wanted to take care of her myself, and I was only 7 years old,” she remembered.
But that experience inspired her. She is now an adult nurse practitioner with Fetter Health Care Network.
Her advice to new nurses is to “listen to your patients. They are an invaluable resource, and you will learn from each one. Passing clinicals, grand rounds, boards – that is the easy part.”
She also said, “Don’t let the money or job security be the primary reason you become a nurse. Chances are you will fail. This profession is for the soldiers of heart, and you must be alert and ready at all times.”
TANNER WHITSON, BSN, RN
Tanner Whitson can directly relate to his patients at the MUSC Shawn Jenkins Children’s Hospital. From the ages 4 to 14, he had seven major surgeries related to ulcerative colitis with 12 different hospital stays ranging from two or three days to sometimes several weeks at a time. When he was 11, he was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, and, in 2017, he was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease.
Now at age 24, he said he is happy to be living actively and achieving the goals and dreams he always wanted to.
“I chose to work in pediatric intensive care unit because I spent most of my childhood in one of those beds, and now I have the opportunity to show these kids that they can achieve anything they want to in life despite the circumstances they are given,” he said.
He advises new nurses to be “present” with their patients.
“The 12 hours of your shift might just be another 12 hours to you, but, to patients and their families, that could be the most terrifying, scary, uncertain 12 hours of their life. This gives us an opportunity as nurses to really be there for the patient and their family in these fearful times.”
ASHLEY DOCTOR, RN
When Ashley Doctor was growing up, caring for others came naturally.
“I had a love for science, and I was always trying to figure out why things worked the way they worked,” she said.
But when Doctor started helping her grandmother care for her grandfather, she knew this was a calling in life.
“I honestly can say I enjoy helping and serving others,” she explained.
Now as an orthopedic service line navigator at Trident Medical Center, she wants aspiring nurses to know that every experience will shape them.
“Soak up all you can in school and capitalize on every experience. Every situation that you might think is against you is going to help you in some way,” she said.
She personally has always taken the advice of John Maxwell, an American author, speaker and pastor, who said, “Always remember to never stop growing. If we’re growing, we’re always going to be out of our comfort zone.”
Upstate Nurses – Sep/Oct 2020
KATIE STRAWHORN, RN, BSN
Katie Strawhorn started her nursing career in labor and delivery at Self Regional Healthcare. After she had her first daughter, she needed a different schedule because she had been working night shifts. She decided to give home health a try and applied for a job with Health Related Home Care, and she hasn’t looked back.
“I absolutely love home health. Seeing patients in the comfort of their own home is so rewarding. I get to know my patients, their families and their past medical history that led them to their current state of health. That helps you learn your patient as a true ‘whole,’” she explained.
For Strawhorn, becoming a nurse was something she wanted to do since she was a teenager.
“Nursing school was tough, but the reward at the end has been so worth it. There will always be a need for nursing. There are so many opportunities in the nursing profession. I believe every nurse’s role is equally as important as the other,” she said.
PORSHA DRAYTON, BSN, RN
It was Porsha Drayton’s mother who inspired her to pursue a career in nursing.
“I grew up watching her care for others, which led me into knowing that I wanted to spend my life caring for others as well,” she explained.
She wanted to get as much experience as possible, so when she was in high school, she took health science classes and participated in health science clubs. In her senior year, she received her CNA and worked as an intern at her pediatrician’s office.
She attended Piedmont Technical College and worked as a nurse extern in her final year. That allowed her to experience all aspects of nursing. Her first job was in the intensive care unit.
“I desired a nursing position that allowed me to get to know the patients and their families better,” she said.
She received a BSN from Chamberlain University, then started working for Health Related Home Care.
“I know this is where I need to be. I am establishing the relationships with patients that I desired, and I have a better understanding of them and what factors into their illnesses and treatments,” she said.
She concluded, “If nursing is what you are truly compassionate about, take advantage of all the opportunities to learn and grow.”
LYNN MCKITTRICK MCCLURKIN, RN
When she was only 5 years old, Lynn McKittrick McClurkin fondly remembers seeing nurses walking into Old Alexandria Hospital in their crisp white uniforms. But what solidified the decision to be a nurse was when she started caring for her grandfather as he fought cancer when she was 16.
She started working in home health in 1991.
“Being able to care for people in their homes provides the ability to concentrate on them and only them,” she said. “You meet the most amazing people that teach you things as you teach them. I have a passion for working with older patients because I was raised by my grandparents.”
She is now a home health nurse with Health Related Home Care. Her advice to new nurses is to give a little of yourself to your patients. “They will open up more to you. You can learn so much more about patients while carrying on conversations rather than just asking questions,” she said.
She concluded, “Some days you will think they don’t pay you enough, but more times you will wonder why you get paid at all to do what you love.”
STACY UHRICH, BSN, RN
As a child, Stacy Uhrich was always enamored with the nurses she saw caring for her various relatives.
“They were kind and intelligent, and I found myself admiring everything they did for their patients,” she said.
Of course, back then, she had no idea about the details of what a nurse actually did. But for her, all that mattered was seeing how much they truly cared for people.
“As I got older, nursing was a constant in my life and in my heart. I knew that being a nurse was my purpose,” she said.
Uhrich has held various positions over the years in nursing, each being “fulfilling and purposeful” in their own way. She is now the director of the pulmonary/renal unit and inpatient dialysis at Bon Secours in Greenville. She credits her first head nurse for instilling a love of nursing and encouraging her proteges to help grow the next generation to pick up that torch.
Uhrich concluded, “You truly will need that desire to serve others in order to get through the tough days that will come during your education and in your nursing practice. Most of all, just want to be a good nurse every day and you will be.”
Charleston Nurses – Jul/Aug 2020
AMBER RYAN, RN, BSN
Amber Ryan remembers setting up a doctor’s office for her father, a stonemason, when he would return home with cuts and bruises after a hard day’s work.
“I would clean him up and bandage his wounds,” she said.
But as a freshman in college, she started taking classes in early childhood education.
“I’ll admit guts and gore deterred me from becoming a nurse at first,” she explained.
When her grandfather got sick, she said she always remembered how his face lit up when he spoke about the nurses who made his hospital stays better.
