It took 10 years for Christie Tolbert, R.N., to accept her calling. Fortunately,
she answered the call, and for the last six years, Tolbert has worked
as a labor and delivery nurse at the Southeast Georgia Health System Miriam
& Hugh Nunnally Maternity Care Center.
Nursing was not her first career choice. Tolbert aspired to be a veterinarian,
and she disregarded all the people who kept telling her she would make
a great nurse. After earning her biology degree, she applied for veterinary
school. “After three failed attempts, I felt lost and had no idea
what to do with my life. The pull towards nursing got stronger and the
doors for nursing school kept opening. Here I am, six years later and
I absolutely love what I do!” Tolbert says. Though originally reluctant
to enter the field, Tolbert now holds two nursing degrees; a Bachelor
of Science from Valdosta State University and a Master of Science from
As patients arrive at the Maternity Care Center, Tolbert and her co-workers
prioritize them for the labor and delivery or surgery areas. Tolbert monitors
mothers during their labor progress and coaches them through childbirth.
Her favorite moment happens when a newborn arrives. “I look at Mom
and Dad’s (or the support person’s) faces to see their expressions
as they see their baby for the first time! It’s such a special moment!”
Tolbert says. Her job doesn’t end once the baby is born. She works
with families for two to three days, providing “as much education
as Mom and Dad’s tired minds can hold.” She also cares for
women after gynecological surgery to ensure proper rest and recovery.
Tolbert collaborates with a multidisciplinary team of doctors, nurses,
surgical technicians, unit clerks and cleaning staff. “I like knowing
that every time I clock in, I have a team that has my back. We work together
to make the events of each day flow. We will never let each other fall.”
Tolbert encourages anyone interested in nursing to “Go into this
profession with an open mind and teachable heart. There is something to
learn every day, whether you have been a nurse for one year or 30. Remember
that every patient is somebody’s grandparent, mother, father, child
or sibling. Treat them like they are your own family.”
A Range of Emotions
Caring for women during their most vulnerable moments is a humbling experience.
“I have laughed, cried and prayed with patients. I always appreciate
when a doctor or my nurse manager tells me that a patient was grateful
for my care. I feel that every patient has had some impact on me.”
Nurse Manager Kim Buckley, R.N., sees Tolbert’s impact firsthand.
“She is compassionate in meeting the specific needs of patients.
She readily assists with patients with COVID-19 and has volunteered for
extra shifts to help out with our increased staffing needs.”
Finding a Balance
Tolbert describes the challenge of caring for pregnant women infected
with COVID-19. “Besides the mental, emotional and physical fatigue,
it’s hard finding a balance between taking precautions and making
sure your patient receives the same care as women who do not have COVID-19.
As health care professionals, we get so caught up in following the rules,
we sometimes forget our patient may be a first-time mom who is nervous
or is about to have her first C-section. Having a baby without COVID is
life-changing and can be scary; we give special attention to making it
a positive experience, with or without COVID.”
Like other areas of the hospital, her workplace looks different today than
earlier this year. Tolbert wistfully remembers when the waiting areas
and patient rooms were filled with patients’ family and friends.
“They used to line the wall to the (birthing) room with their ears
pressed to the wall so they could hear the baby’s first cry. Since
COVID-19 hit, we limit patients to a single support person. Some days
seem bleak; the pandemic really gets to you, but it makes me smile when
I see a family outside, peeking through the window to see their newest
little family member.”
A Different Lens
Tolbert also feels the pandemic’s effect on her personal life. She’s
diligent about protecting her children from the virus and misses spending
time with family and friends and the simple pleasure of receiving “a
smile from strangers.” No one in her family has become sick, but
she has co-workers who the virus has affected in one way or another. “That
gave me a new perspective on life and how quickly lives can be changed,” she says.
Everyone appreciates praise for a job well done, especially those working
on the frontlines of health care. “I would like to thank our community
for the meals and sweet sidewalk messages we see as we walk out to our
cars, and the love, support and encouragement. Every thought, prayer and
gift is appreciated,” Tolbert says.
If there’s one thing Tolbert understands after six years of bringing
new life into the world, it’s that negativity has no place in the
birthing room. No matter how long the labor, she must remain optimistic
and encourage the mothers. The coronavirus will not dim her resolve. “Eventually,
we will come out of this pandemic and return to some sense of normalcy.
Until then, let’s all do our part to keep ourselves and each other
safe and healthy. These are hard and uncertain times, but we are going
to keep working hard for our community.”
To support your community hospital during this difficult time, call Southeast
Georgia Health System Foundation at 912-466-3360.