Celebrating some of the caring nurses throughout the Plateau

By Brian O’Shea, Plateau Daily News

Last week was National Nurses Week and it was established to recognize the contributions of nurses throughout the country each year from May 6-12.

“We are honored to have such exceptional nurses at both Highlands-Cashiers Hospital and Eckerd Living Center,” said Tom Neal, CEO, Highlands-Cashiers Hospital. “Their compassion is unmatched and the individual care they give to our patients and residents makes me proud to be a part of this amazing team.”

Nurses who work at the Highlands-Cashiers Hospital and the Eckerd Living Center work long hours and deal with heart-wrenching situations on a regular basis. They all have different reasons for choosing a career in healthcare, but boils down to dedication and commitment to care for others.

National Nurses Week was May 6-12. Pictured are nurses from Highlands-Cashiers Hospital and the Eckerd Living Center; from left are Tracy Jernigan, Stephanie Mallonee, Kimberly Townsend, and Diana Shane.

Kimberly Townsend, Clinical Nurse Coordinator at HCH

Kimberly Townsend is a CNC at HCH and followed in the footsteps of her grandmother, who was also a nurse. Townsend said her grandmother would show the entire family how to properly take care of others, and treat them like family.

Townsend said she especially enjoys working at a patient’s bedside and getting to know them.

“I love being able to be there advocating for my patient,” she said. “They’re scared, they don’t feel well, and they often don’t speak up or what to tell the doctor.”

Townsend remembers a time when a 3-year-old boy came to the emergency room with an injury to his forehead. The boy’s 1 year-old sister was at her wits ends and would not stop screaming.

Townsend spoke to the injured boy and helped calm him down, and he then calmed down his hysterical baby-sister.

“It made me feel really good, like I was where I needed to be,” she said. “Doctors can’t assess a patient if everyone in the room is freaking out. To have that impact and to know I was able to help them, it’s comforting.”

Diana Shane, Nursing Administrative Supervisor at HCH

Shane does a bit of everything, including bedside nursing, acute care, and emergency room duty.

She chose the healthcare field because of an interest in babies and technology, and began her career working in a neonatal intensive care unit. This led to outpatient, pre-op, and post-op surgical care.

Shane then transitioned to a managerial position, but still felt the need to care for patients.

“I wanted to do both, so this is the perfect place,” she said. “I can be a nurse and a manager; I can fill out reports while wearing scrubs. It stimulates both things that I enjoy.”

While she wears both hats, Shane said the nurse side of things can be thrilling at times.

“I love the excitement of helping someone who comes in for a critical need or a life-threatening situation,” she said. “We see them at their worst, and then to get them to the point where they are okay. We follow them through their care until they are feeling as close to normal as possible.”

She added that being part of a great team makes her position even more rewarding.

“It’s absolutely amazing here, I love it,” said Shane. “I’ve never been somewhere so embracing and warm. Everyone here is considered family right from the beginning.”

Stephanie Mallonee, Restorative Nurse and Fall Specialist at the Eckerd Living Center

As a Restorative Nurse, Mallonee helps patients keep their baseline (normal status) and maintain what they built in therapy.

She said her grandmother was a caregiver and would take Mallonee with her when she would care for people in the community. As she got older, Mallonee knew caring for others was in her nature.

“I just love taking care of people,” said Mallonee. “I love knowing I can do things to improve the quality of their life.”

Mallonee often works with elderly patients caring for them in Geriatrics is fulfilling.

“They have worked hard their whole lives and your care and respect,” said Mallonee. “I get to be a part of that, I love it.”

She added that working at the ELC is the perfect fit for her.

“I like it here because of the atmosphere, the people here care,” said Mallonee. “Residents here are not just numbers, they’re people. It’s all about the patients and respecting them.”

Mallonee said loving other people is a big part of being a nurse.

“People in this field are hurting and in pain,” she said. “If you don’t love people, you can’t give them the care and compassion they need. Especially the difficult patients, sometimes they need that love, kindness, and compassion the most.”

Tracy Jernigan, Staff Nurse at the Eckerd Living Center

Jernigan has been a nurse for 23 years, spending the past nine months as a Staff Nurse at the Eckerd Living Center.

Throughout her career, Jernigan said long-term care is what she enjoys the most.

“I love the residents 100%, I love them to pieces,” said Jernigan. “That’s why I like long-term care. You really get to know your patients. If they don’t have family come and visit, you can kind of fill that gap.”

Sarah Pennington, Registered Nurse at the Eckerd Living Center

Pennington began an interest in the health care field in high school studying health sciences.

“I’ve always been interested in what I can to do help other people and make their lives better and more enjoyable,” said Pennington.

Pennington graduated from nursing school and began her career at the height of COVID.

“It was terrifying, but at the same time it was incredibly rewarding,” she said. “It’s one of the best jobs on the planet when you can go home and know that you’ve made a difference in someone else’s life. We truly care for people as a whole.”

It doesn’t have to be National Nurses Week to show a nurse they are appreciated, take a moment to thank a nurse, give them a shoutout on social media, send a card, flowers, donuts or candy; something to show appreciation for their dedication and compassion demonstrated each day on the job.

Pictured at the top of the article from left are Eckerd Living Center nurses Tracy Jernigan, Sarah Pennington, and Stephanie Mallonee. Pennington was attending to patients during the first group photo op.

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