Lake Regional Health System will celebrate Nurses Day on May 6 to honor each of our nurses’ dedication and commitment to their patients. This year’s theme is “a voice to lead.” With their core role as patient advocates, nurses are pivotal in helping lead health services in their decision making and goals to provide the best care for our community.
This Nurses Day, we are celebrating two Lake Regional nurses for their many years of service to patients: Billye Bennett, R.N., who has been a nurse for 53 years, and Donna Clemmons, R.N., who has been a nurse for 50 years.
Bennett said she’s always known she wanted to be a nurse from a young age, due to hearing her mother’s stories of being a nurse in the Women’s Army Corps during World War II.
“I was fascinated with her stories about taking care of soldiers who had been injured, or developed illnesses while fighting for our freedom all over the world,” Bennett said. “My favorite aspect of being a nurse has been the ability and opportunity to be of service to our fellow man.”
Clemmons knew she wanted to be a nurse since the second grade. Her mom had been diagnosed polio when Clemmons was one year old, and her mom had to wear a steel brace to eventually recover.
“Since then, I felt like I needed to know more about how to help people,” Clemmons said. “I’ve never thought of doing anything else.”
There have been many changes in health care during the past 50 years. Bennett said the greatest changes have been the tremendous opportunity for advancement, greater emphasis on formal education, having more male nurses in the field and better pay for nurses, compared to her early days in her career.
“From being considered a menial, “dirty” job to be a woman in health care, to a profession that commands great respect all around the world has been amazing,” Bennett said. “Being a nurse is one of the most admired professions now more than ever before.”
Clemmons said a big change in nursing has been documentation and improvement on equipment, along with better respect for the nursing career.
“Nurses now have more opportunities to work in administration and other branches of health care,” Clemmons said. “They are of course educated and intelligent, and people are more aware of that, and they have become more respected overall.”
During the COVID-19 pandemic, nurses have had to work extremely hard to take extra precautions for the health and safety of patients and staff. Bennett said Lake Regional’s COVID-19 response has been exceptional.
“I can’t tell you how proud I am of our hospital, its leadership and all employees as we have truly stepped up to the plate in response to the COVID-19 challenge,” Bennett said. “Our commitment to provide exceptional patient care never changes based on prevailing circumstances, and living up to that commitment helps a lot of us stay strong.”
Clemmons said during the pandemic, she has been doing her part to inform others of health and safety.
“During the coronavirus, it’s been important for me to educate the people around me and my neighbors to keep them safe,” Clemmons said. “I try and support everyone to keep them healthy and making sure they know there is always a light at the end of the tunnel.”
To Clemmons, “a voice to lead” is about helping out her fellow nurses through her years at Lake Regional.
“To me, it has been about mentoring,” Clemmons said. “I’ve been able to mentor other nurses and be a leader to them in their health care careers.”
Bennett said to her, “a voice to lead” is all about working together to face challenges and better health care for our community. Recently, Bennett has been a “voice to lead” by working with Camden, Miller and Morgan county health departments, as well as local mental health professionals to create awareness of issues that affect area youth, in particular. She has worked with leadership at Lake Regional to sponsor programs at local schools that are reaching youth to educate them on substance use, depression and suicide.
“Being a voice to lead is about nurses identifying mental, emotional and physical challenges to health in their practices and communities, as well as regionally and globally,” Bennett said. “It’s about working with other health care professionals and business leaders to address these challenges. I am grateful for the opportunity to represent Lake Regional as a voice to lead.”
Lake Regional Health System employs nearly 500 nurses in the hospital and clinics. View more Lake Regional nurse spotlights at facebook.com/lakeregional.