HAZARD — Carolyn Jones’s day as an RN starts with a 20-30 minute drive from her Perry County home to Hazard ARH Regional Medical Center. Her commute allows her to view the beautiful scenery and mountains that are so much a part of the personality of her community. “It’s not a bad commute,” she says. “I enjoy the time.”
But when she gets to work it’s non-stop. “I’m pretty much on my feet all day, except for when I‘m charting or doing orders. Nursing is a physical job, but it’s also so rewarding. I like helping people,” says Jones, who works 12-hour shifts rotating from a three to four-day work week every other week. “The longer hours have worked well over the years since her husband works the night shift at Hazard Community and Technical College allowing him to care for their 14-year old daughter, the youngest of their three children, while Carolyn works.
“My boys are now grown and married, but my 14-year-old daughter is into everything—soccer, cheerleading, scholastic goals. It takes both of us.” “But the different shifts and ARH’s ability to support me has allowed me to steadily improve my skills and position. Everyone who wants opportunity to grow can do it at ARH.”
When Jones started her career at ARH she was a certified nursing assistant (CNA). In five years she moved into a nursing clerk position, and soon found herself going full-time for her RN licensure. “That was a very challenging time because I had two boys in high school, a younger daughter. I was working full time and going to school full time. I just kept telling myself ‘it can be done’ and we got it accomplished.”
Jones says her time as a CNA gave her an advantage over many of her younger classmates because she went in knowing the basics very well. Her work as a nursing clerk gave her needed insight into procedures, paperwork and how units run. “I just had to put it all together, once I started learning the more skilled aspects of nursing in school.”
She notes she had mentors from work while she went to school, and that allowed her to “learn more quickly and feel more confident. If you want to grow professionally, ARH will give you the opportunity along with support.”
On a rainy January 2017 morning, Jones clocked in for her 7:00 am to 7:00 pm shift and, as usual, had around five patients. The first half hour of her shift is a time when night nurses exchange information and brief day nurses about patients. From there, the day morphs quickly into patient needs, discharges and new admits coming mostly from the ER.
“I’m on a med/surg, telemetry floor, so we get all kinds of cases,” she explained. “We have a lot of cardiology and then we have a lot of geriatrics. Nothing stays the same.” Jones says she feels very confident that her patients are getting top-notch nursing care. “When I went to school at Hazard Community and Technical College, the professors in the nursing program were excellent. It was almost one-on-one and they knew us personally and helped us everyday. I just loved them, and much of that is why I love nursing now.”
Back in 1990, when Jones first began working at ARH, she did not have the advantage of tuition reimbursement through ARH, like it exists today, or with student loan repayment, which is also currently available. “I paid for every dime myself, so it’s really great we have these programs. Maybe that will encourage more students to go into nursing.”
With the added programs available, Jones says she would consider getting her Master’s degree, which would take an additional three years. “With additional degrees, I would improve my retirement as well as having more income when my daughter goes to college,” she said.
Retirement is “a long way off,” she admits, “but I can actually imagine it now.” “I’d like a little trip to Destin, FL, sitting on the beach, but who knows!”
Jones thinks the new ARH Visa Rewards Card, which provides employees with monetary rewards for certain milestones or achievements throughout the year, will be a great way to let the employees know their hard work is appreciated. “We all need a little acknowledgement, and the new ARH Visa card does just that by rewarding great work.”
She also likes the concept that she can refer an RN to be hired at any ARH facility and be rewarded $2,000 for the referral once that nurse is hired. “That would go a long way in getting me to the beach” she laughed. “I’m going to look around for referrals.”
As her day comes to a close, Jones admits that one of the absolute best aspects of her job is the team she works with. “They are absolutely the best. Everyone is experienced and if you find you have a problem with coding or something, people are there to help you find the right answers.”
She also acknowledges that, while every job has challenges, she is very grateful for the benefits offered through her ARH employment. “I’m proud to be able to provide for my family, not only with a paycheck, but also with health insurance and other perks. It’s a great package, which cuts down on worry and allows me to provide great nursing care at Hazard ARH.”