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CCH Legend embodies patient-center care on Medical/Surgical Unit

CCH Legend embodies patient-center care on Medical/Surgical Unit

The goal of Campbell County Health’s Excellence Every Day mission is that every patient, resident, employee, or customer that each member of the organization encounters experiences the best of CCH. In the words of Deb McMurtrey, RN, CMSRN, it means that every staff member “makes a difference in the care that our customers experience with us; they trust CCH to do a good job and will return to the organization for more care in the future.”

Walk the halls of the Medical/Surgical Unit at Campbell County Memorial Hospital, and ask anyone about Deb, you’ll likely hear that Deb embodies this mission, which she will tell you that she’s lived her entire life.

“Each person she serves with the kindest heart and the sweetest spirit,” says Mary Barks, Patient & Resident Experience Director. “Whether Deb is holding the hand of a patient who is in pain, or celebrating co-workers accomplishments, or helping someone find their way in the hospital, Deb’s sincerity and compassion comes through in her eyes, her touch and her words. Deb LIVES Excellence Every Day, each and every day.”

Deb, a clinical supervisor on Med/Surg, was recently awarded Campbell County Health’s most prestigious award, the Legend Award. For those who don't know, CCH defined a Legend as, “those people who have left a permanent impression on our minds because of their deeds and actions. Ongoing demonstration of hard work, compassion, and a reputation for greatness make someone a legend.”

Deb’s inspiration to become a nurse came as a child when she watched her grandmother receive care from nurses in a small Nebraska hospital where they lived. “I was determined that I would be smarter and kinder than the nurses my grandma had,” she says. And she is.

Deb graduated from a three year diploma school in Hastings, Neb., in 1974. She was crowned the nurse with the most TLC when she graduated—a top achievement that earned her a few minutes of fame on the local television channel. She went on to work at a hospital in Valentine, Neb., and met her future husband, Dr. George McMurtrey (Dr. Mac), who brought her to Gillette in 1978 when he started the hospital’s first Emergency Department. Deb took a job at Med/Surg when she arrived, and has stayed in that department for 30 years.

Medical/Surgical nurses practice in a stimulating, and demanding, setting. Many will say it’s not for the faint-hearted, but the work is very rewarding. Nurses on this unit can care for patients across many age levels, with a huge variety of disease categories or injuries, and with different degrees of acuity.

“I’ve often heard coworkers say, ‘I have no life.’ And I just chuckle and say to them, ‘Of course you don’t, you’re a nurse,” said Deb.

Nursing, according to Deb, is checking your own personal problems at the door when you walk in to do your job. “We are here to care for our patients. With patients who are at the end of their life, we are their last gift of comfort and caring; you are also there for the family members who may need help. A nurse also celebrates with the patients who recover and go home—you have to give them the confidence to keep their recovery going, and return to their healthy life. If you start the day off complaining about what’s happening with you, or worried about the issues you are personally facing, then you’re not there for your patients,” she says.

So what helped get Deb through 30 years on such a busy floor? A little tune that goes something like this: “It’s my job and I like it fine!”

It was “assigned” to her by Dr. K Patel, who also told her one very solid piece of advice: There are two things that people care about—that you smile at them and that you’re nice to them.

Deb has added to that advice, saying that: “The patient doesn’t care how many degrees you have, they just want you to smile, show them that you care, and that you recognize that they went through a lot.”

“Deb always finds something that is personal to her patients that make them feel good about being in her care,” says Shawn Holland, CCMH House Supervisor. “She is a great mentor for new nurses and shows true passion and love for nursing.”

Earlier in July, Deb was recognized in a Thanks for working here Thursday post on Facebook, and the response was overwhelmingly positive—with more than 25 comments and hundreds of “likes”. Here is a taste of what fellow nurses and community members said about their experience with Deb:

  • Julie Asheim Tarter: What an amazing lady. Thank you, Deb, for all that you do, and for all that you have taught me and all the other nurses who have been blessed to have an opportunity to work with you, and learn all that you have to share. You are truly an amazing woman, and I am honored to have been able to work with you and learn from you.
  • Sandy Ford-Fernandez: One of the reasons I am the nurse I am today is because of Deb and all that she taught me all those years ago. She is by far one of the greatest nurses I have ever worked with.
  • Kadie Donaldson: There are not words to truly describe how great a person Deb is or how she can make a person feel. I was truly blessed to work with and be mentored by this amazing nurse. The words of wisdom and inspiration, the kind soft and steady hands of healing, the heart of compassion and understanding. Thank you Deb for all you have done for me and this community.

Deb commented that one of the things that she enjoys the most about working on Med/Surg is watching the new nurses grow. “It recharges my heart to see them succeed and become these great nurses that I’d be more than happy to have them take care of me,” she says.

She also credits her successes to the many mentors that she had, which include Mary Barks, Jonni Belden, Baerbel Merrill, Anne Raga, a variety of doctors and even CEO’s like Andy Fitzgerald.

Deb was married to Dr. Mac, the love her life, for almost 40 years. Together, they raised three beautiful children: Amanda, who lives in Laramie; Samantha, who lives in Walla Walla, Washington, and has a 3-year old son named Micah; and George, who lives in Gillette. When she’s not working, she loves to spend time with her children and grandchildren.

Thank you Deb for being such a legendary nurse, a beautiful person and a friend to everyone you meet! You have left a permanent impression in this organization and in our community. Congratulations.