One of the questions I’m most frequently asked is: “where are you from?” My response: North Macon, because I “tawk” differently than most of my neighbors. The truth is, I came to Georgia 24 years ago and have never looked back. I was born and raised in New Jersey (NOT Joisey), aka “The Garden State” (you can stop laughing now!) but decided to move South because I was simply tired of the cold weather. One day in September 1990, we packed up our cars, dogs and son and headed down I-95.
My goal in life was to become a teacher, art or history, but, back in the Dark Ages, there were more than enough teachers to go around so I refocused on nursing. I knew I would never become another Florence Nightingale; that’s what I was told when I interviewed with the Director of the Nursing Program I had applied to. I didn’t let that stop me (hint: one of my weaknesses – I’m stubborn). I was accepted into Clara Maas Memorial Hospital School of Nursing, a 33 month long nursing program that graduated diploma school nurses. They are non-existent nowadays. We lived at a dorm, right there on the hospital campus, ate in the hospital cafeteria and pretty much lived at the hospital. We had mandatory study hours – 6-8pm every night. Upperclassmen actually rounded to make sure you were studying. God help you if you were caught dozing! We were not allowed to work during our first year so I took a position as a CNA at a hospital closer to home; I needed the money. I had 4 younger siblings and knew my parents could not afford much.
Chemistry almost killed me in my freshman year but, remember, I’m stubborn so it was not going to beat me (and it didn’t). We were allowed to take the LPN boards at the completion of our 1st year. I passed so, for the next 2 years, I worked 3pm-11pm after completing my clinical rotations during the 7am-3pm shift. It was a great learning experience; it helped build my skills and better prepare me for my career as a registered nurse.
My first job as a RN was on an oncology unit in a large, teaching hospital. It was so sad and depressing I knew I could not do this forever. I applied for a position closer to home and got a call a short time later. It was for the OR! I had only been a nurse for 4 months and the OR was interested in me! Wow! I took the position and loved every day of it. That was more years ago than I care to remember; I could work in any specialty but my love was orthpaedics. I can’t believe I’m saying this but I can remember when there were NO arthroscopies – we simply removed the entire cartilage in a patient’s knee. Hot gallbladder? You had an 8” incision and a hospital stay of 5-7 days. Sounds like medieval times, right? Things are so much better today.
During this time, I also grew into a manager, starting out as a Specialty Coordinator and ending up as a Vice President at Medical Center of Central Georgia, responsible for all of Surgical Services as well as other departments, before starting another journey here as a Chief Nursing Officer and, now, Chief Operating Officer. We shy away from the word “manager,” using the word “leader” instead. I truly believe I was meant to be here at Northside. There have been some painful times but, once we weathered a storm, we were that much stronger. When I arrived here in 2009, our vacancy rate was sky-high, core measures in the tank, service excellence lacking. So, I did what any other stubborn person would do: start chipping away. We have assembled a strong leadership team and a committed and energized staff, who truly believe in what they are doing. Because of that, along with several years of my life, we have turned around many of our weaknesses and actually created strengths. Having the right people, in the right place, with the right attitude, will create miracles you never thought possible; I have seen it up close and personal. It makes a difference.
I have been married to the same man, Tom, for 29 years. We have been together through thick and thin (trust me) and love each other more now than ever. He keeps me (relatively) sane; that’s a full time job. We have 2 grown boys (I’m not ready to call them “men” yet.) and 2 grandchildren, whom we adore. I am neither an optimist nor a pessimist; I just see the glass so I guess I’m a realist. I love people and will talk to anyone (often embarrassing my family). We cannot go anywhere without meeting someone I know; I consider this a wonderful gift.
Pat D’Errico, RN, MPA, FACHE
Chief Nursing Officer/Chief Operating Officer
Coliseum Northside Hospital