Chad Tucker, director of the Volunteer Services Department at the Medical Center, shakes hands with Jennifer Congleton, administrator of pastoral care and volunteer services, while they hold the North Carolina Governor’s Award for Volunteer Service: Paid Volunteer Director.

The 2023 North Carolina Governor’s Award for Volunteer Services were recently announced, and four volunteers with ECU Health have been recognized. The award honors the true spirit of volunteerism by recognizing individuals and groups who make a significant contribution to their community through volunteer service. The ECU Health award winners this year are Shantell McLaggan, Gaddamanugu Uma and Ed Chambers. Chad Tucker won the North Carolina Governor’s Award for Volunteer Service: Paid Volunteer Director.

Shantell McLaggan and Gaddamanugu Uma

Shantell McLaggan and Gaddamanugu Uma are third-year medical students at the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University and North Carolina Schweitzer Fellows who have led the effort to train more than 60 health professional and undergraduate student volunteers to serve as doulas in ECU Health Medical Center’s Labor and Delivery Department.

The 2023 Governor’s Volunteer Service Award winners were recognized by the Pitt County Board of Commissioners during a recent meeting. The award winners are shown in a Pitt County government meeting room, posing for a photo.
Shantell McLaggan, second from left, and Gaddamanugu Uma, fourth from left, pose for a photo during a Pitt County Board of Commissioners meeting where 2023 Governor’s Volunteer Service Award winners were recognized.

Although the program had some initial growing pains, patient feedback about the program has remained appreciative and positive.

“Patients are always recommending our services to others who will give birth at ECU Health,” McLaggan said. “An unfortunate number of people go through the birthing process with little to no support, and our doulas have stepped up to alleviate that issue.”

Word of the program has spread, and they are receiving an increasing number of requests for doula support from mothers across eastern North Carolina.

“Our first cohorts of volunteers have grown into incredible role models for our newer doulas,” Uma said. “Now Shantell and I are focusing on securing the long-term sustainability of our program. We’re actively brainstorming innovative methods to enhance and optimize our services, aiming to amplify our impact and facilitate safe, empowering birth experiences for families in our community.”

Both McLaggan and Uma were surprised to be recognized with this award.

“Receiving this award was unexpected and humbling. It was nice to be recognized for our hard work and dedication to this community. Uma and I have always been passionate about women’s health and racial and social equity, and creating this program has meant a lot to us,” McLaggan said.

Uma cited the vast impact the program has made in a short time.

“When we began, our goal was to support 50 patients in a year, and we’ve far surpassed that expectation; in just 12 months, we trained 67 volunteers who supported 262 birthing patients!” This is an important achievement, Uma said, because of ECU Health’s wide reach to patients across the region. “ECU Health Medical Center is the sole provider of high-risk prenatal care across our 29 county region, so many of our patients have to navigate countless barriers to even make it to our hospital.”

Both McLaggan and Uma emphasized that their efforts would not have been fruitful if not for the support of administrators, classmates and fellow volunteers.

Ed Chambers

Ed Chambers, an ECU Health Medical Center volunteer, was recognized with the 2023 North Carolina Governor’s Award for Volunteer Services. He poses for a photo with a hospital wheel chair at ECU Health Medical Center's cancer center.

Ed Chambers is a patient escort volunteer at the Medical Center, where he has garnered over 5,000 hours of service in the 23 years he’s volunteered for the system. The Pennsylvania native grew up on a dairy farm before being sent overseas to Okinawa, Japan for service in the Air Force. He eventually moved to Goldsboro, North Carolina, where he met his first wife. She passed away in 1997, but he remarried in 1998.

Chambers worked for 30 years at DuPont in Kinston and Charleston, South Carolina before retiring, and in 2000, his wife came home and told him she applied to volunteer at the Medical Center.

“I asked her if she got me an application, and she said, ‘get yourself one.’ So I did and we worked together for about seven years until she had a knee replacement,” Chambers said. “I’ve just enjoyed it ever since and keep right on getting into it.”

Chambers has been recognized as the Volunteer of the Year for the hospital, and he enjoys training new volunteers. He primarily works in the North tower and in the Cancer Center, and while he can only work one day a week, he hopes to continue volunteering for as long as he’s able.

“I’m hoping I can get 30 years in at the hospital,” he said.

Chambers’ favorite part of volunteering is the people.

“Over the years, I’ve enjoyed getting to know the other great volunteers and the patients,” he said. “I enjoy meeting people and helping them out. It’s been a pleasure.”

Winning the award was a “great honor” for Chambers, and it was special that his daughters, one of whom has also volunteered at the Medical Center, attended the award ceremony.

“I know there are a lot of people deserving of this honor, and I hope their time comes,” Chambers said.

Chad Tucker

Chad Tucker is the director of the Volunteer Services Department at the Medical Center, where he oversees the recruitment, training and quality assurance for all volunteers in the Medical Center. He’s worked at ECU Health for nine years, and in addition to his work at the Medical Center, Tucker serves as the vice president for the NC Hospital Volunteer Professionals and volunteers with his fraternity, Alpha Phi Alpha, where he’s serving as the Area Director.

Tucker attended East Carolina University where he got two bachelor’s degrees and a master’s in public health with a health care administration concentration.

“I thought I wanted to be an attorney,” he said. “I took the LSAT and realized it wasn’t my passion.” Tucker said he “fell into” his role and he’s loved it ever since. “This isn’t a position; it’s my passion.”

Chad Tucker, director of the Volunteer Services Department at the Medical Center, shakes hands with Jennifer Congleton, administrator of pastoral care and volunteer services, while they hold the North Carolina Governor’s Award for Volunteer Service: Paid Volunteer Director.

The best part of his job, he said, is seeing the volunteers interact with the patients, team members and guests.

“I enjoy seeing the impact they make, whether it’s a teenager, a college student who wants to go into health care or someone who is retired wanting to give back.” For Tucker, he doesn’t do the work for recognition. “I just love seeing the organization flourish,” he said. “It’s amazing to see our volunteers’ work and hear team members or patients who are grateful for their service.”

During his tenure, the number of volunteer programs has grown.

“We’ve grown our pet therapy program and our doula program,” he detailed. “We’ve added some people for art therapy, and we’ve had some people do music therapy, as well. Our teen program is one of the largest in the state for VolunTeens, ages 15-17. We’ve added our family medicine clinic and volunteers at the Wellness Center, as well.”

Those experiences have made his time with ECU Health rewarding.

“I’ve loved the opportunity to interact with so many different team members, volunteers, patients and staff, but I’ve also loved the professional development to grow,” Tucker said. “I like to volunteer in the community, so it’s a great marriage of me volunteering and professionally managing volunteers.”

When Tucker attended the Pitt County Commissioner’s meeting to recognize McLaggan, Uma and Chambers, he was surprised to learn he’d won the North Carolina Governor’s Award for Volunteer Service: Paid Volunteer Director.

“I was in complete shock,” he said. “I’m honored to be of service as a paid volunteer, but I also love engaging with volunteers who want to serve in the hospital and community.”

Jennifer Congleton, the administrator of pastoral care and volunteer services, hired Tucker and has enjoyed watching him grow into his role.

“To see him recruit and retain volunteers and become a director – it’s been a tremendous feat,” she said. “It’s been a privilege to work with him, mentor him and see him develop into a leader.”

Congratulations to the winners and thank you to all of the volunteers and team members who serve eastern North Carolina at ECU Health. To learn more about the NC Governor’s Award for Volunteer Service, to nominate a volunteer or to see the full list of the 2023 winners, click here.

Awards

ECU and ECU Health leaders ask questions of presenters during the Quality Improvement Symposium.

Each year, the ECU Health Quality Improvement Symposium brings together a diverse group of academic and community physicians, health professionals, health care teams, residents, fellows and students from the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University to present their work to an audience of peers and health system leaders.

On Wednesday, Jan. 31, ECU Health and ECU’s Brody School of Medicine hosted the eighth annual event at Eastern AHEC. This year’s event was held in-person and virtually, and showcased more than 40 projects related to quality improvement, patient safety, population health and interprofessional practice.​​

The day kicked off with opening remarks from Dr. Mike Waldrum, CEO of ECU Health and Dean of Brody School of Medicine. After welcoming attendees to the event, Dr. Waldrum expressed his pride in the symposium’s contributions, highlighting the collaborative efforts of teams in addressing regional challenges.

ECU and ECU Health leaders ask questions of presenters during the Quality Improvement Symposium.

“When I look at these posters and our presenters, I see multidisciplinary, diverse teams coming together to educate, engage in dialogue and drive quality improvement for ECU Health and the patients we serve. I am incredibly proud of our team members and students for their commitment to addressing the immense challenges we face as a region,” Dr. Waldrum said.

Following the opening remarks, selected presenters who were chosen from an application process that took place in late-2023, shared their work with the audience of 178 in-person and virtual attendees.

Presentations were categorized into podium presentations, poster presentations, and works-in-progress poster presentations. Awards for the top three podium and poster presentations were announced in the early afternoon.

PODIUM PRESENTATION:

  • Outstanding podium presentation: Erin Atwood, MD, MEd, Department of Pediatrics, Division of Endocrinology, Brody School of Medicine, “Increasing Counseling about the Risk of Hypoglycemia Associated with Alcohol Consumption and Insulin use for Adolescent Patients with Diabetes at the ECU Health Pediatric Diabetes Clinic”
  • Honorable mention: Jennifer Stahl, MD, Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, Department of Internal Medicine, Brody School of Medicine, “Right Care at the Right Location: Tele ICU Project”
  • Honorable mention: Benjamin Copeland, MD, Department of Pediatrics, Brody School of Medicine, “Improving Mental Health Access for Children in Foster Care in Eastern North Carolina”

QUICK SHOT PODIUM PRESENTATION:

  • Outstanding quick shot podium presentation: Juan Guillen-Hernandez, MD, Department of Pediatrics, Brody School of Medicine, “Reducing Unplanned Extubations in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit”
  • Honorable mention: Juli Forbes, MSN, RN, ECU Health Beaufort Hospital, a Campus of ECU Health Medical Center, “Improving Efficiency and Staff Satisfaction in the Operating Room Through a Revised Block Scheduling Framework at a Rural Community Hospital”
  • Honorable mention: Titilola Babatunde, BS, MS4, LINC Scholar, Brody School of Medicine, “Improving Documentation of a Pediatric Early Warning Score in the Electronic Health Record”
  • Honorable mention: Kate Knowles, MSN, RN, CNL, Management, ECU Health Duplin, “Back to the Basics: Hand Hygiene”

POSTER PRESENTATION:

  • First place: John “JC” Rowe IV, MD, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Brody School of Medicine, “Optimizing Outcomes for Patients with First Trimester Bleeding”
  • Second place: Gabriella Boccia, MHA, Administrative Fellow, ECU Health, “Improving Sick Visit Clinic Access at ECU Health Physicians Adult and Pediatric Health Care”
  • Third place: Stephanie Smith, MSN, RN, ACM-RN, Maynard Children’s Hospital, ECU Health Medical Center, “Improving Fall Risk Identification in Pediatric Patients”

With a total of 15 podium presentations and 29 poster presentations, symposium attendees gained insights into a variety of Quality-related projects. Dr. Waldrum emphasized the importance of what these presentations can offer.

“These presentations cover complex health care problems and this symposium enables us to think deeply about how we can tackle important issues facing our region,” Dr. Waldrum said. “It is always gratifying to see our team members and students come together to demonstrate their expertise and showcase the passion they have for the work they do.”

​The symposium closed with two concurrent education sessions led by ECU Health team members:

  • Patient Safety, Reliability Science and Root Cause Analysis Application presented by Susan Ingram, MSN, RN CPHQ, Director of Patient Safety
An attendee looks over poster boards of research during the eighth annual Quality Improvement Symposium in 2024.
  • Fostering Psychological Safety for Team and Quality Outcomes presented by Randy Cobb, DSL, ACC, CPCC, Director of Organizational and Leadership Development

To learn more about the symposium and view a list of presentations, click here.

Awards | Community | Featured

Dr. Yaolin Zhou makes notes during an examination of a sample.

Greenville, NC — Yaolin Zhou, MD, associate professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University, director of Quality and Test Utilization, and head of Molecular Pathology at ECU Health, was named to the 2023 Becker’s Hospital Review “Emerging Leaders: Provider Organization Leaders Under 40” list.

The Becker’s Hospital Review list recognizes up-and-coming leaders who are quickly rising through the ranks at their organizations, focusing on development, innovation, and improved outcomes.

The “Emerging Leaders: Provider Organization Leaders Under 40” list honors leaders who are 40 years old or younger for their commitment to optimizing health care. The Becker’s Hospital Review editorial team accepted nominations for this list and curated it to highlight the accomplishments of these rising stars.

Dr. Yaolin Zhou makes notes during an examination of a sample.

Dr. Zhou trained at some of the most prestigious institutions in the world and chose to come to ECU Health to help address some of the most challenging problems in health care delivery. As the only molecular pathologist in ECU Health’s 29-county service area, she provides expertise that benefits more than 1.4 million individuals in the region.

“ECU Health is proud to have Dr. Zhou, a nationally recognized molecular test utilization expert, whose work exemplifies the vital connection between research, education and effective health care delivery,” said Dr. Michael Waldrum, ECU Health CEO and dean of the Brody School of Medicine. “Dr. Zhou’s expertise shapes innovative clinical solutions, addressing unique barriers in rural populations. I am grateful for leaders like Dr. Zhou who are helping to create a healthier present and future for eastern North Carolina.”

Since her arrival in 2020, Dr. Zhou established an innovative molecular consultation service, focused primarily on pre- and post-testing review, to ensure cancer patients receive appropriate molecular tests and treatment. In 2023, she secured a $250,000 industry-funded quality improvement grant to expand her molecular consultation services across practices in eastern North Carolina’s rural 29-county region. This grant aims to identify and address health care disparities in cancer care, ultimately improving patient outcomes.

