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Maybe nursing is in her blood, or maybe she just knew from a young age what she wanted to be. Regardless of the reason, Connie Higdon said she can’t see herself being anything other than a nurse.
And after spending 37 years of her 38-year career working in labor and delivery, she can’t imagine working anywhere else, either.
“Seeing a newborn baby, every delivery is just like the first one. It’s just a miracle,” Higdon said.
Because of her dedication to her patients and her career, the Marion County Chamber of Commerce named her this year’s Outstanding Healthcare Professional.
Higdon said she was told that she had been nominated, but when they started reading the awards at the banquet, she saw her mother and sister-in-law. That’s when she realized she was the award recipient.
“It still makes me cry. It was such an honor,” she said.
Higdon, 58, grew up in Lebanon and has lived here throughout her life. Her mother, Theresa Brady, worked in a doctor’s office when she was growing up.
She said she got to know some of the nurses in that office, and she always knew that she wanted to help people.
“When I was 13, I came to the hospital and worked as a Volun-teen,” Higdon said.
Through that program, she said they would help patients by doing little odds and ends for them, such as changing their beds.
After high school, she went to Eastern Kentucky University where she earned her degree in nursing. She came back to work in Lebanon at what was then Mary Immaculate Hospital. She started working on what she called the “med-surge” floor, where she helped medical and surgical patients. She would also assist in the emergency room occasionally. After a year, she moved to labor and delivery, and that’s where she’s stayed — through different hospital owners, through a name change to Spring View Hospital, and even in different buildings including one time in the same day.
“I clocked in the old building on a Friday morning. I clocked out in this building on Friday evening,” Higdon said.
The new building now houses the Spring View Women’s Center, where Higdon and her co-workers care for mothers and their babies.
She said giving birth can be difficult, especially for first-time mothers, who are in labor for an average of 17 hours. To the patient, that’s an eternity, Higdon said.
“Even though they read about it or go to childbirth classes, until they experience that labor it’s hard for them to know what the pain’s going to be like,” she said.
Higdon said early in her career, it wasn’t unusual for a new mom to stay in the hospital up to five days after giving birth. Today, she said moms are often sent home after two or three days because of government and insurance policies.
Nevertheless, it’s clear that Higdon’s patients — who she referred to as “my moms and babies” — appreciate what she does for them during the time she cares for them.
Katy Hallmark, the Women’s Center director, said former patients often express their gratitude to Higdon when they see her out and about. She’ll receive cards from time to time as well.
“That’s worth a million dollars when a patient thinks that much to take time to send me a note,” Higdon said.
While an education is an obvious prerequisite for any nurse, Higdon said nurses should try to smile always, be patient and show kindness to others.
According to her co-workers, those are all traits that Higdon possesses.
“Connie is always upbeat and a great team player,” said Erica Bartley, a staff nurse at the Women’s Center. “She is always willing to lend a helping hand or just listen to a problem from a patient. The kindness in her heart shows on her face to everyone she meets.”
Bartley added that Higdon also remembers her patients and their families. As a result, many patients will request Higdon because they want to continue the “tradition” of having her care for their families, according to Bartley.
And Higdon’s concern for others also extends to her co-workers.
“Everyone who works here in the Women’s Center loves to work with Connie because of her innovative nursing abilities that prevent us from ever having a bad day at work. She is always eager to help others by lending a helping hand,” said Melissa Cull, the Women’s Center charge nurse.
Higdon said she will often introduce new nurses to the routines at the Women’s Center, and she’ll answer questions and offer guidance when she can. She said the first delivery can be overwhelming for any nurse, but she said it’s important for them to remain calm no matter what happens.
“If they get upset and look scared, the patient’s going to be very frightened as well,” Higdon said. “So we need to stay calm.”
The staff at the Women’s Center also said Higdon models that through her own demeanor.
As for Higdon, she was quick to say that her colleagues do a lot for her, too.
“We have a great staff here, and we all help each other,” Higdon said. “I couldn’t be what I am without my co-workers.”