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Chief nurse draws inspiration from experience

Staff writer

Jessica Turner knew she wanted to be a nurse was when she went into labor with her first child.

“I was so impressed with my nurse,” she said. “She made me feel like I was the only person in the world who mattered and gave me such amazing care.”

After 20 years, and three more children, Turner is marking her first days as chief nursing officer at St. Luke Hospital.

Turner previously came from an administrative nursing role at Susan B. Allen Memorial in El Dorado, but she originally wanted to be a nurse practitioner.

“During the course of my bachelor’s program, I realized how passionate I felt about the leadership classes and management,” she said.

The shift in focus resulted when Turner realized how much more impact she could have, she said.

“A lot of it was learning how nursing affects the big picture in a hospital or health care system,” she said. “I saw how I could make a bigger difference by helping the nursing staff than I could as a nurse and taking care of five or six patients at a time.”

However, Turner said coming to St. Luke means she will sometimes work different roles to understand the whole picture better.

“I want to take as much time as I can to learn,” she said. “I’m working a few shifts on the floor alongside the nurses to see how things go from that perspective,” she said. “My perception is that once I learn who my resources are, it will help a lot. No one person has all the answers.”

Taking the occasional shift on the nursing floor was something she liked about St. Luke that Turner said she didn’t have in El Dorado.

“That’s one of the things that really drew me to this job,” she said. “I get to be a leader and do those things I love, but I also get to have some time hands on with the staff.”

Being hands on allows Turner to see patients as more than names on a sheet, she said.

“These are people,” she said. “They’re not numbers or cogs in a machine.”

Turner said her knowledge as a mother was valuable experience in the workplace.

“It definitely taught me patience,” she said. “It helped me see I wasn’t the most important person in my world.”

She remembers what she learned as a patient during her first pregnancy.

“I wanted to make someone feel like they’re so special that they’re 100% the reason I’m here,” she said.

St. Luke’s 10 bed capacity is 38 fewer than what El Dorado’s hospital holds, but the distance to larger facilities increases the importance of St. Luke’s accessibility, Turner said.

“We’re such a rural state, and there’s so much space between bigger hospitals,” she said. “Communities depend on small hospitals like this.”

While originally put off by the 40-minute drive from El Dorado, Turner said she was swayed by the similar commute time to Wichita.

“If I worked at St. Francis, factoring traffic it would take me at least that long,” she said. “In the end it became a nonissue.”

Last modified July 25, 2019

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