By Linda Friedel, Kansas City Nursing News
Deborah Southard went from manufacturing to health care when she pursued her dream to become a nurse.
Southard built doors for automobiles at the GM plant in Claycomo, Mo., for a decade, then switched when the company made her an offer she could not refuse. To downsize, GM offered Southard and others a buyout. Southard said yes and invested the funds into her future.
“It worked out perfectly,” said Southard, RN, emergency nurse at Belton Regional Medical Center. “I used my buyout money to go to nursing school.”
Southard worked in psych and cardiology before starting in emergency services. No two days are alike in the ED, she said.
“I still learn stuff every day,” Southard said. “If you ever stop learning, you don’t need to be doing it.”
In cardiology, Southard got in the habit of saying, ‘Thank you for letting me care for you’ to each of her patients. She carried the habit to her patients in the ER, she said. It’s a small thing to do, she said, but it makes an impression.
“People really liked it,” Southard said. “It just really stuck. Sometimes it flips everything around.”
Southard doesn’t know a stranger and loves being around people, a trait she learned from her mother, she said. She can chit-chat like none other, she said. It’s what kept her going while doing repetitive work day after day on an assembly line. In nursing she combines her love of people and desire to help, she said. An occasional touch of Southern humor adds a layer of care, she said. Southard is originally from Arkansas and laughs when fellow Arkansas residents say they must be related. She has a southern accent will not go away, she says.
“I always thought it (nursing) was an admirable job,” Southard said. “I love people. It was a perfect fit. I’m a talker.”
Emergency work means turning things around fairly quickly, Southard said. It’s rewarding to see patients leave with a smile on their face, especially when they came in feeling miserable, she said.
“You can make a change in their lives,” Southard said. “You can send them on with a smile. It makes you feel good.”
Southard is known among her co-workers and patients as caring and compassionate, said Karen Lee, chief nursing officer. She is an excellent communicator, Lee said. Comment cards from employees, patients and their families note her work ethic, teamwork and customer service skills, Lee said. She has a big heart and the personality to match it, Lee said.
“She’s just someone who is a great team player,” Lee said.