The Calm In The Eye Of The Storm: Celebrating ER Nurses

Amongst other celebrations this month, a very special thanks goes out to the resourceful and compassionate Registered Nurses (RNs) of our Emergency Department (commonly referred to as “the ER”).   October 8th through 14th is Emergency Nurses Week, a time to recognize the masterful work that ER nurses do around the clock to treat injuries and save lives.  

Jerold Phelps Community Hospital (JPCH) in Garberville, employs ten highly certified ER nurses. Judy Gallagher, Chief Nursing Officer (CNO), overseas the team.  She applauds these nurses by saying, “Our ER nurses and physicians are very quick and efficient.  They will stabilize any condition and, if necessary, get you to any specialty care you need.  They have been able to stabilize and transfer cardiac arrest patients in as little as 30 minutes.  These situations can be the difference of life and death.”  She also stated that JPCH has openings for local nurses, including new graduates, who get the rare opportunity to immediately train in the Emergency Department and Acute Care area of the hospital.   

The JPCH may be small in space, but with its skilled staff and up-to-date equipment it is mighty in its capacity for care.  Because it is the only hospital in Southern Humboldt, it is declared a Critical Access Hospital by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid services.  This is especially important because of the nearby 101 freeway, which creates a high volume of trauma patients who need to access care quickly.  Last year, more than than 3600 people were treated in our ER.  It is open 24/7, and our ER Nurses work tirelessly to make sure that patients receive all the care they need.

Vanessa King, BSN, RN notes the exceptional role of ER Nurses.  She states, “Our nurses are vital and are taught to treat the whole person, not just the diagnosis, which is the role of the doctor.”  Under the expert direction of the ER physician on duty, the ER nurses collaborate with the doctor to fulfill orders. Judy and Vanessa highlighted two of their long-term ER Nurses in their interview. 

Night shift ER nurse, Marilyn Berry, RN, was raised in Salmon Creek and born at JPCH.  She graduated from College of the Redwoods and has been working as an RN for 45 years. She chose nursing for the physically active role that is ever changing, with the ability to directly care for people.  She joined JPCH in 1985 and used to be the on-call OB nurse for deliveries.  Among six advanced certifications including trauma and mobile intensive care nurse, she is most proud of her Certified Emergency Nurse (CEN) accreditation, which requires a very difficult test every four years. 

As a native to Southern Humboldt, she notes that she sees lots of patients from her high school years.  Having friends and family come to the ER for help can be a rewarding yet a hard part of the job, especially in dire situations.  Multiple patients have returned to thank her after they were near death.  Others express their gratitude by saying in relief, “Thank you for being a familiar face that is still here in our ER after so long.” The administration, nursing management, and staff of JPCH feels honored to have had Marilyn on staff for 32 years.

Another ER nurse who has been dedicated to Jerold Phelps Community Hospital since 1993, is Billie Bachman, RN.  She has been a resident of Southern Humboldt since 1976.  After witnessing the inspiring work of hospice nurses who cared for her dying friend, she was drawn to the nursing field. During her early years at JPCH she became certified in Obstetrics (OB), helping deliver babies until 1998.  She was recognized by her peers last year with the esteemed Calm in the Eye of the Storm Award for her ability to be a calm presence for patients in stressful situations.  JPCH is also lucky to have Billie’s exceptional service in caring for the community we are privileged to serve.

Billie feels that a “big reason the hospital ER is needed here is because so many parents bring their kids here.” As an Emergency Department Approved for Pediatrics (EDAP), the ER at JPCH has pediatric equipment and our ER Nurses are required to hold Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS) certification. This is especially important because we receive a good deal of children who are rushed to Garberville for care.  Already a long drive for some, without the nurses at the JPCH ER, these concerned parents would need to drive much farther north.

 JPCH would like to thank all the ER nurses for their dedicated service.  Happy ER Nurses Week!  If you have any questions or comments, you can contact Judy Gallagher, CNO or the Outreach Department at 923-3921.

Angela Snelbaker is the Outreach Department Manager for SHCHD, including Jerold Phelps Community Hospital, Emergency Room, Lab, X-Ray, and Clinic.

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