“I knew that I wanted to do this for others. I wanted to make a difference in people’s lives the way those nurses did for my grandpa,” she explained.
She is now working in the pediatric intensive care unit at the MUSC Shawn Jenkins Children’s Hospital.
Her advice to aspiring nurses: “Make the most of every experience, and follow your own path to becoming a nurse. I work with so many health care professionals in different fields that feel discouraged they aren’t where they expected themselves to be. We all get there eventually, so use every step along the way as an experience to grow from.”
TRERVOR PHAM, RN
Trervor Pham said he has his wife to thank for encouraging him to become a nurse.“She happens to be an RN as well. She said I had the perfect personality for a nurse, so I gave it a chance.”Now in med-surge at the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center, he said he is glad he took that chance because, “nursing has been one of the most fulfilling things I have ever done.”
He said he enjoys med-surge because he likes caring for veterans as they come out of complex surgeries.
“Med-surge is also helping me to build upon my foundation as I work to critical care,” he said.
He concluded: “Nursing school is tough and the job is demanding. There will be times that you may feel like giving up. If you persevere and stick with it, nursing will be one of the most rewarding things you ever do. Being able to say you made a difference in a patient’s life is beyond amazing.”
KIM LOWMILLER, RN
As the patient care coordinator in the Emergency Department at Trident Medical Center, Kim Lowmiller thrives in a fast-paced environment. And, really, it is all she knows.She holds an associate degree in fire science from Western Iowa Tech and a BSN from the University of South Dakota.
After college, she worked as a firefighter/paramedic in South Dakota.“I loved the emergency aspect of it,” she admitted.
When she went back to school for nursing, she knew the ER was where she wanted to be. But it all started when she was 15 and witnessed her grandmother having a stroke.
“I hated that I didn’t know what to do to help her,” Kim explained. She said her favorite part of working in the ER is the teamwork displayed among staff.“
Trident Medical Center Emergency Department’s level of teamwork rivals anything I have seen before. I truly feel so lucky to work with such an amazing team.”
She advised new nurses to “be passionate about learning and just try to become a better nurse every day, and you will succeed.”
KELLY SMITH, RN
For 10 years, Kelly Smith worked at Cypress Gardens as an animal care specialist/zookeeper.
“I never knew I wanted to be a nurse. We lived on a farm and my mom was a rehabber for sick, orphaned and injured animals of all kinds, from snakes to squirrels. I was born, or so I thought, to be in the biology field and take care of animals for the rest of my life.”
She said she heard her calling when her grandfather died of prostate cancer.
She explained: “We had no nurses in the family, no one to help him understand his options. He died from what is usually a slow growing cancer that is managed long-term. I heard God loud and clear on that day. Be a nurse, he said.”
She did not immediately answer the call, but, at the urging of some of her friends, she went back to school.
“During my oncology rotation, I felt a pull like never before and never looked back,” she said.
She now works as an oncology nurse at Trident Medical Center. “I work with some of the best people I know. Teamwork, hard work and strong shoulders for the tough times are what I get every day,” Kelly said.
Upstate Nurses – Jul/Aug 2020
LESLIE TAYLOR, RN, BSN, COS-C
Leslie Taylor realized that nursing was the career for her while working in the laboratory at Greenwood Genetics Center.
“I became very interested in how genetics play a role in the disease process and clinically how to treat patients to provide them with a better quality of life,” she said.
She attended Lander University for nursing school. She said she remembers enjoying her community health clinical the most and that was how she became interested in home health.
“It was my favorite clinical. I was able to witness how nurses and therapists caring for a patient in their home could greatly improve their health and keep them from multiple hospitalizations,” she said.
She added that she believes in the power of home health and how it can help a patient do better with treatments.
“Home health is my passion because it helps patients stay in their homes and improves their quality of life. I am proud to be part of Health Related Home Care.”
Her advice to aspiring nurses is simple: “Study hard, listen to your instructors and don’t quit!”
ANN STEVENSON COOPER, RN
Ann Stevenson Cooper was always fascinated with her father’s stories about his experiences as a doctor. He was a general surgeon in Greenwood.
Cooper was a pre-med major at Clemson University at first but moved onto bio-engineering and ultimately graduated with a civil engineering degree because, “designing roads and working with dirt and water seemed more interesting to me at the time,” she said.
Before starting and raising a family, she worked for the South Carolina Department of Transportation for five years and ended up obtaining a master’s in transportation engineering.
After 11 years of being a stay-at-home mom, she followed her call to be a nurse. She began her career as a nurse on the heart floor at Bon Secours St. Francis Hospital and worked there for nine years. She then moved over to OB and has been there ever since.
“I have been so fortunate that I am still able to do a shift a month on the heart floor, too. I have also worked as needed at Baptist Easley in critical care for the last seven years. I can honestly say that I landed in my specialties by chance and timing and trusting God’s plan for my life, but I am so thankful for the variety and the opportunities that I have had in my nursing career and particularly the work families I have acquired through the journey,” she said.
KELLEY CALVERT, RN
Kelley Calvert’s first career was in biology. After she graduated from Lander University in 1994, she spent 13 years at the Greenwood Genetic Center as a cytotechnologist in the chromosome and fish lab.
The last four of those 13 years she was attending nursing school as well at Lander University. She graduated with her BSN in 2007. She worked in ICU for her first three years as a nurse.
“I gained so much knowledge about different disease processes. It was then that I transferred to home health,” she explained.
She said she enjoys the different relationships she has with her patients in home health.
“I have been in home health for the past 10 years. It is my true love. It is almost as if I am another family member to them,” she said.
Her advice to new nurses: “Always treat your patients as if they were your grandparents. Always show them compassion and love and be an advocate for them.”
CYNTHIA BRYANT, MSN, RN-BC
Ever since Cynthia Bryant was a little girl, she knew she wanted to be a nurse. And that is exactly what she set out to do when she started college for nursing in 1991.
“After three years of completing core classes and pre-requisites, I was disappointed by having to be placed on a waiting list for up to two years to get into the program,” she lamented.
During that waiting period, she got a job as a benefits specialist, got married and had two children.
“My dreams of becoming a nurse fell to the wayside,” she said.