In addition to her molecular expertise, Dr. Zhou is an internationally recognized quality improvement and test utilization expert. In 2020, she partnered with clinical colleagues to establish a health system-wide initiative to reduce daily repeat lab tests, achieving a 15 to 25 percent reduction in unnecessary repeat daily testing throughout the system. For this multi-specialty and multi-disciplinary collaboration, Dr. Zhou and her team were honored with the prestigious American Society for Clinical Pathology Choosing Wisely Champion Award.

Dr. Zhou is active as a teaching and clinical faculty member and a bioethics and quality improvement instructor at Brody and for ECU Health. She also represents eastern North Carolina on the board of directors for the Association for Molecular Pathology (AMP), the world’s largest association for molecular professionals. Dr. Zhou recently authored an invited guest editorial in the Journal of Molecular Diagnostics, the official AMP journal. This editorial, based on her grant work, presents a national solution to reduce barriers in precision oncology.

“As a cancer survivor myself, I strive to bring quality and equitable cancer care to those I am honored to serve,” said Dr. Zhou. “All patients deserve high-quality and guideline-recommended cancer treatment. Through this recognition, I hope we can bring greater visibility to how we are addressing disparities in cancer care in our patients. Through collaborative efforts, we can develop solutions for providing equitable cancer care on a broader scale – and it starts here in eastern North Carolina.”

Awards | Featured | Press Releases

Greenville, N.C. – Four ECU Health Physicians clinics have been recognized by the American Heart Association and American Medical Association for its commitment to improving blood pressure (BP) control rates, earning Gold-level recognition as part of Target: BP. The Gold award recognizes practices in which high blood pressure is controlled in 70% or more of the adult patients affected.

“Managing and controlling your blood pressure is essential for preventing the development of heart disease and stroke, which continue to be leading causes of death for adults in our country,” said Dr. Jason Foltz, chief medical officer, ECU Health Physicians. “High blood pressure is a leading risk factor of heart disease and stroke that can often be prevented or managed if diagnosed and treated properly. Our region experiences high rates of diabetes, stroke and heart disease, and the Target: BP program allows ECU Health to better help patients lower their blood pressure by putting proven knowledge and guidelines to work on a daily basis.”

ECU Health Physicians clinics achieving Gold Status in Target: BP for 2023 include:

According to the American Heart Association, high blood pressure, or hypertension, is a leading risk factor for heart attacks, strokes and preventable death in the U.S. There are 121.5 million adults in the country living with hypertension – that is nearly half of all adults in the U.S. Unfortunately, less than half of them have their blood pressure under control, making both diagnosis and effective management critical. Heart disease is the leading cause of death both nationally and in the state. Meanwhile, stroke is the fifth leading cause of death in the U.S., yet is the fourth leading cause of death in North Carolina.

Target: BP is a national initiative formed by the American Heart Association and American Medical Association in response to the high prevalence of uncontrolled blood pressure. The initiative aims to help health care organizations and care teams, at no cost, improve blood pressure control rates through an evidence-based quality improvement program and recognizes organizations that are committed to improving blood pressure control.

“By committing to helping more people in eastern North Carolina control their blood pressure and reduce their risks for future heart disease and stroke, ECU Health is taking a key step to helping more people live longer, healthier lives,” said Yvonne Commodore-Mensah, PhD, MHS, RN, FAHA, Target: BP advisory group volunteer and associate professor at Johns Hopkins School of Nursing. “ECU Health’s participation in the Target: BP initiative shows its dedication to turning clinical guidelines into lifelines for patients and their families.”

Awards | Heart and Vascular

By ECU News Services

Dr. Carl E. Haisch, professor of surgery in surgical immunology and transplantation and vice chair of surgical education in the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University, has been inducted into the American College of Surgeons Academy of Master Surgeon Educators.

Dr. Carl E. Haisch

Dr. Carl E. Haisch

Haisch is among a cohort of 63 surgical educators to be inducted into the academy in Chicago this fall.

“Dr. Haisch has contributed greatly to the education mission of the ECU Department of Surgery over many years,” said Dr. Eric J. DeMaria, interim chair of Brody’s Department of Surgery. “We continue to rely upon his expertise and experience as we develop new and better ways to educate surgeons both at ECU and around the world going forward. We are extremely pleased that the American College of Surgeons has recognized him for his many important contributions to education.”

Haisch is a dedicated educator whose experience in the field includes attending surgeon in transplant and trauma surgery. He served as chief of transplant at ECU for 20 years and was a member of the trauma team for 15 years. He has served on numerous local, regional and national committees and served as chair of the board of Carolina Donor Services. He is also a member in numerous transplant and trauma societies and is a member of the Society of University Surgeons, the American Surgical Association, the American Society of Transplant Surgeons and the Southern Surgical Association.

Once inducted, members actively engage in advancing the academy’s programs and goals, which are to advance the science and practice of innovative lifelong surgical education, training, and scholarship in the changing milieu of health care; foster the exchange of creative ideas and collaboration; support the development and recognition of faculty; underscore the importance of lifelong surgical education and training; positively impact quality and patient safety; disseminate advances in education and training to all surgeons; and offer mentorship to surgeon educators throughout their professional careers.

“The Academy of Master Surgeons Educators, a vital and ‘living body’ of the American College of Surgeons, continues its legacy of advancing the science and practice of surgical education. The academy is pleased to induct the 2023 cohort of distinguished and highly accomplished educators. This recognition is a true testament to the unwavering commitment of the college to develop and promote ‘best practices’ in surgical education, with the overarching goal to always improve patient care,” said Dr. L.D. Britt, past president of the ACS and co-chair of the academy’s steering committee.

Haisch’s other activities and honors as a surgeon educator include serving on the executive committee of the Association of Program Directors in Surgery and its foundation. He has served as a general surgery program director, surgery clerkship director, associate dean for faculty development and interim associate dean for student affairs. He has received numerous teaching awards including the Bernard Vick Teaching Award, the Distinguished Professor for Teaching from the UNC Board of Governors and the ECU Achievement in International Teaching Award. He was the honorary first recipient of the Carl Haisch Humanism Award initiated by the surgical residents in Brody’s Department of Surgery.

The ACS Academy of Master Surgeon Educators works to advance the science and practice of education across all surgical specialties. Individuals are selected as members, associate members, or affiliate members following a stringent peer review process. This year’s cohort includes 27 member inductees, 35 associate members, and one affiliate member. The first inaugural cohort was inducted in 2018 and the academy has grown to 358 professionals who represent 10 surgical specialties other than general surgery. Inductees are from 18 states and the District of Columbia. They come from 10 countries including the United States.

The ACS is a scientific and educational organization of surgeons that was founded in 1913 to raise the standards of surgical practice and improve the quality of care for all surgical patients. The college is dedicated to the ethical and competent practice of surgery. Its achievements have significantly influenced the course of scientific surgery in America and have established it as an influential advocate for all surgical patients. The college has more than 88,000 members and is the largest organization of surgeons in the world.

