Turner named ECU Physicians' 2018 Nurse of the Year

A nurse manager in adult and pediatric health care has been selected by her peers as the 2018 Nurse of the Year at ECU Physicians, the medical practice of the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University.

Erica Turner, a Hickory native, worked in patient access at the ECU Adult and Pediatric Health Care Clinic (APHC) for five years before deciding to pursue a career in nursing.

She received her bachelor’s in nursing from ECU’s College of Nursing and in November 2016, she returned to the clinic as an assistant nurse manager.

Upon being promoted to nurse manager in September, Turner immediately got to work on trying to improve the clinic.

“I just started trying to listen to what the staff wanted and what the providers wanted and then come up with plans so that everybody enjoyed coming to work,” she said.

Erica Turner, left, nurse manager for ECU Physicians Adult and Pediatric Health Care Clinic talks to Jaime Moore, assistant nurse manager.

Turner restructured the clinic’s vaccine storage and documentation, improving patient safety. She created clearer signage to guide patients through the clinic and arranged for staff workshops on effective communication skills and delivering compassionate customer service. She was involved in researching, planning and implementing clinic-wide efforts to address screenings for breast cancer, colon cancer, depression and blood pressure control. She also worked with a pharmacist to develop algorithms to improve medication compliance.

“Erica embodies the spirit of teamwork and innovation on which the Brody School of Medicine stands,” Dr. Angie Mathai, a clinical associate professor at Brody, wrote in a nomination letter. “People like Erica with vision, a desire to work hard and serve our community, and personal high standards are such a positive addition to our team.”

The initiative Turner said she was proudest of was the restructuring of the clinic’s operations into a team-based approach where each resident and attending physician is assigned a specific team of nurses and nursing assistants.

“I think this increases the continuity of care and helps to make the patient feel more comfortable, because they’re most likely going to see someone they know instead of a stranger,” she said.

This kind of strategic yet compassionate thinking has been a theme throughout Turner’s tenure with the clinic, her peers said.

“She is a dynamic leader and change agent, who has already accomplished much in a relatively short time as a nurse manager,” wrote Dr. Lacy Hobgood, medical director of the APHC clinic. “She is a creative and strategic thinker, and we are fortunate to have her.”

Beatrice White, the nurse administrator for clinical operation in Brody’s Department of Pediatrics, hailed Turner as a champion for the APHC clinic.

“She goes above and beyond the call of duty whether it involves patient care, clinic issues or just lending a helping hand or listening ear,” White wrote.

Turner – who has an 8-month-old son, Jacob, with her husband, Chris – said being named the 2018 Nurse of the Year was “extremely surprising.”

“It’s overwhelming, that’s probably the best word I can use,” she said. “I just feel very appreciated. And now that I know that they went to this length to show their appreciation, it makes me want to work even harder to make things even better and to help out even more.”

The other finalists for this year’s award were:

  • Steve Benn, nurse specialist in the Department of Cardiovascular Sciences
  • Shanita Bennett, staff nurse in the Department of Internal Medicine
  • Meredith Kennedy, nurse specialist in the Department of Family Medicine
  • Rhonda Strickland, nurse manager in the Department of Pediatrics
  • Kimberly Webster, nurse manager in the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation