JCDPH Nurses win state awards

From left: (back) Rebecca Williamson, Debbie Matthews, Gretta Phillips and Briea Parris; (front) Darlene Robinson and Carla Morgan. The entire group from the Jackson County Department of Public Health was honored by the state as Distinguished Public Health Nurses.

By Beth Lawrence


Jackson County Department of Public Health nurses have received a statewide honor for their work.

All five nurses and the nursing supervisor received recognition as one of North Carolina’s 100 Distinguished Public Health Nurses.

Nurses from across the state were chosen for the designation.

Nursing supervisor Carla Morgan is honored by the recognition because she knows that public health nursing is an often overlooked sector of medicine.

“It was very important to nominate all these wonderful nurses I work with, and that they were actually picked out of all the public health nurses across the state, that they chose our entire department is truly fascinating and an honor,” she said. “We couldn’t be prouder.”

Morgan calls Jackson County’s public health nurses silent heroes because so much of what public health does is behind the scenes and not understood.

“We save lives quietly,” Morgan said. “Public health nursing is community nursing where we prevent diseases by communicable disease investigation, immunizations and promote and educate to save people from infectious diseases. We provide mammograms for low income people; we provide family planning services, and we provide prenatal services in house.”

Nominees were required to be currently practicing public health nurses with at least three years’ experience in the public health sector.

Briea Parris is the county’s maternal health nurse. She says she did not deliberately choose maternal health, but is happy she did. Parris said she can’t imagine “doing anything else now.”

Jackson County health department serves between 1,100 and 1,300 patients each month in its various clinics.

The clinics serve those who would otherwise go without access to healthcare due to lack of insurance or inadequate coverage. They also treat patients with private insurance.

“We do the same quality care as any other office, but we allow for people who don’t have insurance to be seen and be cared for. It makes it really special ...  that we’re able to give it to everyone, not just people who have insurance,” Parris said.

Anyone nominating a nurse was asked to submit a 500-word description of the ways the candidate demonstrated the professional standards category for which they were designated and how the person’s work impacted the community.

A committee of eight public health peers working in the field and in academia reviewed the applicants. Candidates received a score based on a rubric for the categories: front line public health nurses, supervisors or directors, nurse consultants and public health faculty.

“The recipients demonstrate noteworthy evidence of innovation, collaboration, community-centered care or professionalism in their work setting,” said Susan Little, 2019 nursing section chair.

The Jackson County recipients are:

• Carla Morgan, nursing supervisor: employee health, family planning.

• Gretta Phillips, public health nurse: child health, lead investigations, abnormal pap smears, program back-up.

• Rebecca Williamson, public health nurse: adult health, BCCCP (Breast Cancer Cervical Cancer Provider), WiseWoman (a health program to educate women and help them control blood sugar, cholesterol and blood pressure).

• Darlene Robinson, public health nurse: general clinic, immunizations.

• Debbie Matthews, public health nurse: communicable disease.

• Briea Parris, public health nurse: maternal health.

Designees will be honored with an awards luncheon at the Grandover Resort in Greensboro. Each nurse will receive a certificate and trophy.