But in 2002, she began taking classes at night to finish her nursing degree and, in 2004, she was accepted into the program. She began full-time nursing school, all while handling multiple part-time jobs and raising two children. She graduated in 2006 and began her career as a nurse in the post cardiovascular unit at Spartanburg Regional Medical Center and has remained a cardiac nurse her entire career.
In 2017, Cynthia was honored with the Daisy Award for Extraordinary Nurses by Spartanburg Regional Medical Center.
“This has truly been the highlight of my career thus far,” she said.
In 2019, she began teaching nursing students part-time for USC-U.
“It is important to be a part of preparing great nurses for our future,” she commented.
She concluded: “Never give up on your dream! No one said it would be easy; they said it would be worth it.”
Charleston Nurses – May/Jun 2020
TANYA LOTT, DNP, RN-BC
When Tanya Lott was only 11 years old, she contracted bacterial meningitis and spent a week in the children’s hospital at MUSC. It was that experience that began her love for nursing.
“I remember having student nurses who took me to the atrium to color and helped me with my schoolwork. It was the first time I had thought about health care as a career,” she said.
Her original thought was pediatrics, but, in nursing school, she found that the neonatal rotation was her favorite. She was hired after graduation from Charleston Southern University at Bon Secours St. Francis Hospital in the newborn nursery. After completing her master’s degree, she became an education specialist in the Roper St. Francis Healthcare professional development department and a clinical instructor at Charleston Southern University. She recently completed her doctoral degree in executive leadership at the University of South Carolina.
In her current role of Magnet Program director, she helped to lead Bon Secours St. Francis Hospital to the American Nurses Credentialing Center Magnet designation in 2010, 2015 and now in 2020.
“My current role blends all of my favorite roles in nursing – teaching, mentoring, leading, pursuing the constant journey toward excellence and providing direct care nurses with the support and resources they need to deliver amazing nursing care,” Lott said.
JARROD BURNSIDE, BSN
It was a job in high school at a long-term care facility that began Jarrod Burnside’s interest in nursing. Back then, he was assisting the residents in activities, but he enjoyed helping and caring for the residents so much that after graduating from high school, he joined the military, where he honed his skills as a medic. Now as a nurse at the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center, he said that of all the different jobs he has had in nursing, working with veterans has been the most rewarding.
He believes nurses should work for six months as nursing assistants before entering nursing school and that they should work the floor they aspire to for a year before entering into the field.
“Nursing really is about the patient as a whole; it isn’t just about the medical aspect,” Burnside said. “Many veterans come to our facility for emotional support. They want that connection with other people, and many show up without an appointment. They just want to talk to someone else who can relate.”
KATE KIEL, RN
As a recent recipient of the Daisy Award at East Cooper Medical Center, Kate Kiel is known for going above and beyond the call of duty as a registered nurse in the hospital’s Outpatient Infusion Clinic.
She won the award after being nominated by the daughter of a patient who said that Kiel would sing to him during his blood transfusions. The nomination read, “There are very few Kates in this world, and my dad was lucky to have her in his life during his last living months. Kate will be in my heart and my dad’s forever.”
The Daisy Award honors nurses who demonstrate clinical excellence in a caring and compassionate manor.
Keil said she knew she wanted to be a nurse since she was 5 years old. Later, as a teenager, she worked in a nursing home as a nurse’s aide.
“I enjoyed my job as an aide as I simply loved the older folks,” she said.
Her advice to aspiring nurses is, “Make a difference in everything you do for our patients. Be a good role model, stay positive, support each other and remember that the expert was once a beginner, too.”
KELSEY WHITSON, BSN, RN, CCRN
Kelsey Whitson said that when she tells someone she is a pediatric critical care nurse at the MUSC Shawn Jenkins Children’s Hospital, the typical response is, “There is no way I could do what you do. It’s just so sad.”
But Whitson’s quick response is always, “While there are sad stories, I am drawn to pediatrics because of the good stories. The resilience of children is incredible, and it provides a renewed sense of hope after every shift. The kids and their families are fighters, and I consider it an honor to be a part of their story.”
She noted that the beauty of nursing is all the different avenues that can be pursued: “Everyone has different talents and interests. Find your interest, and you will find an area of nursing that aligns with it.”
She concluded, “In the midst of the current pandemic, health care workers are being recognized as the heroes. While I am grateful for the recognition, I hope that when life goes back to normal, our community does not forget the role we play. We were heroes before, we are heroes now and we will continue to be heroes as time moves on.”
Upstate Nurses – May/Jun 2020
KIMBERLY JONES, RN
Kimberly Jones had always wanted to be a nurse but hadn’t pursued it until fate took over and she was laid off at her job at a textile mill. It was then that she decided to go back to school for nursing.
Losing her job was one reason she wanted to become a nurse, but the other reason was because of her grandmother, who at that time was facing blindness in both eyes due to macular degeneration.
“Watching my grandmother deteriorate made me realize that I had to get my nursing degree,” Jones said.
She now works for Health Related Home Care in Greenwood, and she has never looked back.
Her advice to new nurses is simple. “Don’t do it for the money. You have to love people and love helping them to do this job well.”
KACY MORGAN, RN
It was a high school health science class that sealed the deal for Kacy Morgan on becoming a nurse.
“I was always interested in nursing, but the health science class solidified my decision,” she said.
She obtained a CNA license at that young age and worked in a family practice. Later she decided to give home health a try after obtaining her LPN in 2008 and her RN in 2010. She now works for Health Related Home Care.
“After over seven years of home health experience, four with this agency, I know I am right where I need to be,” she explained. “I enjoy getting to work one-on-one with patients and their families in their home environment, which is where they are most comfortable.”
Her advice to aspiring nurses is to never give up: “Nursing school wasn’t easy, but I wouldn’t take anything back. I love serving patients in my community on a daily basis.”
KATIE BURRIS, BSN, RN
Katie Burris admits that her inspiration to become a nurse came from her mother: “My mother is a nurse, and her passion for nursing inspires me every day to make a difference in the lives of others. I always aspire to be as great a nurse as she was.”
Her mother is the CEO for Palladium Hospice and Palliative Care.
