The last few months have been anything but easy as both individuals and communities adjust to their own version of a new normal. For nurses, they must manage their typical duties in addition to the exhausting tasks of witnessing and fighting the progression of COVID-19.
Allison Jagoda, a Jeanette Cantrell Rudy Endowed Scholarship for Excellence in Nursing recipient, graduated from Cumberland with her nursing degree in 2016. She works at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in the CVICU (Cardiovascular ICU) as a Staff RN, RSL (Relief Charge Nurse) and member of the Adult Hospital Staff Council. In May, Allison received Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s Rosamond Gabrielson Staff Nurse of the Year Award which recognizes staff nurses who through their patient care elevate the profession of nursing through collaboration, leadership and evidence-based, quality outcomes. Allison received the Jeanette C. Rudy Award in Nursing at her CU pinning ceremony.
“Our unit serves the sickest cardiothoracic and vascular patients in the southeast. Fortunately, due to our heart and lung transplant population, our unit is somewhat protected from COVID-19,” said Allison. “Due to COVID-19, families cannot be with our patients during their best and worst days. I have FaceTimed the families of my patients even if the patients couldn’t speak in return. In addition to being their nurse, we are now their mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, and best friends as our patients traverse these uniquely difficult times.”
Before nursing, Allison was a clinical exercise physiologist working in outpatient cardiopulmonary rehabilitation. She loved her job and her patients, but she wanted a career that would better fulfill her life and need to serve others.
“I wanted a greater responsibility, more acute, challenging, and an opportunity to change lives,” said Allison. “The heart has always mesmerized me and so I knew the CVICU was my calling. As soon as I started in the CVICU, I hit the ground running. I chaired the unit’s education council, became a super user of all of our cardiac support devices (Total Artificial Heart, ECMO, CentriMag, Impella, and IABP), practiced as a relief charge nurse, served as a resource RN, and participated in staff council which brings representatives from all units to our senior leadership. I absolutely love what I do.”
On a daily basis, you can typically find Allison helping someone troubleshoot an issue in their room, advocating for a patient, or simply playing her patients’ favorite music or tv shows while trying to make them smile.
“Any opportunity that I can make a patient feel more like themselves and not a patient, I’ll do it,” said Allison. “Receiving Nurse of the Year is a testament to all of the nurses and providers on our floor that work tirelessly to bring a better life to our patients. I am honored to share it with all of them.”
She credits her CU experience as making a lasting impact on her life and career. While attending an information session for various colleges, she knew immediately that she wanted to attend CU because she would be able to work and earn a new degree for a profession that would fulfill her- nursing. CU’s dedication to excellence, small class sizes and affordability appealed to Allison when she decided to return to school for her nursing degree.
“Cumberland made it possible for me to work and earn a new degree for a career I love with their adult nursing program,” said Allison. “I had considered moving home to Michigan in order to go back to school since Nashville’s cost of living was so high. However, I knew that wasn’t me. I wanted to find a way to stay in Nashville and go to Cumberland. I received the Jeanette Cantrell Rudy Endowed Scholarship for Excellence in Nursing since I already had a previous degree and I was so thankful it was offered. This assistance helped me to attend CU with Nashville’s cost of living and going to school full-time.”
Along the way, there were many people who supported her in achieving her dream of becoming a nurse.
“I find value in everyone that I meet. Every didactic and clinical instructor I had taught me things I use to this day. I always felt invested in most by Gail Humes, Beth Chatham, Mark Hensley, Laura Oettel, Barb Tincher, Tim Morgan and Dr. Rose. Obviously, my classmates were my family. We were with each other more than our loved ones for two and a half years (Summer Warren, Meg Mulvihill, Shelvia Sims, Richana Lyles, Jennifer Adams, Alicia Morris, Kanesha Brooks, Deborah Owusu, and Jeff Novick).
Allison, like nurses across the world, will continue to selflessly care for their patients even in the midst of risking their own health and safety; our gratitude to them will never be enough for the work they do and for the heart they put into it.
To read more about Allison and her award, please visit: https://voice.vumc.org/staff-nurses-year-named/