Awards | Health News

Technology on a virtual screen

Greenville, N.C. ECU Health has earned 2023 CHIME (College of Healthcare Information Management Executives) Digital Health Most Wired recognition as a certified acute and ambulatory Level 8. The CHIME Digital Health Most Wired program conducts an annual survey designed to identify and recognize health care organizations that exemplify best practices through their adoption, implementation and use of information technology.

“We are excited to see how our utilization of technology supports enhanced patient care and engagement,” said Tanya Thompson, vice president of IT Applications at ECU Health. “As the use of technology continues to evolve in health care environments, organizations are prioritizing growth in technology, not just keeping up with the status quo. At ECU Health, we continue to focus on where we can to bring value through the advancement of our tools and processes to support the organization and take care of patients in eastern North Carolina. The Most Wired Award will continue to be an important barometer for us in this effort.”

Technology on a virtual screen

Among the more than 55,000 facilities represented, ECU Health ranked above peers in categories across eight key areas including: infrastructure, security, administrative/supply chain, analytics/data management, interoperability/population health, patient engagement, innovation and clinical quality/safety. Participants receive a comprehensive benchmarking report enabling them to evaluate their current information systems’ health. This report assists in devising strategies to elevate the quality of health care organizations to enhance industry-wide care standards. The assessment covers digital health performance. The survey assesses the adoption, integration and impact of technologies at all stages of development, from early development to industry leading.

“We are proud to recognize ECU Health’s exceptional dedication to digital health excellence,” said CHIME President and CEO Russell P. Branzell. “ECU Health’s pioneering performance in the industry not only inspires other organizations by example, but also provides patients around the world with better care.”

Participants receive certification based on their overall performance, with level 10 being the highest. The 2023 Digital Health Most Wired program included more than 55,000 represented facilities, with the bar for excellence continually rising each year.

Awards | Press Releases

Greenville, N.C. – ECU Health and the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University’s Lora Joyner was recently selected as the National Bleeding Disorders Foundation (NBDF) Physical Therapist of the Year. Each year, NBDF honors those who have made significant contributions to the inheritable blood and bleeding disorders community at its annual Awards of Excellence program.

“It is an honor to be recognized for my life’s work as a physical therapist in the bleeding disorder community by fellow therapists, health care professionals, patients, families, and HTC colleagues,” said Lora Joyner, MS, PT, PCS, physical therapist and clinic manager at ECU Health Hemophilia Treatment Center (HTC). “I am grateful that my name will be associated with Donna Boone and previous award winners and recognized as a role model and mentor for current and future health care professionals in the bleeding disorder community.”

Physical Therapist of the Year, given in honor of Donna Boone, PT, honors an individual who has demonstrated service to the inheritable blood and bleeding disorders community above and beyond their daily responsibilities in an HTC PT role. This person serves as a role model for others in the physical therapy field and has a minimum of two years’ experience working with individuals with blood or bleeding disorders at an HTC. Donna Boone was a pioneer in physical therapy and bleeding disorders and served as a mentor for many professionals.

“We are proud of Lora for all of the hard work, dedication, and leadership she has put into this clinic and into our patients,” said Dr. Beng Fuh, director of pediatric hematology and oncology, “Bleeding disorders, sickle cell disease and cancer are life-changing diagnoses for patients and their families. Lora is an invaluable asset and works hard to ensure patients can live their best lives as possible after diagnosis. Lora’s passion for her patients is reflected by this well-earned achievement.”

Joyner has worked at ECU Health HTC for 32 years as a physical therapist and as the clinic manager for seven years. As HTC manager, Joyner is responsible for selecting patients for clinical trials and research, supporting transition needs of the clinic, quality improvement and writing grants and reports. As a physical therapist, Joyner is responsible for treating any muscular skeletal complications, most commonly joint or muscle bleeds. If left untreated long enough, joint/muscle bleeds can cause chronic pain, long-term joint problems and limited mobility. Joyner also facilitates safe participation in sports and physical activity of patients, including medication management, which allows patients to live an active and fulfilling life. Additionally, Lora has held leadership roles in multiple regional and national organizations. She is the currently the national chair of the physical therapy committee of the NBDF.

“When you see the joy on the face of a little one when you say ‘yes you can play baseball’ after their diagnosis, after they’ve thought they wouldn’t be able to do normal activities, that’s one of my favorite parts of my day,” Joyner said. “All parents dream that their children are able to do normal things, and I’m able to help children do that.”

ECU Health HTC is a nationally recognized comprehensive lifespan clinic with both adult and pediatric specialty services that is one of only three in North Carolina and is part of a national network of over 140 Comprehensive Hemophilia Diagnostic and Treatment Centers, which provide comprehensive specialty care to people with rare inherited bleeding disorders and their families.

Awards | Community | Press Releases | Therapy & Rehabilitation

The exterior of ECU Health Medical Center, near the Eddie and Jo Allison Smith Tower.

Greenville, N.C. – ECU Health Medical Center recently earned accreditation from the Commission on Cancer (CoC), a quality program of the American College of Surgeons (ACS). This accreditation means patients will receive comprehensive, personalized care provided by a team of specialists working closely together, access to information on clinical trials and new treatment options, ongoing monitoring of care and lifelong follow-up, mental health support, financial guidance, survivorship care and other long-term services.

“I am proud of our ECU Health team members and physicians who work hard to provide the most advanced cancer care to eastern North Carolina,” said Brian Floyd, president of ECU Health Medical Center and chief operating officer of ECU Health. “Cancer is a terrible disease that has touched most, if not all, of us in some way. As a regional academic medical center, ECU Health Medical Center strives towards excellence in all it does. This accreditation is a testament to the tireless efforts of our cancer care teams, who make a difference in the lives of so many in our region.”

The exterior of ECU Health Medical Center, near the Eddie and Jo Allison Smith Tower.

As a CoC-accredited cancer center, ECU Health Medical Center applies a multidisciplinary approach and treats cancer as a complex group of diseases that requires consultation among surgeons, medical and radiation oncologists, diagnostic radiologists, pathologists, and other health care professionals that specialize in caring for cancer patients. Cancer patients benefit from having access to clinical trials, screening and prevention events, palliative care, genetic counseling, rehabilitation, oncology nutrition, and survivorship services.

“Eastern North Carolina faces a disproportionately high rate of cancer, and as the largest health care provider in the East, ECU Health is committed to maintaining excellence in the delivery of comprehensive, compassionate, patient-centered, high-quality care for patients with all types of cancer,” said Dr. Darla Liles, Cancer Committee chair at ECU Health, professor and chief of the Division of Hematology and Oncology at the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University. “This accreditation demonstrates our holistic approach to cancer care that includes preventive measures, educational resources, clinical trials, support and survivorship services and treatment with the latest technologies and highest clinical standards.”