As a school nurse at Holly Springs-Motlow Elementary, Burris said she loves everything about her job.
“From educating kids on healthy habits, taking care of them when they are sick or hurt, being an advocate for them or just being a listening ear – I love it all,” she said.
She concluded, “Nursing is not for everyone, but it was for me and for that I am truly grateful. It’s definitely not easy, but it is rewarding. If I can make a difference in the life of one child, it will have all been worth it.”
ASHTYN POMEROY, LPN
Ashtyn Pomeroy said she knew she wanted to be a nurse from the moment she understood what it meant to care for someone else.
“I have always enjoyed taking care of people and being able to help them in any way I can,” she said.
New Horizon Family Health Services gave Ashtyn her first job as a nurse, and that’s where she continues to work today as a charge nurse.
“It has expanded my desire to take care of others and opened me up to this passion I have for people and the community. I enjoy learning new things and meeting people of all ages from all walks of life,” she explained.
She said she loves the fact that there are so many avenues in nursing: “Find your passion and let that drive you to be the best nurse you can be. We make a difference!”
She concluded: “Do it from the heart or not at all. Nursing is a work of heart.”
Charleston Nurses – Mar/Apr 2020
CHARLES L. REEVES JR., MSN, RN, CEN, CCEMT-P, TCRN, NRP
Emergency Department was a natural transition for Charles L. Reeves.
Now, as the assistant nurse manager in the Emergency Department at Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center, his role is more administrative, but he said he likes to work bedside along with his staff in the Emergency Department because he doesn’t want to lose perspective of what nurses deal with on a daily basis.
“I believe that working in the trenches, so to speak, allows me to be a better manager, too,” he added.
His advice to new nurses: “Stay committed and focused. All the work and sacrifice will be worth it. You are obtaining education that will empower you to not only change your life but also the lives of your patients.”
He also encourages nurses to keep learning. He plans to return to school to become a family nurse practitioner.
DEBORAH WALKER, BSN, RN, CCRN
Deborah Walker, administrative nursing supervisor for Roper St. Francis Mount Pleasant Hospital, recalls the exact moment she decided nursing was the right path in her professional journey. She was a new mom, and her baby was suddenly admitted to an intensive care unit.
“I was out of town, scared and feeling so helpless,” Walker recalled. “It was the kindness, calming attitudes and knowledge of nurses on the unit that compelled me to go into nursing.
As a nursing supervisor, Walker said she enjoys the unique privilege of being involved in direct patient care while ensuring that nurses have the support and tools they need for the best patient outcomes.
“Nurses give so much of themselves every day to care for the patients they serve, and it is my joy to provide them with support and care,” she said.
Her advice to aspiring nurses: “Never underestimate the impact of your service, dedication, kindness, compassion and sacrifices. Although you may not always get accolades and kudos, know deep down the magnitude of your efforts do not go unnoticed.”
KRISTIN STOREY, MSN, RN, CEN
Being around nurses and doctors was pretty normal for Kristin Storey as a child. Her mother was diagnosed with a brain tumor when she was just 4 years old and unfortunately succumbed to the disease 11 years later.
“During that time, I met several of her nurses and just remember being in awe of everything they did for my mom and for our family,” Storey said. “So it was a pretty easy decision for me when it came time to decide what I wanted to do for a living.”
Now, as the clinical nurse manager in the Emergency Department at Roper St. Francis Berkeley Hospital, Storey said that what she loves most about her job is knowing she made a difference in someone’s life.
“Nursing is not an easy career to go into. It’s long hours, it’s spending holidays away from your family and it’s emotionally draining, but it is all worth it. Sometimes I wonder if I made the right career decision, but then I remember the patients and it makes everything better,” she concluded.
JULIE LOOMIS, BSN, RN-BC
Julie Loomis’ mother suggested she should become a nurse after her younger brother was injured and Loomis calmly assisted him.
When she was a senior in high school, Loomis attended a technical school for part of the year and participated in a program that allowed her to job-shadow a nurse.
“I wanted to make sure that was the right path for me before applying to nursing school and it was,” she said.
Loomis attended Michigan State University and moved to South Carolina the summer after she graduated. She started working on a general medicine floor at Roper St. Francis Hospital and has now been there for eight years.
“I learned that I enjoy the variety of people I get to help, and I love to learn something new every day,” she said.
Her advice to aspiring nurses: “Find what makes you most passionate about helping others and know that the opportunities you have to make a positive impact on someone’s life are endless.”
Upstate Nurses – Mar/Apr 2020
STACEY MABREY, RN
Stacey Mabrey’s mother suggested that she go into nursing when she was a senior in high school.
“My mom kept pushing me toward nursing, saying I would never be without a job and I would have good income. My answer was, ‘How can I be a nurse? I hate needles. I literally pass out when I am given a shot!’”
She decided to give nursing a try and enrolled in the LPN program at Piedmont Tech. She joked, “I made it through nursing school without passing out from needles!”
Mabrey realized during clinicals that geriatrics was what she enjoyed. When she graduated with an LPN degree in 2005, she started working at Martha Franks Retirement Community. She began nursing school online to obtain her RN while she was working as an LPN.
When she graduated with her RN, she decided to work in a hospital setting in med-surg to gain her year of acute-care experience.
Now, with Health Related Home Care for the past eight years, she feels she has found her niche as a nurse.
“I love my job, co-workers and patients. One piece of advice I can give to new nurses is to be a team player. Working together helps you give your patients the best possible care.”
NORMA WILLEY, RN
Norma Willey feels as though it was really a “calling” for her to be a nurse. She started out working in a nursing home as an aide before she decided to commit to a career in nursing.
“I enjoyed working with people and seeing the difference I could make in their lives,” she said.
She graduated from Piedmont Tech in 1994 and immediately got a job with Self Regional in a cardiac stepdown unit. She then went on to home health nursing with Health Related Home Care, which is where she works today.
“I have been with Health Related Home Care in Abbeville for 21 years now. I very much enjoy taking care of patients in their own homes. I am blessed to make a difference in their lives and the lives of their family by working to keep them safe at home with their loved ones.”
She is also married and a mother to five children. Her favorite quote from Art Williams sums up nursing, she said: “I’m not going to tell you it’s going to be easy. I’m going to tell you it’s going to be worth it.”
