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, 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 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.”
“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, 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.