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Fifty years of nursing sees many changes

If you mention the name of RN Gail Stroud to any staff member who has worked with her at Gwinnett Medical Center (GMC), one word comes to mind – passion. That’s because Stroud is not only passionate about the patients to whom she has given care since 1963, but because of her passion  as an advocate throughout her career to improve Gwinnett citizen’s lives through better health care facilities.

Gail Stroud, when she was recognized by the board for her 50 years of service.

As GMC’s first ever 50 year Silver Anniversary employee, Stroud is being honored not just for her 50 years of service but for the quality of service she has consistently provided over that time.

Born and raised in Lawrenceville, Stroud began her nursing career as a nursing assistant at Button Gwinnett Hospital where she worked for 23 years until the new GMC facility opened in Lawrenceville in 1986. It all started when she was looking for a summer job before going to Emory where, after winning a state debating contest and scholarship, she was to study law.

“In 1963 there weren’t many jobs for summer work in Gwinnett County. But I heard about the new hospital that had opened so I rode my bike over,” Stroud recalled, smiling. “I told the administrator that I had perfect attendance at Sunday School so couldn’t work on Sundays.”

The amused administrator explained that the hospital was a seven-day a week operation and that they would be sure to schedule her for Sunday afternoons, rather than mornings.

It was love at first sight.

“That first day I saw what some of the nurses were doing and how they interacted with the patients. I loved taking care of the patients,” she said. Before the summer was over she had changed her major at Emory from law to nursing. 

In the 70s and 80s Gwinnett began to grow rapidly and county hospitals, including Button Gwinnett began to feel the pain of too many patients in such a small facility.

Stroud’s dedication to nursing people in the community where she grew up, helped her to see the need for additional health care facilities and in the 80s she became an advocate for a new central facility – Gwinnett Medical Center. Her high school debating skills coupled with her passion for people in need gave her what she needed to play a key role in arguing for the new facility. She testified several times in favor of getting GMC’s much needed Certificate of Need (CON) to solidify the future of the new medical center that would combine Buford General and Button Gwinnett in one central location.

We were having so much growth and I told the commissioners, you didn’t have to read about it in the newspapers. ‘You can just see the young adults in the grocery line with their children. You see shopping centers and churches going up to serve new neighborhoods. Change (is) out in front of you – do you want to be part of where it’s going or just stand still?’ I asked.

“Joan Glancey was at 100% + occupancy, and you can’t put a sign outside that says ‘full.’ The politicians had different viewpoints but there were lots of citizens and leaders that argued for the CON and it was established.”

“The GMC Board of Directors was so willing to listen, to ask questions,” Stroud stated. “The hospital has been very blessed with the directors they have. We are a community hospital and they wanted to do what the community wanted.”

The 68-year-old Stroud is not retiring after her 50 years of service because of her passion for nursing and because of the direction the hospital has taken.

“I’m still there because it’s a community hospital that hasn’t stayed stagnant. It continues to grow, improve and stay up with what is happening in the medical field.”

As medicine has changed and grown, so has nursing Stroud says.

“When I first started nursing, you were a nurse when you got out of school. You went through lots of intensive areas plus a six week elective all of which made you ready to go to work and look after patients,” she explained. “Now most nurses specialize.”

“Nurses used to do everything. For instance, when I started there was no such thing as a respiratory therapist, but that’s great because the specialties enable the nurse to concentrate on other patient needs.”

“When the doctor decides on a plan of care and patient agrees, it doesn’t just happen,” Stroud explained. “The nurse is the energy force that unifies the effort to make things happen to carry out the plan.  Plus, you have to watch for many things – hydration, skin color, breathing, ekg – every action is an assessment opportunity and you may have to alter the order in which some things are done.”

“In addition, I want to know how I can make the situation better. How can I help alleviate the family’s stress?  It might just be a warm blanket. We may not always be able to cure but we can always care.”

Another difference in today and yesterday she says is that there is no longer one doctor who is the primary care giver. “Today every patient has several doctors such as primary care, pulmonary and cardiac doctors. The risk of fragmenting of the patient is greater because there are so many doctors.

“It’s great but you have to be sure you are paying attention to what is happening with each discipline. There is so much responsibility and you can become burned out if you aren’t really dedicated. A nurse has to enjoy interaction with people because there is constant interaction with doctors and patients.”

Stroud is currently working part time as a clinical occupational health nurse (OHN) where her experience enables her to treat and test hospital employees. As she has shared her knowledge with other nurses through the years, this job allows her the opportunity to give guidance to up and coming nurses especially when they are trying to make decisions about their career.

“Her career demonstrates a range of nursing opportunities available at Gwinnett Medical Center,” said Steve Nadeau, GMC’s senior vice president, human resources. “Gail has set a high level of care delivery over her 50 years of service; she continues to be an inspiration to our associates for her work ethic and commitment to quality patient care.”

Working in her hometown for the past 50 years has been a joy for Stroud because it has enabled her to care about and contribute to families in her community. And working as a nurse to help others has been and continues to be a passion that she enjoys every day of her life.

“It’s said that if you learn to do something you love you’ll never work a day in your life and that is so true,” Stroud mused.  “The work I chose became the work that chose me…

I never dread getting up and going to work. I love what I do.”