KELLEY CLUBB, LPN
It was Kelley Clubb’s experience with the nurses at her OB doctor’s office when she was pregnant with her daughter that left that lasting impression on her.
“The care I received was so great that I knew I wanted to impact someone’s life like those nurses did for me,” she said. She now works in home health and she said, “It has been very rewarding working with patients in their home.”
Clubb worked in long-term care prior to her current position, which she believes was a blessing in disguise because the residents in the nursing home she worked in touched her heart in many “unexpected” ways.
Her advice to new nurses: “Expect the unexpected. Nursing is hard. It is exhausting. But it is rewarding in so many ways that will impact you for the rest of your life. Be kind to your fellow nurses and CNAs/techs. You all are a team, working together to help others. Have an open mind. And to the nursing student: Don’t give up! There is so much opportunity out there.”
CARLA WHITE, RN
Carla White’s grandmother told her stories about how she would play nurse with her cousins. She said she always knew she wanted to be a nurse.
And for White, it all came full circle when she cared for her grandmother, who passed away from Alzheimer’s. “That was when I realized my true calling was to work with the elderly, especially those with Alzheimer’s and other cognitive disabilities,” she said.
Now as an administrator for Elite Day Center in Greer, she said the aspect of her job that she loves the most is having an impact on someone’s life.
Her advice to future nurses: “Be a nurse for the right reasons. Hug the crying daughter of the dementia patient who no longer remembers her. Hold the hand and encourage the mom who is doing her best caring for her special needs child. Be an advocate for your patient. It is your responsibility as a nurse to be their voice when they don’t have one.”
She concluded, “One thing that is unchanging for a nurse is the purpose to deliver the best possible care to patients each day. I can say I love being a nurse and cherish the relationships I have made over the years with my patients and their family members.”
Charleston Nurses – Jan/Feb 2020
KALEIGH GRIFFITH, RN
Kaleigh Griffith, a nurse at Trident Medical Center, has wanted to be a nurse since she was 6 years old. Her mother was a nurse, so she saw firsthand how rewarding the job could be.
She said she met a “little girl with cancer” in her first year of clinical and meeting her made her decide to pursue oncology.
“I eventually want to migrate into pediatric oncology,” she said. “Treating children with cancer is something I am interested in.”
She is currently pursuing her BSN. Her RN license came from Patrick Henry Community College in Virginia.
Her advice to new graduates is to always have a positive outlook and attitude.
She concluded, “The job won’t be easy, but it’s so rewarding and that makes it worth it.”
AMELIA HILL, FNP-BC
Amelia Hill said she went into nursing for the same reason that many do: “I wanted to help people.”
She obtained her BSN from Charleston Southern University but realized that she wanted more autonomy, so she pursued her nurse practitioner degree and received an MSN-FNP from the University of South Carolina.
She currently works at Palmetto Endocrinology.
“As a nurse practitioner in an endocrinology office, a great percentage of the patients I see have diabetes and/or thyroid disorders,” she said.
She enjoys counseling patients on eating a healthy diet and exercising.
“This can result in a significantly higher quality of life,” she said.
She is married and enjoys spending time with her husband, their family and Dewey, their golden retriever.
LINDSAY BOZZELLI FRIED, FNP-C
Lindsay Bozzelli Fried’s first degree is in business, but she said “I knew that wasn’t the right field for me.”
Her grandmother, who was a nurse, had a great influence on her life.
“That, combined with my interest in science, led me to pursue a career in nursing,” she explained.
Bozzelli attended the Medical University of South Carolilna for her BSN and the University of South Carolina in Columbia for her MSN, specializing in family nurse practitioner. She spent seven years working at MUSC in the cardiac intensive care unit, as well as in the ICU float pool. She also worked in functional medicine and aesthetics prior to her current job in primary care at Palmetto Primary Care on Daniel Island.
“You do get to see it all in family practice, ranging from common issues to more complex problems. I also like seeing such a wide age range of patients,” she said.
Her advice to new nurses: “Never be afraid to ask questions, and, if you find yourself in a field you don’t enjoy, switch it up. There are endless possibilities to what you can do with your degree.”
ASHLEY WILSON, FNP, NP-C
Ashley Wilson said she enjoys being that small glimmer of light in a patient’s darkest days.
“Nursing, in my eyes, is the definition of holistic care. Not only are you able to care for individuals physically by providing them with medications and wound care, but you are able to care for them emotionally by being a listening ear and a shoulder to cry on,” she said.
Wilson has a background in GI med/surg from MUSC, which is where she worked for three-and-a-half years prior to obtaining her MSN. She is now a family nurse practitioner with Palmetto Primary Care in Crowfield.
She obtained her associate degree from Trident Technical College and her BSN and MSN from the Medical University of South Carolina.
Wilson said the following about nursing school: “It’s going to be hard, but hard does not mean impossible. Nursing is so much more than a job. It’s a part of who you are. Embrace it.”
Upstate Nurses – Jan/Feb 2020
KAREN MITCHELL, RNP
As a nurse patient care coordinator/ educator at New Horizon Family Health Services, Karen Mitchell chose this particular specialty because she felt it was where she could make the greatest impact on the lives of others and the system.
“I wanted to live out my faith in my vocation,” she said. “Plus, I knew that if I was going to miss time with my son, my career was going to have to have meaning and purpose, other than just income.”
She said she had worked in other areas of nursing but that care coordination, case management and chronic disease management just “spoke to her.”
Her advice to aspiring nurses is to always remember that “nursing is not about you. If it is, you are not on the right path.”
CRYSTAL BEASLEY, LPN
It was a class and a particular teacher that really sold Crystal Beasley on the idea of becoming a nurse.
“I took health science technology in the 11th and 12th grade, and the class allowed us to venture into the world of health care,” she recalled. “The teacher was wonderful. Having that hands-on experience with patients made me fall in love with nursing.”
She received her diploma in applied science with an emphasis in practical nursing from Piedmont Technical College. She began her career as a nurse in a county jail, then went to urgent care/family medicine and later to orthopedics.
She is now in home health with Health Related Home Care in Greenwood.
