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 Elizabeth “Ann” Brabble, Emily Nock and Chelsey “Alex” Owens.
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 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.”
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.