07/31/07 — O'Berry nurse of the year named

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O'Berry nurse of the year named

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on July 31, 2007 1:46 PM

Phyllis Anderson said she always wanted to teach the mentally and physically handicapped.

But years ago, while caring for her grandfather after he suffered a stroke and was in intensive care, he suggested she become a nurse.

"I thought that when he got better, we would talk about it but he had a second hemorrhage and passed away," she said. "My father and grandmother encouraged me to go after a nursing career."

Mrs. Anderson was recently named O'Berry's Nurse of the Year, the second year for the award. Jan Heath, director of nursing at O'Berry, called it an opportunity to recognize employees for doing exemplary work.

Supervisors nominate nurses for the Nurse of the Quarter honor. From that pool, one is chosen for the year.

Mrs. Anderson was the spring winner. Since she was on vacation at the time, the announcement was saved until the annual event, meaning she knew about neither in advance.

"They presented me with the Nurse of the Quarter and then five minutes later told me I was Nurse of the Year," she said.

Originally from Whiteville, Mrs. Anderson became a licensed practical nurse, working in a nursing home and then a rural clinic. She moved to Goldsboro, where she was employed at Howell's Child Care for more than seven years. She came to O'Berry Center in 1995.

She said she feels she has come full circle.

"I'd wanted to work with the mentally retarded and physically handicapped. I went into nursing to take care of other people," she said. "When I moved here, I got to do everything I wanted -- helping people, making a difference and being with special needs individuals."

There is a difference between nursing roles, she pointed out.

"With the hospital patients they come and they go. With nursing home patients you're there and they're long-term but a lot of them are at the end of their life," she said. "Here, they're long-term but you have such a wide range and it's always challenging when you're trying to understand or figure out what they're trying to communicate with you. ... After a while you can pick up on their mood and picture the different things that they do."

The familiarity helps, said Jan Heath, director of nursing at O'Berry, who has worked with Mrs. Anderson since her arrival.

"(Cluster 4 is) a very challenging building because clients are medically challenged, medically fragile and there are a lot of hands on nursing skills. Assessment tools have to be fine-tuned because (residents) are not always communicative," she said.

Her role has become more than a job, Mrs. Anderson said, considering those she cares for an "extended family."

She said, "When you get to where you have got a relationship with them, they're not just a client, or individual .... It's almost like your children. You get to where you can pick up on their cry."

Her own family consists of husband Sherwood and 13-year-old son Joshua, who is "no stranger to residents and the clients here," she said. "He loves to come and visit and often sings at different events."

In addition to receiving a plaque, quarterly winners get to choose a day off, while the annual winner can select two days. Winners also have their picture displayed on a wall of honor at the center.

Her co-workers have been especially supportive, Mrs. Anderson said, crediting them with making her job much easier.

"I think I work with some of the best nurses in the nursing profession, from the supervisors right on down to the ones I work with every day," she said. "I really do appreciate them and what they do."

Eric Hall, her nursing supervisor, echoes the sentiment.

"I have known her since she got here 12 years ago," he said. "It's always been a pleasure to work with her.

"She's one of the nurses you can always rely on and know she'll always do things with a smile on her face. She takes great pride, is very caring, loving and has been a role model."

Mrs. Anderson modestly shrugs off the high praise.

"I feel like it doesn't matter what job you have. If you feel the calling on your life to do it and you feel that God has called you, that's where you're meant to be and that's where I am," she said.

"Working to be nurse of the quarter and nurse of the year has never been an objective for me. It's never been something I had to achieve. Taking care of individuals that I serve, that's been my joy."