May 16, 2016
A nurse specialist in pediatrics has been selected by her peers as this year’s top nurse at ECU Physicians, the group medical practice of the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University.
Linda Richardson, a Greenville native, works in the Pediatric Cardiology Clinic at the East Carolina Heart Institute (ECHI) at ECU. She has eight years of nursing experience and a reputation as a patient advocate and skilled communicator.
“I was born to be a nurse,” Richardson said. “I’ve always been a care provider to some extent. I remember being five years old and rubbing lotion on my grandma’s feet. She’s the person who provided me with the skills, the doing for others, the caring aspect.
“She always told me, ‘Just smile; you never know what it will mean to somebody.’”
Richardson’s colleagues said her smiles are plentiful as she manages daily clinical operations and coordinates inpatient and outpatient care for a practice that includes half a dozen cardiologists plus an on-site laboratory. She works tirelessly with patients and parents, anesthesiologists and ECU’s pediatric interventional radiologist to see that all pediatric heart catheterization procedures go smoothly.
“Being a professional nurse in our current day and time can be burdensome, overwhelming and a host of other adjectives, and not everyone can do it with consistent caring, tenacity and patience. But Linda can,” said Donna Lou Edwards, nurse manager for cardiothoracic and vascular surgery in the Department of Cardiovascular Sciences.
“She is the voice of reason, the voice of calm, the voice that can give good news or emotionally challenging news,” Edwards continued. “I have overheard her explanations to concerned parents regarding their children with newly diagnosed congenital heart problems. I have heard her calm the fears of a mother facing the unknown with a child pending a procedure. And I have heard the tenacity in her voice fighting with an insurance company, being that advocate for a minor child that needs attention and bureaucracy.”
Dr. Charlie Sang Jr., head of pediatric cardiology for the Department of Pediatrics, said, “She always is thinking of ways to improve the patient care experience and implement them into the system. Many times after patients see me in the outpatient clinic, they ask to meet ‘Miss Linda’ to say hello and meet the ‘nice lady on the phone.’
“Linda Richardson is my right hand, sounding board, and partner in the Section of Pediatric Cardiology. I cannot imagine being able to provide quality patient care without her input, expertise and skills.”
Richardson said her primary source of motivation is her patients.
“Interaction with these little patients is so heartwarming,” she said. “These are my babies. We get them as newborns and get to be part of their lives. They look forward to seeing me.”
Although Richardson has been nursing for only eight years, she’s no stranger to ECU. She’s worked 24 years at the university, including a long stint as an administrative assistant in the Department of Surgery. While in that job – and also caring for a son and disabled husband – she took night classes at Beaufort Community College toward an associate’s degree in nursing, graduating at the top of her class in 2008. She worked for several years in adult cardiology at ECU before Sang “stole” her for pediatrics.
For several years Richardson worked alongside Dr. Lacy Hobgood, the director of ECU Physicians’ Adult and Pediatric Health Care Clinic. Hobgood lauded her telephone triage talent and knack for explaining complex medical information and treatment plans to patients in language they could understand.
“She will do what needs to be done when she sees the need for something to be done,” Hobgood said. “She is a living embodiment of a nurse who sees the patient who happens to have a disease – and shepherds the patient and family through the process – while often those of us who are physicians just see diseases that happen to exist in patients.”
Even after transitioning to pediatric cardiology, Richardson still spends plenty of time caring for older patients in her second job as weekend nurse manager for Golden Living Center, a local nursing home that partners with ECU to provide geriatric care.
“Both babies and the elderly can always sense when you love them,” Richardson said.
“They can hear in the tone of your voice whether you genuinely want to help them or not. You have to build a rapport with people so you can relate to them.”
Richardson would like to further her education, eventually earning a master’s degree so she can teach. “I feel like I could give back so much more,” she said. “I’m a patient advocate 100 percent, so what I do now doesn’t even feel like a challenge because it comes so naturally for me and makes me so happy.”
In the meantime, she offers up words of wisdom to those willing to learn from her experience: “If I could fix the world, I would,” she said. “But since I can’t, I will just provide care and love to the people I can. I can bring a nursing home resident a dollar-cup of McDonald’s coffee, and it blesses them so much.
“I want everyone to know that we can make this thing work – make this world a better place – if we all make just one attempt every day to make someone else’s life a little better.”