According to the American Cancer Society, more than 1.9 million new cancer cases and approximately 609,820 deaths from cancer are expected in 2023 in the United States. Of those, 67,690 new cases are expected in North Carolina. Residents in eastern North Carolina have access to ECU Health’s cancer care network that spans across nine hospitals – including the Eddie and Jo Allison Smith Tower at ECU Health Medical Center in Greenville that is home to both inpatient and outpatient cancer services – five radiation oncology sites, three joint ventures and numerous outpatient clinics.

“The Commission on Cancer brings together experts and advocates from across the country to develop standards for cancer care so that patients with cancer receive the highest quality care coordinated by a team of dedicated physicians and specialists,” said Timothy Wm. Mullett, MD, MBA, FACS, professor, general thoracic surgery medical director, Markey Cancer Center Affiliate and Research Networks University of Kentucky, and chair of the Commission on Cancer.

Awards | Cancer | Community | Press Releases

This article is one of a series celebrating the 2023 Great 100 Nurses of North Carolina ECU Health honorees. The Great 100 Nurses in North Carolina honors the nursing profession by recognizing nurses around the state for their commitment to excellence. The recipients are distinguished for their outstanding professional ability as well as their contributions to improving health care services in their communities. This year’s 13 ECU Health honorees include Lindsay Caddell, Jenny Wester and Rhiannon Stallings.

Lindsay Caddell

Lindsay Caddell, staff nurse in the NICU at ECU Health Medical Center, graduated from East Carolina University with her BSN and started working at ECU Health in 2015. She serves as a bedside nurse, but she also plays other roles, including precepting new nurses, acting as a charge nurse, chairing the bereavement team in the NICU and teaching in the STABLE program, which represents the six assessment and care modules used in the program: sugar/safe care, temperature, airway, blood pressure, lab work and emotional support.

A visit to see her cousin in the NICU when Caddell was in middle school sparked her interest in nursing. “I did some school projects after that, then went to nursing school and knew I wanted to work in the NICU.”

Caddell said now she can’t imagine working anywhere else or in any other setting.

“I built a family here,” she explained. “I have close friends and feel comfortable and confident. I have other people’s backs, and they have mine. Our team is great.” Part of her success comes from the mentorship she received. “I wouldn’t be here today without the people who precepted me and mentored me.” Caddell said that level of support and skill makes it unsurprising that 13 ECU Health nurses have been recognized by The Great 100 Nurses. “It shows we have a great team, especially in the NICU. It speaks to the focus each of us has on passing along the knowledge that was given to us. It’s an environment of education and mentorship.”

Caddell said she didn’t know she’d been nominated for The Great 100 Nurses, so receiving the award letter was a true surprise. “I was honored,” she said. “I know other nurses in the NICU and the hospital who have been honorees, and I respect them. Knowing I was chosen to be alongside nurses of that caliber was exciting.” Caddell hopes that being honored as a younger nurse would inspire new nurses as they began their careers. “It’s humbling to represent the NICU, but also to show younger nurses that there are things you can achieve as a younger nurse.”

Jenny Wester

Jenny Wester named several reasons for becoming a nurse, but a four-week stay in the hospital after breaking her femur when she was 12 made her confident nursing was the right career path.

“I was in traction, and it’s hard to be 12 and not able to move for four weeks,” Jenny said. “But my nurses treated me wonderfully and tried to make every day a good one. I thought, that’s the kind of nurse I want to be.” One nurse in particular, Mary Beth, made a strong impression, and the two stayed in touch well beyond Wester’s hospital stay. “I kept up with her, and when I graduated from nursing school, she sent me a pair of gold scissors. That meant a lot.”

Wester has worked at ECU Health Medical Center since 1998 in pediatrics, and she said she’s never thought about going anywhere else.

“I love this environment and my peds family,” she explained. “ECU Health has been really good to me.” Her work at ECU Health offered flexibility and opportunities to grow. “I had a good work/life balance when my kids were younger and I could adjust my schedule,” Wester shared. “I was able to attend professional conferences, and they paid for me to go back to school to get my BSN.”

Wester attributed her success in part to strong mentor relationships during her career. “I’ve had wonderful mentors, and I wouldn’t be here without them. Now I take ownership of helping our new nurses, and I’m often called ‘Mama Jenny’ on the unit.” Wester said above all, she’s proud of her profession. “I’m so blessed to take care of my patients, and I’m proud to be a nurse. I want for all of our nurses to take pride in who they are and what we can do as a group.”

When she found out she was named a Great 100 Nurse, Wester was humbled and surprised. “I thought, they must not have had as good of an applicant pool this year if I won,” she laughed. Wester said she doesn’t think she does anything that her colleagues don’t also do. “I was taught to work hard,” Wester said. “In 25 years, there’s not a thing I’ve done around here I expected recognition for.”

Rhiannon Stallings

Rhiannon Stallings, a perinatal nurse navigator at ECU Health Medical Center, said that for as long as she could remember, she wanted to be a nurse. “As I went through nursing school, I decided I wanted to work in obstetrics, and here I am.”

After working for a few years at a smaller hospital immediately after graduation, Stallings joined ECU Health and has been here for the last 10 years. Stallings began as a bedside nurse but transitioned three years ago into the perinatal nurse navigator role, which, she said, allows her to impact many patients every day.

“I work with antepartum patients, some of whom are admitted for long stays,” she said. “I go on rounds with OB providers and ensure patients have the consults and education they need. I coordinate cardiac OB patients, who sometimes need special delivery plans to account for their cardiac diagnoses. I get to know the patients ahead of time, but I also go out into the community to meet regional hospitals’ patients’ needs.”

When she learned she’d been named a Great 100 Nurse of North Carolina, Stallings said, “I cried. It was an honor just to be nominated. To have my work recognized – it made me know I am doing what I’m supposed to be doing. I really enjoy my work and the patients I touch.”

However, Stallings insisted she doesn’t do more than any other nurse at ECU Health. “We have so many nurses who provide great care and want the best outcomes for their patients,” Stallings said. “We love what we do, and we help our patients get through those tough times.” That teamwork, Stallings said, is key to quality care. “I couldn’t do what I do without the interdisciplinary team that’s around me and the administration that supports me. I’m truly thankful for the nurses and providers who support and believe in me.”

The honorees will be honored at a statewide gala in October, to be held in Raleigh.

Awards | Nursing

This article celebrates the 2023 Great 100 Nurses of North Carolina ECU Health honorees. The Great 100 Nurses in North Carolina honors the nursing profession by recognizing nurses around the state for their commitment to excellence. The recipients are distinguished for their outstanding professional ability as well as their contributions to improving health care services in their communities. This year’s 13 ECU Health honorees are below.

Ann Brabble

Elizabeth “Ann” Brabble described herself as a “small town girl” who enjoys her work as a nurse in the ambulatory surgery unit at ECU Health Roanoke-Chowan Hospital. “Some of our patients have never had surgeries before,” Brabble explained. “They’re scared. But you calm their fears and then see them in Wal-Mart, or they come in for another surgery and ask you to be their nurse.”

