Serving Patients by Serving Nurses

Crisp Regional Hospital

Crisp Regional Hospital’s mission is to provide quality care through personal touch, compassion, and commitment to patient- and family-centered care at a reasonable cost. At the forefront of those beliefs stands April Dukes, Crisp Regional’s chief nursing officer.

Dukes believes that she was born to be a nurse, although it seemed strange at first. She was rarely sick, so she didn’t encounter nurses that could have influenced her career path. She never had any family in the nursing practice either.

Her only explanation was that it must have been God’s plan for her to fill the role as a nurse, a caretaker, and a person who puts others’ well-being ahead of her own.

Despite Dukes’ lack of external influence, her interest in nursing dates back to her childhood.

“When I was a child, my mom had a pocket paged booklet that held my report card and school picture each year,” Dukes said. “The pages had the same question on the cover: Who was your best friend? What was your pet’s name? What do you want to be when you grow up?”

When Dukes was in kindergarten, she wrote that she wanted to be a nurse when she grew up, but she misspelled the word by leaving off the “e.” Every year after that, she responded the same way but included the missing “e” each time.

“Somehow, I knew this was what I wanted to be when I grew up,” Dukes said.

Just as her interest was born at an early age, Dukes’ career in healthcare was as well. She worked as a nursing assistant in a nursing home before she graduated from high school, and soon after, she took the mantle of a Georgia EMT. She worked EMS in Wilcox and Dodge counties while attending nursing school at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College.
Dukes began her career as an RN in 1993, and for many years, her interests were in the emergency department and intensive care unit.

“I can honestly say that I have never woken up a single day and regretted going to work as a nurse,” Dukes said. “I absolutely love taking care of patients.

“About 10 years into my career, I remember my focus shifting. I really wanted to be a nurse who took care of nurses. I loved advocating for patients, but I felt the desire to be a bigger advocate for nurses as well. My career shifted to leadership. I started my leadership career managing an ER. I advanced to managing multiple departments.”

In 2015, Dukes had the opportunity to become chief nursing officer. Now, she fills the role of vice president of clinical services and CNO at Crisp Regional.

Since earning her positions, she has learned more about the operations of the hospital as a whole. According to Dukes, the opportunity has broadened her knowledge base dramatically, and she has found leadership in a rural community hospital to be fulfilling.

“It allows me to be involved in all aspects of the organization beyond nursing,” Dukes said.

“I feel like I am able to have solid working relationships with all the leaders throughout the organization. I work just as closely with the materials management director as I do with the ICU nurse director.”

But for Dukes, the best thing about her career is that she feels like she can be a servant to someone in need each day. She finds joy in helping others and gets satisfaction from being a problem solver. Healthcare is full of barriers for patients and staff, and she is happy to be in a position where she is free to help eliminate barriers.

“Patients in our community may have issues with access to specialty health care,” Dukes said. “At Crisp Regional Hospital, we constantly explore ways to bring that needed care to our hospital. Our goal is for our community to receive quality healthcare as close to home as possible.

“My position allows me to eliminate barriers for staff as well. If the staff has a need for better equipment or more knowledge to give great care, I am in a position that allows me to facilitate and meet their needs.”

While some nurses choose their career based on the pay, April Dukes is an exception. Through her desire to help others — patients and healthcare staff alike — Dukes proves that most nurses still have their hearts in the right place.

What’s the Difference?

Certified Nursing Assistant
Certified nursing assistants provide basic care to patients. They assist patients in using the restroom, eating, bathing, dressing, and transferring between beds. These nurses typically have more direct contact with patients than nurses who are more highly ranked.

CNAs hold an entry-level certification from a state-approved program, which may be offered through community colleges, trade schools, medical facilities, nursing homes, or the American Red Cross, and may take up to 12 weeks to complete. Generally, no experience is required.

In 2018, CNAs earned an average of $28,530 per year or $13.72 per hour. They most commonly work in skilled nursing facilities, as well as hospitals, retirement care and assisted living facilities, and home healthcare services.

Licensed Practical Nurse
Like CNAs, licensed practical nurses provide basic care to patients, but some may be more advanced. LPNs may perform some of the same duties of CNAs, in addition to documenting medical history, keeping medical records, checking vital signs, taking blood pressure, changing dressings, inserting catheters, and keeping in contact with patients and their families.

LPNs must earn a certificate or diploma in a practical nursing program, which is usually offered at community colleges, trade schools, and universities, and takes around 12 months to complete. LPNs may specialize in certain areas with the appropriate certification.

In 2018, LPNs earned an average of $46,240 per year or $22.23 per hour. They most commonly work in nursing and residential care facilities, as well as hospitals, physician offices, and home healthcare services.

Registered Nurse
Registered nurses assume many duties, ranging from record keeping, like LPNs, to consulting doctors. Other duties include administering medication, managing medical equipment, performing diagnostic testing, and providing care plans to patients.

RNs hold a bachelor’s degree in nursing, which typically takes four years to complete. Work experience is not required, as experience is usually gained through completion of clinicals as part of the nursing program.

In 2018, RNs earned an average of $71,730 per year or $34.48 per hour. They most commonly work in hospitals, in addition to ambulatory healthcare services and nursing and residential care facilities. Some work in educational services as well.

Advanced Practice Registered Nurse
Advanced practice registered nurses perform a variety of duties, depending on the type of occupation held. APRNs may be nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, or nurse practitioners.

Generally, APRNs perform many of the same duties as LPNs, in addition to diagnosing conditions, performing evaluations, counseling patients and their families, evaluating responses to treatments, and conducting research.

APRNs hold a master’s degree in nursing, at minimum, but may also hold a Doctor of Nursing Practice or Ph.D. Like RNs, much of the experience of APRNs is gained through completion of clinicals during the nursing program.

In 2018, APRNs earned an average of $113,930 per year or $54.78 per hour. They most commonly work in physician offices, as well as at hospitals, outpatient care centers, and educational services.

Written by: Cody Gatts | Photography by: Eric Vinson

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