By Lena Mitchell/NEMS Daily Journal
CORINTH – Humor, compassion, strength, sincerity, caring – the list of qualities brought to bear in a nurse’s daily walk is a long one.
“You have to love this job,” Sharon Hawkins said. “You’ve got to love every aspect of it – the late nights, being preacher, teacher, friend – whatever your patient needs.”
As a registered nurse administering outpatient intravenous therapies at Magnolia Regional Health Center in Corinth, Hawkins works daily with patients going through one of the worse experiences of their lives, coping with a diagnosis of cancer.
“One of the most rewarding things is helping people adjust, come to grips with it,” she said. “From explaining the medications and teaching self care, to watching the outcomes when it improves their quality of life, doing things they couldn’t do before, you know you’re doing some good.”
The 60-year-old Iuka resident has worked at MRHC for about 20 years, initially on the medical-surgical floor and in the short-stay unit.
Hawkins found her nursing vocation later in life.
“The first time I was at college I wanted to be a biochemist,” she said.
Some life events changed her direction, and she didn’t complete college the first time around.
After taking a job at a nursing home, however, she found out how much she enjoyed taking care of people every day. Hawkins had found her calling, and at age 38 returned to school for her nursing degree.
Hawkins said she did it the hard way, but would advise young people entering the nursing profession to get not only a bachelor’s degree, but also to continue on and get the master’s degree.
“I’m not talking about necessarily becoming a nurse practitioner, but we need more people with higher degrees working in hospitals and nursing homes,” she said. “We need to be focusing more on prevention, practicing the teaching role of nurses with patients. Patients need to understand that if something is bothering them, don’t let it go. Keep looking and asking questions until you get an answer.”
Through the years that she has nurtured patients and their families through treatments, there have been some difficult times.
“The hardest thing to deal with is the loss,” she said. “You’re human, and once you get so attached it’s like losing a member of your extended family. It’s something you have to learn to deal with constantly.”
On the flip side, though, Hawkins has been rewarded with lasting friendships with some of those families and only incidental contact with others.
“Some families stay in touch, but sometimes it’s just when they see you in Walmart and say ‘Thank you. You made it easier,’” she said.