Brabble said growing up with her grandparents living with her influenced her decision to become a nurse: “When they got sick, my grandparents moved in and lived with us from when I was 12 or 13 and up. It was at that time I said I wanted to be a nurse, and I never changed my mind.”

Although Brabble loves her current position in outpatient surgery, she has worked in a variety of nursing areas for 37 years, 27 of which have been with ECU Health. “I worked in pediatrics for about 11 years,” Brabble said, “But I enjoy working with patients having surgery: providing the preparation and education to them and their families.”

What helps her in this work, Brabble said, is her faith and the support of her family. In addition to her work on outpatient surgery, Brabble also cross trains in chemotherapy, the outpatient clinic and outpatient lab testing.

“Nursing is about teamwork,” Brabble said when asked about being honored as a Great 100 Nurse of North Carolina. “If we didn’t have a good team, none of what we do would be successful. I try to do every day what is right for my patients, providers, family and co-workers. I wish I could take my whole team with me; I have co-workers who deserve it more than me.”

Brabble also acknowledged that having 13 honorees from the ECU Health system is significant. “It speaks highly of the team members who are striving every day to do the best they can, even in bad situations,” Brabble noted. “You don’t do it for recognition, but it shows that the organization supports team members.”

Brabble does her own work to support student and new nurses. “You have to come in to this not just for the money, but with compassion and care,” Brabble explained. “I tell that to all of my students. Don’t forget about the patient in the bed by focusing on the computer. I teach them to make eye contact and talk to the patient.” Brabble said she credits her own mentors for learning these important skills. “I had excellent preceptors who took me on this journey. Every transition I’ve made, I’ve had people I can refer back to.” Even now, Brabble said she learns something new every day. “New things come out all the time. And I learn things from the new graduates. We might all do the same skill but with a different technique, and you learn from each other what works best for you. Having an excellent team every day makes me successful.”

Emily Nock

Emily Nock wasn’t sure at first what her path in life was supposed to be. “I thought I wanted to be an accountant, and then I thought I wanted to work in public health,” Nock said. “I ended up going to UNC at Chapel Hill to study psychology. It wasn’t until my junior year in college that I realized what I wanted to be.”

Nock’s mother is a nurse, but while growing up, Nock said she thought she wanted to do something else. “In the back of my mind, my mom was a fantastic nurse and a role model, and I thought I could never live up to her greatness,” Nock shared.

After graduating from UNC, however, Nock worked in the Behavioral Health Unit at ECU Health Medical Center, which is where she said her love for helping others truly blossomed. Nock added that having that experience secured her desire to pursue nursing. “I come from a sheltered and privileged upbringing, so to see what many people struggle with – homelessness, mental illness, no family support – it was completely life changing.”

From there, Nock applied for and was accepted into the ECU Accelerated BSN program, from which she graduated in 2016. Nock didn’t want to completely step away from her background in psychology, which is why she chose to work in the neurosciences at ECU Health Medical Center.

“I love the brain and didn’t want to get away from my roots entirely. Seven years later, I still love my patient population so much,” Nock said.

That ECU Health has 13 Great 100 Nurses of North Carolina recipients says a lot about the health system, Nock said. “It’s so wonderful that our leaders and teams are excited to celebrate our nurses and give recognition that’s deserved.” What makes winning the award particularly special for Nock is that she’s not the only one in the family to achieve such an honor. “My mom is a Great 100 recipient from 2001,” Nock explained. “I remember when she got dressed up for the gala – she was so proud and it was so special for her to receive this award.”

When Nock found out she was being nominated, she said she initially felt unworthy. “It was humbling and fulfilling to read the nomination – to see all of your hard work written out helps you realize your worth,” Nock said. “I am especially honored to share the gala experience with my mom.”

Alex Owens

Chelsey “Alex” Owens said that while she picked neurosciences as a practice specialty on a whim, she doesn’t regret the decision. “What I like most about my unit are my co-workers and the patients,” Owens said. “The patient population isn’t the easiest, but we have great teamwork and that makes the shifts smooth.”

Owens graduated with her associate’s degree in nursing from Beaufort Community College in 2016, and she’s worked in ECU Health Medical Center’s neurosciences unit for the last seven years. Being a nurse is something that Owens said she “always wanted to be.” She followed a nursing career pathway in high school and became a Nurse Aide 1 (NA1) as a senior.

To be nominated for and then to win a Great 100 Nurses of North Carolina award was a shock, Owens said.

“My initial reaction was disbelief. I couldn’t believe I’d been a nurse long enough or accomplished enough to be honored with this once-in-a-lifetime award,” she said.

Still, Owens works hard to support her team and promote her profession. “I am head of our CAUTI quality team, I have participated in the Children’s trick-or-treat event for the past four years, I’ve been a clinical coach for five years and an elite charge nurse for four years and I’m a member of our stroke response team,” Owens said. “If my manager needs anything, she can depend on me.”

The honorees will be honored at a statewide gala in October, to be held in Raleigh.

​Dana Byrum

Dana Byrum has been a nurse for 23 years, but her career with ECU Health began in 1996, when she worked in medical records. “Initially, I wanted to be a teacher,” Byrum admitted. “But as I continued working in medical records, I was drawn to patient care.”

Her work in medical records gained the attention of the nurse manager on the medical surgical unit. “Whenever I saw her in medical records, I asked a lot of questions about health care topics I read or heard about. She encouraged me to be a nursing assistant, and she and the other nurses took me under their wings and educated me on patient care – not only as a nursing assistant, but also about the impact a nurse can make,” Byrum shared. That support led Byrum to ultimately pursue her nursing degree. “I am fully HomeGrown,” Byru​m said. “I got my AND, BSN, MSN and DNP all with the support of ECU Health.”

After working as a bedside nurse on the medical surgical unit, the ambulatory surgical unit and the outpatient specialty clinics, and after serving as the assistant manager, and later manager, of the ambulatory surgical and outpatient specialty clinics, Byrum assumed the role of director of nursing and is now the vice president of patient care services at Bertie and Chowan hospitals. “Being in a leadership role is being a voice for our front-line nurses and our patients,” Byrum said. “I’m advocating for and empowering nurses to provide the highest quality of care so that our patients have optimal outcomes.”

Byrum said the way she does that is by spending time on the floors with her nurses. “I round frequently in our departments and get that face-to-face time with the nurses,” Byrum explained. “I learn about the challenges they face and how I can help address those.” And, Byrum noted, just because she became a nurse doesn’t mean she doesn’t get to be a teacher. “I have served as adjunct faculty for our local community college and have done a lot of education in my roles. As a front-line nurse, I was the eyes and ears of my patients and served as an advocate for them. I was able to spend time with them and their families, educating them about their care. There was no greater feeling than to know I helped a patient improve their health care or quality of life,” Byrum said. In her current role, Byrum now looks for ways to develop her colleagues into leaders. “I had great mentors along the way and I want to give back,” she said.