“Home health was not something I had ever thought I would do. I saw the ad and applied. Six months into the job and I love it,” she said. “It is rewarding because sometimes you are the only person the patient sees all week. Sometimes you are not just taking vital signs, but you are also making their bed, taking out the trash and even doing a little grocery shopping for them.”
She said the endless appreciation she hears makes it all worth it.
“I applied for the job, but I am pretty sure, in a sense, that home health chose me,” she said.
RHINA NUNEZ, LPN
Rhina Nunez always knew she loved the medical field. She also knew that she wanted a career that was not only interesting but that made a difference in people’s lives. She said she loves being a licensed practical nurse because it is challenging, and she is constantly learning. She currently works at New Horizon Family Health Services.
“I have the ability to communicate with people and to explain things clearly, which is what some people need due to not recognizing medical terms,” she said.
She is also a nurse patient care coordinator/educator.
“I love being able to teach the patient how to better live and control different diagnoses like diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol,” she said.
Her advice to aspiring nurses: “Make sure you never stop learning and listen to your patients. Make sure to communicate clearly and have empathy when it is due. Have a mentor that you can look up to and learn from.”
DELORES MARSHALL, RN
After attending a career fair in the 11th grade, Delores Marshall knew that nursing was for her.
“I always had the desire to take care of others, especially the elderly,” she said.
She graduated from Lander College with an associate degree in nursing and worked in medical/surgical nursing for 13 years.
“I needed a job that was Monday through Friday with daytime hours to have more time with my family, so I started doing home health and have been doing that ever since for 26 years now,” she said.
Marshall currently works for Health Related Home Care in Abbeville.
She said she truly believes that nursing is a ministry from God and that taking care of patients and their caregivers in their homes, where they want to stay, is a Godsent career for her.
Her advice to aspiring nurses: “Always listen to your patients, have compassion and be patient. Treat them as if they were one of your loved ones.”
Charleston Nurses – Nov/Dec 2019
“I knew I wanted to care for patients and improve their lives. I shadowed a wound care specialty nurse in college,” she said. Halverson then followed in their footsteps and obtained her wound and ostomy certification. She also earned an associate degree in nursing from the College of the Desert in Palm Springs, California, and bachelor of science in nursing degree from the Augsburg University in Minneapolis.
Karen understands that every individual is unique and one-of-akind. She gives concentrated attention to each patient she interacts with. She encourages aspiring nurses to always ask the patient about their back story and to never stop asking “why.”
STACEY WARNEKE, RN, BSN, CPHON
It was Stacey Warneke’s experience in pediatrics that led her to realize what her true passion in nursing was.
“My first job as a nurse was at MUSC on the pediatric sub-specialty floor. This was an amazing floor, and, though it was mentally and emotionally difficult, I quickly fell in love with the hematology/ oncology and BMT aspects. This was mainly because of the incredibly resilient patients. These pediatric patients and their families would spend so much time on the floor that you would get to know them quite well,” she explained.
She is currently the BMT donor coordinator at MUSC. She works with donors who volunteer to donate bone marrow or peripheral blood stem cells for a patient in need.
Her advice to aspiring nurses: “Nursing school is difficult. Work hard and push through, and you will realize your dreams and find a great reward on the other side.”
She recently won a Daisy Award, which recognizes extraordinary nurses, for her compassionate care. She saved the life of a veteran’s wife who was found on the floor in her home after several hours. McCabe went to the home for her regular check and found the woman, whose husband, the veteran, was suffering from dementia.
“It was an honor to receive the Daisy award. It is a reminder and an inspiration to continue on in my career as a nurse to provide safe and thoughtful care to my patients,” she said.
ANNA CAROLINE PETERSON, RN
Ever since Anna Caroline Peterson can remember, she wanted to be a nurse. Originally from Brazil, Peterson said she has relatives there who are nurses and that she always looked up to them.
“I enjoy being able to take care of others and help them in their time of need. The orthopedic floor was the unit I enjoyed the most during my rotations in school. I love seeing our patients getting ‘fixed’ and how we nurses can help them during the recovery and rehab process,” she said.
Now on the orthopedics team at Trident Medical Center, Peterson said she is very grateful for her career in nursing.
“There is no other job more rewarding than nursing. We need more nurses, and, even though it can be challenging, it is very worth the time going to school and helping our patients,” she concluded.
Upstate Nurses – Nov/Dec 2019
“I grew up knowing that I wanted to be a nurse,” Anderson said. “There was never anything else I wanted to do. My mother was a nurse and both my sister and I went into nursing.”
She said she has had the fortunate opportunity of working in many different aspects of nursing – from inpatient and community settings and with many different age groups. But she said she found her passion in home health.
“Elderly people have always been my favorite group of people to work with,” she said. “It’s the most rewarding job both professionally and personally that I’ve ever had.”
She concluded that nursing is one of the hardest fields but also the most rewarding: “I’m always learning something new and am always blessed by my patients.”
DANA MORTON, RN, BSN
Dana Morton, a home health nurse with the Bon Secours St. Francis Health System in Greenville, felt the calling to be a nurse at the age of 12 when she was diagnosed with insulin- dependent diabetes mellitus.
“I had passed out with hypoglycemia at summer camp, and the nurse there was the first person I saw when I came to. She saved my life and looked like an angel to me,” she explained.
This was when she decided to become a nurse.
Morton worked in hospice for 12 years. She was the vice president of operations for a local hospice company before she decided to leave and pursue her lifelong dream of being a nurse practitioner through a program at Walden University.
“Home health has given me the opportunity to manage chronic disease, and, as a nurse practitioner, I will do just that,” she said.
Her advice to aspiring nurses is to always advocate for your patients and to “never stop pursuing your dreams.”
“I love helping people and spending time with others, especially the elderly,” she said.
She now works in home health for Health Related Home Care in Greenwood. Her favorite part of her job is getting to know the patients.
“I like the fact that I can be more than a nurse to them. I really get to know who they are as a person, and I can make a difference in their lives,” she said.
Her advice to aspiring nurses is to make sure they take care of themselves, which will help them take care of others: “Follow your passions and enjoy your job as a nurse. I thank the profession of nursing for keeping me interested. I love my career.”
