by Bobby Anderson, Staff Writer
For the life of her, Carol Garrison, RN, BSN, IBC/LC still can’t figure out what she’s doing as the OB Director at AllianceHealth Clinton.
“Dumb luck,” Garrison laughed. “Somebody must have made a mistake.”
One thing the second-career nurse is sure of is that no matter what the reason, she’s not leaving anytime soon.
This January will mark two years since Garrison hired on in Clinton.
It’s been a culmination of one twist after another, several leaps of faith and a willingness to pursue her own happiness.
And it’s also been a result of leadership recognizing Garrison has something special that she’s able to share not only with patients but everyone around her.
NO SHORT CUTS
Garrison left home early and had a child. She quickly realized raising a daughter, earning a living and going to college didn’t really go hand in hand.
So she became a hairdresser.
She was talking with her husband one night when he asked her the question that would change her life.
What would you do if you weren’t cutting hair?
A few weeks later, the answer bubbled up in the 34-year-old from somewhere deep down inside.
“I remember saying to my husband ‘guess what I did today,’” Garrison said recalling a later dinner conversation when she broke the news that she had enrolled in nursing school. “I remember thinking, what if I don’t pass. He’s going to be investing in me all this money and that thought process continued with me until graduation day.”
Garrison graduated from Southwestern Oklahoma State University School of Nursing in 2011.
“I had no idea what I was getting into but I loved it,” she said. “I loved school.”
Her first job was at Great Plains Regional Medical Center in Elk City working OB.
She spent five years there and “loved every minute.”
“Being in OB, I realized that in nursing school they don’t teach you about lactation,” she said. “The nurses in Elk City were great but nobody really knew about lactation.”
That’s when she decided to take her career a step further and earn her IBC/LC certification and became a lactation nurse.
That transitioned into being a PRN lactation consultant in Elk City. For two days a week she taught new mothers how to breastfeed.
But she really missed labor and delivery.
With no full-time role available in Elk City she set her sights back to Clinton
“I had lived there. That’s where my salon was,” Garrison said. “People were so good to me when I was doing hair and I felt like people there were my family.”
So she interviewed for a PRN position at AllianceHealth Clinton.
The night before her interview she got cold feet and almost picked up the phone to say she wouldn’t be showing up.
“I didn’t think that was a very nice thing to do,” she said.
So she came to the interview and Chief Nursing Officer Kim Todd had a proposition.
There was a director position available.
“I was truly floored,” Garrison said. “I told her I didn’t think so but she asked me to think about it.”
The opportunity was too good to pass up so Garrison accepted but only on an interim basis.
She wound up lasting longer than the “interim” title did and moved back full-time to Clinton.
“There were only two full-time nurses when I got here. The rest were agency,” she said. “It was a pretty big assignment to transition out our agency nurses but I’m proud to say all of my positions are now full-time staff.”
Garrison has 13 nurses to cover three LDRP beds, four postpartum rooms and one triage room. The hospital delivers anywhere from 17 to 30 babies each month.
And her staff continues to amaze her each and every day.
“I couldn’t make it without them,” she said. “We’re very small and rural but these girls are awesome. They have faced more challenges than any nurses I’ve ever encountered. Everyone of them stepped up.”
Attracting OB nurses to a rural hospital is a constant challenge, maybe because of what many think rural medicine is all about.
“When I bring people on the unit, even one of my old coworkers they all have the same response – ‘Wow, this is really nice,’” Garrison said. “I don’t know if they think it’s going to be a MASH unit here in Western Oklahoma or what.”
What it is, is a group of dedicated nurses.
It’s a CNO that scrubs in when there’s three mothers trying to deliver at once.
It’s CEO Cameron Lewis standing at the nurses’ station and asking if there’s anything Garrison’s nurses need when they’re stretched thin.
“We all just kind of jump in and help each other out and do what we can,” she said. “It’s a great environment and great teamwork.”
And with all that Garrison realizes that it’s more than just dumb luck she’s where she’s at.