When she learned she’d been named a Great 100 Nurse of North Carolina, Byrum said she was excited. “I feel like I’ve worked hard to be a great person and a great nurse; it was exciting to see the contributions I’ve made being recognized.” Byrum was quick to say that receiving such an honor is humbling, and it’s a reflection of the passion she feels for her work. “I genuinely love what I do,” Byrum shared. “I love that I’m responsible for the patient care in two facilities, and I’m able to nurture front-line nurses as well as grow and mentor nurse managers to be great leaders. The fact that I can walk the floor and talk to team members, and then take that information to the board room to make creative solutions that improve those nurses’ day-to-day activities, which leads to high quality patient care – there’s nothing more important.”

Elaine Henry

Elaine Henry, the manager of Children’s surgical subspecialists at ECU Health Medical Center, has worked at ECU Health since graduating from ECU in 1996. Prior to her current role, Henry worked in the Neonatal Intensive Care unit for 18 years, followed by three years in pediatric surgery quality improvement and four years in quality for women and children’s. She received her MSN from ECU in 2019 in nursing leadership.

Henry said her clinical rotations led her to the neonatal world and she loved it immediately. “It’s the most rewarding career,” she said. “Even in the worst situations, we can comfort and take care of our patients and their families.” Henry observed that children she saw as patients early in her career are now grown up and having kids of their own. “I recently went to a baby shower for one of my former NICU patients,” Henry said. “It’s such a privilege to care for these babies and watch them get well.”

Henry’s role in quality now gives her a more global perspective about the impact of nursing. “I get to see the improvements we’ve made in health care and in the NICU. I feel like my role is so important; I’m a leader impacting the clinical care in the NICU and across Children’s.”

When she found out she was a Great 100 Nurses honoree, Henry said she was humbled and surprised. “I was so excited I started jumping up and down,” Henry shared. “I have a twin sister who is also a nurse at ECU Health, and I had to text her.” Receiving such recognition is an honor, she said, especially considering the quality of nurses at ECU Health. “There are so many great nurses here,” she explained. “I am proud of my profession and to be a nurse at ECU Health. To be recognized across the state means a lot, and it represents who we are as an organization.”

Katie Knowles

“Service is my love language,” said Katie Knowles, a quality nurse specialist at ECU Health Duplin Hospital, when asked why she chose to go into nursing. When her grandfather had to deal with a misdiagnosed stroke, it solidified her decision to work in health care. “His quality of life would have been so much better if he had received treatment in a timely manner,” Knowles said. After that experience, Knowles attended NC State considering a pre-med route, but a rotation in pediatrics showed her that nurses did the work she was really interested in. She returned home and first attended James Sprunt Community College for her ADN before transferring to the University of Mount Olive for her BSN. She later graduated with her MSN and the realization that her calling was to stay and work in her hometown. “ECU Health gave me the avenue to best serve my community, and it allowed me to become the person and nurse I wanted to be,” Knowles said.

Now an ECU Health team member for 10 years, Knowles said she loves her work in quality.

“I look at the unit, processes, people and problems. And I work to put things in place to make them better for patients and the team,” Knowles shared. She is quick to note that it’s not just her work that gets things done. “No one person changes things alone; it takes a bunch of people working towards the same goal. That’s how you get big change and impact our patients and families.”

Knowles said she was in shock when she found out she was a Great 100 Nurse of North Carolina. “Just to know someone nominated me was huge,” Knowles said. “I’m a person who doesn’t like being in the spotlight. I’m receiving this award on the back of other nurses who’ve worked just as hard, if not harder – not for an award, but because they want to change the lives of the people they help.” Knowles said the honor also means a great deal to her family. “It is emotional because it’s not just for me – it’s for my family and my community. And it shows my kids that the work you do is important, that it matters. That makes this award extra special to me.”

Doing that work in a rural community is especially important, Knowles said. “ECU Health serves 29 rural counties. In Raleigh there’s a doctor on every corner; here there is one provider for every 4,000 people. These patients are underserved, but ECU Health is pouring its resources into those areas and covering more territory than any system in the state.” That service drives Knowles to be the best she can be. “To be a small part of such a big team that’s putting employees and communities first – it’s exciting.”

Jennifer Kendrick

Jennifer Kendrick has worked at ECU Health since 2018, but she’s been a nurse since graduating from the University of Western Ontario in 1994. She is currently a perinatal outreach coordinator, and she provides obstetrical education to clinicians and providers to improve the health and well-being of maternal and childbearing families in eastern North Carolina. While working in this field wasn’t necessarily something Kendrick knew she wanted to do from the beginning, she spent a rotation during college in labor and delivery and found her passion there.

After working as a bedside nurse for more than 20 years, Kendrick found herself with the opportunity to educate new and current nurses and other providers. “I started with teaching CPR in the early 2000s,” Kendrick said. “Now I educate providers in obstetrics, and I take clinical students from ECU to the OB floor at Nash.” Kendrick said she’s been asked by the American Academy of Family Physicians international forum to teach an Advanced Life Support in Obstetrics course in Palestine in November of this year. She’s also pursuing her DNP, with plans to graduate next year.

Kendrick said it’s an honor for her hard work to be recognized as a Great 100 Nurses honoree. “It’s humbling to be recognized for the passion I have for what I do and the great need for it,” Kendrick admitted. “We work in some of the poorest, toughest, most socioeconomically disadvantaged communities.” She pointed out that she’s not the only one doing this valuable work, and that having so many nurses from ECU Health to be recognized is important. “It speaks to the level of expertise we have in our systems, and the fact that we’re willing to see it and recognize each other,” Kendrick said. “There is phenomenal work going on in eastern North Carolina.”

Kimberly Lupton

Kimberly Lupton has been a nurse for 37 years and is currently a CSO assistant nurse manager for nursing assistants at ECU Health Medical Center. That experience, Lupton said, is what might have inspired her manager to nominate her as a Great 100 Nurse of North Carolina. “My manager said she appreciated my extensive nursing career and had not only heard, but has seen first-hand the lives that had been touched,” Lupton said. “I have never been someone who likes to be in the spotlight. As a nurse, you often make light of how you support and inspire others, and you take a back seat.”

Although she began her health care journey thinking she’d pursue dentistry, Lupton said her mother was the one who knew all along she’d make a great nurse. “When I was in high school, my mom often encouraged me to become a nurse and said she believed I’d never regret it. She was 100% correct. I started in pre-dentistry, but it just wasn’t my cup of tea,” Lupton said. “Being a nurse is not a job; it’s a calling. And I love it.”

Now Lupton takes the knowledge she’s gained during her career and is sharing it with new nursing assistants and nurses. “I enjoy mentoring,” Lupton shares. “That’s why I’m an adjunct instructor at Pitt Community College. I love seeing students grow, better themselves and achieve their goals.”