NICOLE MUELLER, LPN
Caring for people, both young and old, is a privilege that Nicole Mueller gets to enjoy as a nurse for both Eastside Pediatrics and Harmony at Five Forks, a senior living community.
“When deciding what I wanted to do after high school, I went back and forth between becoming a teacher, social worker or a nurse. I knew I wanted to help people,” she said.
She spent time in a pediatric office during one of her clinical rotations and fell in love.
“I knew that pediatrics was where I would land,” she said.
Mueller got her first job at a pediatric office in Spartanburg and now works for Eastside Pediatrics in Greenville. She decided to broaden her horizons about a year ago and took a weekend job at Harmony at Five Forks.
“It was way out of my comfort zone, but I have learned so much and thoroughly enjoy my time with the assisted living community there,” she explained.
Her advice to new nurses is to stay adaptable and teachable: “Things are always changing and updating in nursing, but that is what keeps it interesting.”
Charleston Nurses – Sep/Oct 2019
She concluded, “The schoolwork is hard, and the job itself can be emotionally, mentally and physically exhausting. However, the impact you will make on patients’ lives will stick with them and you forever. It is such a rewarding job and worth all the bad days combined.”
KRISTEN SCHENKEL, BSN, MSN, RN
Kristen Schenkel found a role in nursing that combines her passion for financial management with her passion for nursing. As the nurse manager of staffing and resources at the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center, Schenkel ensures that safe staffing levels are in place, and she works to retain the best nurses in the community to work at the VA.“I have been blessed to find a way to combine my passion for finance with my nursing leadership career,” she said. She started in health care as a patient care technician on the medical/ surgical unit at St. Joseph’s/Candler Hospital in Savannah, then went to the intensive care unit while attending nursing school. She completed her BSN and remained in Savannah, where she transitioned to an intensive care unit staff RN. After a few years of bedside nursing, she completed her MSN in nursing leadership and administration and moved into nursing administration as the nurse recruiter at the VA in 2016.“Research continues to show us that by increasing and improving staffing, we can reduce negative outcomes for our patients by up to 20%,” she pointed out. “I strive to ensure that not only do our veterans know they are receiving the safest care but that our staff know they are able to provide the safest care.”
She now works for Anesthesia Associates of Charleston, providing quality anesthesia for patients in the Roper St. Francis Hospital System. She hopes to get into teaching in the near future so she can give back to the nursing community for all the guidance and education she received during her journey.
“I would tell aspiring nurses to go into nursing with the desire to be compassionate, lifelong learners. Health care is ever-changing, and our patients need us there not only to care for them but to advocate for them and their families,” she concluded.
KATHLEEN GILLARD, MSN, RN, CNL
When Kathleen Gillard saw how a hospice nurse took care of her grandmother, she knew in that instant that she had to be a nurse.“The nurse that provided care for my grandmother had such dedication and vigilance to not just my grandmother but to my entire family. She made an indelible impression on how I saw nursing,” she reminisced. Gillard is currently working as a clinical nurse leader in the position of high reliability program manager at the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center. “My father is a retired Navy veteran, and I couldn’t imagine a better way to return the favor of his service other than to be a nurse at the VA, caring for our nation’s veterans,” she said. Over the past decade, Gillard has submerged herself in her passion of hospice and medical/surgical nursing. She said she loves being a clinical nurse leader because she can remain hands-on and can also educate, as well as continue to influence the nursing practice. “Listen to your gut. If you have a feeling that something isn’t right, then question the actions of yourself and others to keep your patients safe,” she advised.
Upstate Nurses – Sep/Oct 2019
“I knew I wanted to be a nurse ever since I took anatomy and physiology in high school. I also enjoy caring for others and felt nursing would be the ideal career for me,” she said.
When she graduated from nursing school in 2010 from USC – Upstate, she thought for sure she wanted to work in obstetrics.
“I loved working with new mothers and newborns, but I could not find a position in that area, so I accepted a position in cardiology. I have never looked back,” she admitted.
Since heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, she said she feels passionate about being able to educate patients on heart disease prevention.
She finished her MSN at Gardner-Webb University in 2014. Her advice to aspiring nurses is: “If you are in school, do not give up. Nursing school is challenging, but I feel that the stress in school only prepares you for the real world of nursing. I feel that taking care of someone in the hospital setting requires critical thinking skills, and your judgment could potentially save someone’s life.”
AUDREY HUFF, MSN, RN
For Audrey Huff, nursing definitely was a calling. She was working as a unit secretary for over nine years and was perfectly content when she felt the tug to make a career change to nursing.
She began her career in the emergency room and then went on to cardiology. After eight years in cardiology, she went to work for Pelham Medical Center, where she is now, in med-surg.
During her time at Pelham Medical Center, she obtained her BSN and later her MSN.
“The BSN degree was instrumental in shaping my concept of evidence- based practice. The MSN degree showed me the possibilities of what I could do with a graduate degree in nursing, such as entrepreneurship,” she said.
Huff recently established her own business – Phenomenal Health Care Solutions, LLC.
“I am working on a few ideas and should have it all running within the next six months to a year. I have a good 15 years to work before retirement, so I am excited for what the future holds.”
Her advice to aspiring nurses: “The complexity of problems seen in patients is oftentimes overwhelming. As nurses, we must always seek to make something, anything, better for the patients each time we encounter them.
But being an emergency room nurse was not what she originally saw herself doing.
“I actually wanted to be an anesthesiologist. In high school, I had the opportunity to follow one. That day, he advised me to become a nurse and potentially a certified registered nurse anesthetist. So when the time came, I applied for nursing school,” she said.
While in nursing school, she worked for a pediatrician’s office and loved it. Her first job out of college was on the pulmonary floor at Spartanburg Regional Medical Center.
Fritzsche said that the best advice she received was from a nurse who took care of her while undergoing a small outpatient procedure just before she started nursing school.
“Her advice was that when I get to the end of my rope, and I think I can’t do any more, just pray and God will be there for you.”
She concluded, “Being a nurse is a calling. It’s not a career a person should enter into lightly. However, should anyone decide to become a nurse, they will receive the reward of helping out their fellow man.”
