Being a nurse takes a special kind of person.
The hours are long, and the work is physically and emotionally demanding, but the satisfaction of taking care of people when they are sick and vulnerable also can be personally rewarding.
At Schneck Medical Center in Seymour, there are more than 300 nurses, including licensed practical nurses, certified nursing assistants, registered nurses and advanced practice nurses.
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They demonstrate compassion, skill and knowledge in the simplest task to the most complex procedure.
Last Thursday, the hospital celebrated National Nurses Week, which runs from May 6 to 12, by honoring its top nurses in a special recognition ceremony.
Those receiving awards were Donna Foster, Advanced Practice Nurse of the Year; Amber Easterling, Licensed Practical Nurse of the Year; Crista Turmail, Registered Nurse of the Year; and Alyssa Gentry, Nurse Leader of the Year.
Warren Forgey, president and CEO of Schneck, said the hospital observes National Nurses Week to raise awareness of the important role nurses play in society and particularly at Schneck Medical Center.
Last year, Schneck nurses were involved in more than 5,000 in-patient admissions, more than 5,000 surgical procedures, more than 30,000 emergency room visits and around 800 births, Forgey said.
“Our nurses’ actions certainly speak well of the profession,” he said.
Gentry has worked as a nurse for the past five years, beginning her career as a student nurse in the emergency department at Schneck in 2011.
She went on to be a night shift registered nurse and patient care supervisor in the emergency department, house supervisor and currently is a nurse manager in the adult medical and pediatrics departments.
A medical terminology class and a real-life experience led Gentry to the nursing field.
“I knew I wanted to become a nurse ever since high school,” Gentry said. “My grandfather had to have open-heart surgery, and I was in awe of getting to see everything that the nurses did to help care for him.”
She graduated from Ball State University with her Bachelor of Science degree in nursing and currently is finishing up her Master of Science in nursing leadership and management.
Gentry said the most rewarding aspect of being a nurse leader is getting to see how her staff cares for patients.
“When a patient is happy, so is the staff, and when sad things happen, everybody feels it and looks out for each other,” she said. “My staff is always going out of their way to make sure that our patients receive the best care possible, and as their leader, I couldn’t ask for anything more.”
She has only been in her current position for six months, so the newness of the job hasn’t worn off yet, she said.
“I have a lot of ideas of what I want to accomplish, and it is difficult to remember that sometimes it just takes time,” she said.
Gentry was shocked to receive a nurse of the year award so soon.
“I certainly wasn’t expecting it simply because I am so new in my role,” she said. “I have a great staff, and it means the world to me to know that they see me as a good leader.”
But she wouldn’t be where she is today without the support of other nurses, she said.
“There are so many great nursing leaders at Schneck Medical Center, and I am always looking to them for guidance, and I’m so thankful to have them supporting me in this role,” she said.
Easterling has been a nurse for 13 years and worked at Schneck since October 2008. She currently can be found in the moderate acute adult care unit department.
“There wasn’t a big event in my life that caused me to choose nursing,” she said. “I always wanted to be either a teacher or a nurse, and eventually I just gravitated toward nursing.”
And she has no regrets for making that decision.
She loves getting to talk to patients when they are better.
“I especially love seeing the progress they have made in rehab,” she said. “I love talking with patients and their families and learning more about them. Everyone has a story.”
But some days and some situations are hard to handle.
“Seeing a family that is hurting watching a loved one that is dying can be difficult,” she said. “You wish you could do more for them, but I love how Schneck really focuses on caring for the family at this time, as well.”
It was the death of her grandfather in 2008 that led her to her job at Schneck, she said.
“I live in Columbus, and my grandfather was admitted to Schneck ICU because Columbus Regional Hospital was closed due to the flood,” she said. “I know this must have been a busy and hectic time at Schneck with CRH closed, but you would have never guessed it.”
Easterling said the doctors and nurses at Schneck not only took care of her grandpa but the entire family.
“It’s amazing how the smallest acts of kindness can bring you comfort,” she said. “There wasn’t any one big thing they did for us. It was all the little things.”
She now tries to provide the same level of care.
“I truly love working at Schneck and having the opportunity to take care of patients and their families the way mine were taken care of here,” she said.
Easterling was surprised and honored to receive the LPN of the Year award because she thought she was just there to support her co-worker, Turmail.
“I am so blessed to have the opportunity to work with such extraordinary people,” Easterling said. “The way everyone helps each other is amazing. There is no ‘That’s not my patient’ mentality. They are all your patients, and everyone jumps to help anyone.”
Although she has learned much from those she works with at Schneck, there is still plenty more to learn, she said.
“That’s one of the things I love,” she said. “I am always learning something new, and I have the very best teachers.”
Schneck Medical Center 2017 Nurses of the Year
Advanced Practice Nurse of the Year: Donna Foster
Licensed Practical Nurse of the Year: Amber Easterling
Registered Nurse of the Year: Crista Turmail
Nurse Leader of the Year: Alyssa Gentry