Lupton said that when she received the Great 100 Nurses letter, she opened it in private. “I really thought it was a letter congratulating me for being nominated,” she laughed. “It was such a surprise, I wondered if the letter was sent by mistake. I was apprehensive about sharing it with anyone until I was sure it was authentic.” Being an honoree, Lupton said, only shows the quality of nursing care at ECU Health. “There are so many nurses here who are deserving,” she said. “Some of the finest nurses in the nation work here. It’s an example of what a great organization we have, the care we give and the experience you’ll receive as a patient.”

Donnie Johnson

Donnie Johnson’s nursing career began in the ECU Health Medical Center’s emergency department (ED) more than 14 years ago. His personal and family experience working as a volunteer firefighter and a paramedic drew him to work in the ED. Pursuing a nursing degree seemed a logical next step, and now Johnson is wrapping up his PhD with Liberty University. “I loved the fast pace and critical thinking of the ED,” Johnson said. “The lifesaving interventions make an impact.”

Since 2017, Johnson has worked as a professional development specialist for emergency services, which allows him to take his clinical experiences and share them with new cohorts of nursing students and nurses. “I enjoy education and nursing, so this allows me to pair both while impacting the unit, organization, system and the nursing profession as a whole,” Johnson explained. “Education is the great equalizer. I might not be at the bedside but I’m helping develop, grow, prepare and nurture nurses no matter where they go.”

That investment, Johnson said, is a way of giving back to the community in which he lives. “I have an interest in making sure our students are prepared, because one day my family or I will be a patient. I want to ensure all patients receive good care.” That carries over to Johnson’s work in education outside of ECU Health, where he will teach part time with ECU’s College of Nursing this fall.

Johnson said he was surprised when he learned he was being nominated by his manager and colleagues for the Great 100 Nurses of North Carolina. “ECU Health is consistently promoting and advancing the profession of nursing,” Johnson said, something he strongly believes in. “I hope my manager, director and administrator saw in me a commitment to the organization and the profession, to helping our nurses grow and develop a passion for nursing,” Johnson said. “I try to be a role model within our department that others can come to for help.”

That commitment is seen across the organization, Johnson said. “By having so many nurses at ECU Health recognized, it shows we are actively living our vision and mission every day. We are holding ourselves to a higher standard.”

Lindsay Caddell

Lindsay Caddell, staff nurse in the NICU at ECU Health Medical Center, graduated from East Carolina University with her BSN and started working at ECU Health in 2015.

She serves as a bedside nurse, but she also plays other roles, including precepting new nurses, acting as a charge nurse, chairing the bereavement team in the NICU and teaching in the STABLE program, which represents the six assessment and care modules used in the program: sugar/safe care, temperature, airway, blood pressure, lab work and emotional support.

A visit to see her cousin in the NICU when Caddell was in middle school sparked her interest in nursing. “I did some school projects after that, then went to nursing school and knew I wanted to work in the NICU.”

Caddell said now she can’t imagine working anywhere else or in any other setting. “I built a family here,” she explained. “I have close friends and feel comfortable and confident. I have other people’s backs, and they have mine. Our team is great.” Part of her success comes from the mentorship she received. “I wouldn’t be here today without the people who precepted me and mentored me.” Caddell said that level of support and skill makes it unsurprising that 13 ECU Health nurses have been recognized by The Great 100 Nurses. “It shows we have a great team, especially in the NICU. It speaks to the focus each of us has on passing along the knowledge that was given to us. It’s an environment of education and mentorship.”

Caddell said she didn’t know she’d been nominated for The Great 100 Nurses, so receiving the award letter was a true surprise. “I was honored,” she said. “I know other nurses in the NICU and the hospital who have been honorees, and I respect them. Knowing I was chosen to be alongside nurses of that caliber was exciting.” Caddell hopes that being honored as a younger nurse would inspire new nurses as they began their careers. “It’s humbling to represent the NICU, but also to show younger nurses that there are things you can achieve as a younger nurse.”

Jenny Wester

Jenny Wester named several reasons for becoming a nurse, but a four-week stay in the hospital after breaking her femur when she was 12 made her confident nursing was the right career path. “I was in traction, and it’s hard to be 12 and not able to move for four weeks,” Jenny said. “But my nurses treated me wonderfully and tried to make every day a good one. I thought, that’s the kind of nurse I want to be.” One nurse in particular, Mary Beth, made a strong impression, and the two stayed in touch well beyond Wester’s hospital stay. “I kept up with her, and when I graduated from nursing school, she sent me a pair of gold scissors. That meant a lot.”

Wester has worked at ECU Health Medical Center since 1998 in pediatrics, and she said she’s never thought about going anywhere else. “I love this environment and my peds family,” she explained. “ECU Health has been really good to me.” Her work at ECU Health offered flexibility and opportunities to grow. “I had a good work/life balance when my kids were younger and I could adjust my schedule,” Wester shared. “I was able to attend professional conferences, and they paid for me to go back to school to get my BSN.”

Wester attributed her success in part to strong mentor relationships during her career. “I’ve had wonderful mentors, and I wouldn’t be here without them. Now I take ownership of helping our new nurses, and I’m often called ‘Mama Jenny’ on the unit.” Wester said above all, she’s proud of her profession. “I’m so blessed to take care of my patients, and I’m proud to be a nurse. I want for all of our nurses to take pride in who they are and what we can do as a group.”

When she found out she was named a Great 100 Nurse, Wester was humbled and surprised. “I thought, they must not have had as good of an applicant pool this year if I won,” she laughed. Wester said she doesn’t think she does anything that her colleagues don’t also do. “I was taught to work hard,” Wester said. “In 25 years, there’s not a thing I’ve done around here I expected recognition for.”

Rhiannon Stallings

Rhiannon Stallings, a perinatal nurse navigator at ECU Health Medical Center, said that for as long as she could remember, she wanted to be a nurse. “As I went through nursing school, I decided I wanted to work in obstetrics, and here I am.” After working for a few years at a smaller hospital immediately after graduation, Stallings joined ECU Health and has been here for the last 10 years. Stallings began as a bedside nurse but transitioned three years ago into the perinatal nurse navigator role, which, she said, allows her to impact many patients every day. “I work with antepartum patients, some of whom are admitted for long stays. I go on rounds with OB providers and ensure patients have the consu​lts and education they need. I coordinate cardiac OB patients, who sometimes need special delivery plans to account for their cardiac diagnoses. I get to know the patients ahead of time, but I also go out into the community to meet regional hospitals’ patients’ needs.”

When she learned she’d been named a Great 100 Nurse of North Carolina, Stallings said, “I cried. It was an honor just to be nominated. To have my work recognized – it made me know I am doing what I’m supposed to be doing. I really enjoy my work and the patients I touch.”

However, Stallings insisted she doesn’t do more than any other nurse at ECU Health. “We have so many nurses who provide great care and want the best outcomes for their patients,” Stallings said. “We love what we do, and we help our patients get through those tough times.” That teamwork, Stallings said, is key to quality care. “I couldn’t do what I do without the interdisciplinary team that’s around me and the administration that supports me. I’m truly thankful for the nurses and providers who support and believe in me.”

Awards | Nursing