GWEN PAINTER, ADN, RN
Gwen Painter’s first love in nursing came in the form of hospice care. She was a part of the management team at Hospice of the Carolina Foothills and worked in hospice for 15 years before becoming an administrator at Elite Day Center in Spartanburg, which is where she works today.
“I love working with these senior and special needs adults,” she said. “I learn from them every day.”
She became a certified nurse aide right out of high school and worked in nursing homes for several years.
“This one elderly gentleman, Doc Wilson, who I would sit with, kept telling me I could do more and that the only thing that kept me from having the position that the visiting nurse had was education. He told me I could do her job; I just needed the degree. I received my LPN from Spartanburg Community College in 1996. I worked in nursing homes and hospitals for seven years. I wanted to case manage and needed my RN for that line of work. I did a bridge program and received my RN.”
She advised aspiring nurses to work where their passion is and to continue their education. “The medical field changes daily. Keep your skills and knowledge up-to-date,” she said.
Charleston Nurses – Jul/Aug 2019
ANDREA COYLE, MHA, MSN, RN, NE-BC
It was always a dream of Andrea Coyle’s to do something where she was going to make a difference in people’s lives. She not only enjoys assisting patients and families with their needs, but she also is passionate about inspiring and motivating future and current practicing nurses.
As the professional excellence and magnet program director at the Medical University of South Carolina, Coyle has the opportunity to make changes and empower others. She is responsible for leading a driving strategy of the nursing strategic plan, facilitating shared governance and restructuring the nurse clinical ladder. One of Coyle’s many successes was completing a nutrition pilot program at MUSC that increased nurses’ consumption of fruits and vegetables. “I love evolving and managing positive changes,” she explained. She truly believes that nurses have the ability to make the impossible possible. “As the profession evolves, the sky is the limit. Keep going; don’t remain stagnant. Obtain advanced degrees, join professional organizations and obtain specialty certifications. The commitment to the profession of nursing is worth the hard work,” she said.
SONJA KOECKERITZ BSN, RN, CEN
As an ER nurse at Roper St. Francis Mount Pleasant Hospital, Sonja Koeckeritz noted that what makes working in the emergency department so unique is the staff’s vital ability to work as a team: “We rely on each other for everything. At any moment, we could go from one patient to a dozen patients, and we need to be prepared for anything that walks in the door. ”She also is a preceptor in her department. She said she loves that aspect of her job because “the role of preceptor is key to the success of the hospital. I hope that I am able to infuse my knowledge and experience and grow strong clinical nurses.” And she does her job very well. Koeckeritz was a 2019 Palmetto Gold winner and the 2016 Mount Pleasant Hospital Nurse of the Year. “As a nurse, I enjoy being able to care for patients as if they were my own family in the hopes that at another point in time someone would treat my family with the same compassion and dignity. I enjoy educating patients on their diagnosis and treatment plans in ways that they can understand and improve their compliance.”
Upstate Nurses – Jul/Aug 2019
“He received excellent care there,” she remembered. “Those nurses were all so competent and cared for him with so much compassion that it inspired me to pursue nursing.”
She was serving in the Army at the time, and two years later was accepted to the local practical nursing program. She began her career in long-term care.
“I fell in love with the geriatric population,” she said.
She then moved on to occupational health, pediatrics and telehealth nursing with the Department of Veterans Affairs. She is currently enrolled at Greenville Technical College, furthering her education in nursing in the associate degree program. Her ultimate goal is to be a nursing educator.
“Go after your dream and explore all the options that the field of nursing has to offer,” she concluded. “You never know where you will end up.”
APRIL HAMPTON, RN, NHA, CRCFA
April Hampton started her career path to nursing at a young age, so it is safe to say she always knew she would be a nurse. When she was 18, she was working in dietary services in an assisted living facility, and it was then that she knew that nursing for the elderly population was her destiny.
“I feel that nursing is the gift that God instilled in my heart,” she said.
Now she is the director of nursing at RoseCrest of Lutheran Homes of South Carolina.
“My focus is educating the staff on quality of care with performance improvement projects. In collaboration with health care systems, we need to ensure a safe transition from the hospital to short-term rehab then to long-term care, assisted living or home health,” she said. “It is important to implement systems and interventions as appropriate to care for those with a diagnosis such as COPD, congestive heart failure or cerebrovascular accident, along with those with the need for surgical and orthopedic aftercare.”
She believes wholeheartedly in management equipping the frontline staff with the means to meet the needs of patients in the acute-care setting, sub-acute setting and home health setting.
“We all must collaborate in an effort to provide good quality care,” she concluded.
“Nursing was not really on my mind when I was younger,” she said.
Growing up in a small town in Mississippi, she said she had a drive to succeed in whatever she set her mind to. She decided to major in journalism as an undergraduate at Alcorn State University. Right after college, she married, started a family and spent the next 15 years raising her three sons. As soon as she was able to pursue a career, she decided to take nursing classes at Greenville Technical College.
“Of course, when I took my first class in nursing, I knew right away that I wanted to become a nurse, and my hunger for becoming a nursing professor took root.”
She graduated from Greenville Technical College in 2005.
“Since graduating, I have had the privilege of working in various levels of care in nursing. I have worked as a bedside nurse in acute care, critical care, long-term acute care and long-term care,” she said.
Now she is a professor of nursing.
“I believe that teachers and nurses are the best that can be offered to any community. And guess what? I am a nurse and a teacher,” she concluded.
ELIZABETH MADRID, BSN, RN, CPN
It is probably fitting for Elizabeth Madrid to be working as a nurse in pediatrics at Prisma Health with the Greenville Hospital System. She grew up in a large family and always loved taking care of small children.
“My mom became a nurse when I was teenager, and I knew then that was a field I was interested in as well,” she said. “I love pediatrics because I not only get to take care of children, but I also get to take care of the parents and siblings. When a child is sick, it affects the whole family.”
Madrid is bilingual in English and Spanish. She has made it her mission to serve members of the Spanish community by helping to improve their quality of care. She spent time in Peru as a volunteer, where she was able to make a difference to the underserved in that area.
She admitted that nursing can be challenging but that when your heart is in it, you will find that nursing is “the most rewarding job in the world,” she said.