Honoring Extraordinary Nurses

Published on June 7th, 2019 by Christina Echegaray.

Summer 2019

Every year, the March of Dimes honors Middle Tennessee nurses in 17 categories for the Nurse of the Year awards, which honor extraordinary nurses who go above and beyond to deliver compassionate care to help moms and babies.

Two pediatric nurses at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt, Chelsea Carter, RN, and Bonnie Parker, RN, BSN, along with seven Vanderbilt University Medical Center nurses, received Nurse of the Year recognitions for their specialties.

“Both Chelsea and Bonnie exemplify the profession of nursing at its best,” said Kathie Krause, MSN, RN, NNP-BC, NEA-BC, chief nursing officer of Children’s Hospital. “Their dedication is evident in the care they provide, the compassion with which they provide it and the commitment they make to each and every child and family they touch. The Children’s Hospital team knows how these nurses practice with passion and to have the March of Dimes recognize them throughout our community makes them even more special.”

Chelsea Carter, RN, was named March of Dimes Middle Tennessee Emergency Room Nurse of the Year. Photo by Joe Howell.

For Carter, a pediatric emergency room nurse and quality improvement analyst, the news came as a surprise, particularly since she had nominated a co-worker for the same category — Emergency Room Nurse of the Year.

“When they started reading off the description of the recipient, I was like, ‘Wait, that’s not who I nominated.’ Then I was like, ‘Wow, that’s me,’” Carter said. “I knew I was a nominee, but there were so many fabulous nurses. It just never crossed my mind.”

She has worked in the Emergency Room at Children’s Hospital for five years. It’s her first nursing job, and she couldn’t be more thrilled with the who, what, where and why of it all, she said.

“I love who I work with, what I do and where I work,” she said. “When I am here, I feel valuable and part of the team. I know that I am making a difference in my patients’ lives and I can serve as a mentor to help others who are just starting out in their careers.”

Nursing was not the first career choice for Carter when she was selecting her major as high school senior. She planned to enter public relations but changed her mind after a conversation with the mother of one of her friends.

“After that talk about how much impact I could have in nursing and all the directions I could go, I called UT (the University of Tennessee at Knoxville) and changed my major to nursing,” she said.

Carter has never looked back.

Bonnie Parker, RN, BSN, was awarded March of Dimes Middle Tennessee Pediatric Nurse of the Year. Photo by Joe Howell.

Parker, RN, BSN, nursing case manager in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, has been in nursing for nearly 35 years.

As a child she recalls wanting to be a kindergarten teacher, until a car accident changed her life.

“In junior high, my family was in a bad car accident,” she recalled. “A drunk driver hit us head on, and I stayed in the hospital for a week and needed multiple facial surgeries after I was discharged.

“It was then that I started thinking about doing something related to hospitals. I started out in medical technology, but after a year and a half, I changed to nursing. I knew I wanted to go into pediatrics, but when I accepted my first job, there was only an opening in the NICU. Once I got there I discovered I loved it and stayed. It’s where my heart is.”

As a case manager, Parker helps to prepare babies for home, ensuring that families have everything necessary to care for their child including appointments, equipment, nursing home care and more.

“I love working with the babies and their families,” said Parker. “It feels good being able to help these parents get home and feel like they are going to be OK. We work hard so that they know we are in their corner.”

– by Jessica Pasley