Celebrating Rim Country's Nurses

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Their voices and the touch of their hand calm patients. They are the people who talk to the patients about the care they are receiving and what they will be experiencing during a procedure and in recovery. They are the nurses of Payson Regional Medical Center and its Home Health service.

The nurses in our community among America's 2.9 million registered nurses who work to save lives and to maintain the health of millions of individuals. Today, they are celebrated as part of National Nurses Week, May 6 to May 12.

Operating Room Nurse Robin Ippolito

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Robin Ippolito is with the surgery department of Payson Regional Medical Center

Robin Ippolito has worked in the PRMC surgery department for five years and has been a nurse for 23 years.

"I wanted to be a nurse since I was 5," she said. "I wanted to help people. I wanted to make a difference."

She earned her degree from Scottsdale Community College and is a native of the Valley. Ippolito said her family moved to Payson because they had young children and wanted to raise them here. They had a home in Pine, which they visited on weekends, so they were familiar with the area.

With the move to the Rim Country, Ippolito moved into the OR specialty.

As an OR nurse, Ippolito is responsible for making sure the operating room is set up properly and the right equipment is in place.

She answers their questions, explains the procedure and tries to put them at ease, "as much as you can, for someone having surgery."

"I love doing this. I want to stay here," she said.

Ippolito's recommendation for those interested in a medical career is to talk to someone who is in the field and get online and research.

"I work with a great bunch of people and it's a great field to go into. Meeting people is the most rewarding aspect of the job."

One of her daughters is ready to follow Ippolito's footsteps into medicine.

"She wants to be a doctor -- a pediatric oncologist."

Home Health Nurse Lynda Freeman

The PRMC's Home Health nurses are the hospital's field representatives. They take years of experience in a variety of specialties into the homes of patients. "Our goal is to provide a continuum of care for the patient," said Freeman, who is now clinical coordinator for the Home Health service, but also works as one of its nurses.

"We pride ourselves in collaborating with doctors, the hospital, the nursing homes and Hospice," Freeman said.

With Home Health in the picture, the care requirements of patients have oversight, from the time they are released, until they are fully recovered.

Another goal of Home Health is to help a patient to become as independent as possible in his or her own home.

"Everyday we face a different challenge," Freeman said. "We never know what we are going to find in a patient's home. But I don't think we'd be in this profession, if it wasn't a challenge."

The PRMC Home Health service area is a 60-mile radius around Payson, with referrals for the service coming from hospitals all over the state.

Freeman became an RN in 1970 and continued her education as she worked in the health care field. She now holds a doctorate in health care management and is the instructor for the pharmacology class at Gila Community College.

She joined Home Health in 1978.

"I wanted more experience," she said. "I wanted to see what happened with patients after they left the hospital."

Freeman is one of nine nurses with Home Health. It also has two nurse assistants, two physical therapist, an occupational therapist, a social worker and two office staff.

Obstetrics Nurse Maria Hancock

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Maria Hancock said the babies, such as tiny Sadie Jewell, are the biggest reward of being a nurse in PRMC labor and delivery department.

Hancock has been with the PRMC labor and delivery department for two years and has worked as a nurse for five years.

"I sort of fell into it," Hancock said. "I started pursuing a business degree, but discovered I liked interacting with people, rather than paper. So, I changed direction."

To her surprise, Hancock said she discovered she had a real aptitude for the classes, which she took at Northland Pioneer College in Winslow.

"As soon as I had my OB clinical, I knew it was where I wanted to be," she said. She is not sure what drew her to the nursing profession in the first place. She did not have a lot of exposure to nurses growing up, except for the school nurse, who was a nice lady and was there to take care of her, if she had an accident.

Hancock hopes to begin work on her bachelor's of science in nursing soon. It will take two years, "or, if I got serious, a year-and-a-half."

At some point, she said, she might become a nurse practitioner, but she would stay in the OB field.

"I love it here. I never want to leave."

The babies are the most rewarding aspect of her job, she said, followed closely by the fact that in this community, she sees women who have been her patients in stores and at the park and they will come up and thank her for her help.

Hancock has the unique perspective of having been a patient in her department a year ago, when her youngest child was born.

"It was really a great experience. The best I have had so far (with the births of her children)."

She would encourage any young persons interested in the medical professions to look into nursing.

"Volunteering is an excellent way to gain experience. I didn't get a chance to. I think if I had, I would have gone into nursing much earlier."

Hancock's husband, John, is also a nurse, working in the medical-surgical department.

She said all their children -- they have five in their blended family still at home, from 15 to 1 -- are comfortable in the hospital setting.

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