(May 15, 2012)
Angela Merritt is still getting used to the title "nurse of the year."
The nurse specialist in the Department of Psychiatric Medicine at the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University received the honor Thursday at a school banquet celebrating National Nurses Week. She has been a nurse for 14 years and has worked at ECU since 2007.
"I absolutely love everything about nursing," Merritt said in an email. "It is one of, if not the, most diverse careers anyone could choose. There is so much you can do as a nurse and so many directions that you can take; the educational and career opportunities are limitless. But I honestly feel that to be truly happy that you need to have a love and passion for helping others, especially when they are at their worst and at your mercy. Nursing is often not an easy job, but I cannot think of any job more rewarding."
Many people, when they think of nursing, might not think of or know much about psychiatric nursing. But Merritt says it's her niche.
"I often get asked, 'Why would you want to work in psychiatry?'" she said. "My reply is always the same. People often view mental illness based on what they hear or have learned from society. Stereotyping and labeling is common and could not be further from the truth. I love my patients and I have formed some wonderful relationships with them.
"When the patient knows that you are there for them when they need you, regardless of whether they are in crisis or if they just need a (medication) refill, it gives them the peace of mind that you will help them without judgment," she said.
As a psychiatric nurse, Merritt coordinates care and medication for patients, many of whom live throughout eastern North Carolina. She helps patients who cannot afford their prescriptions find financial help. She manages lab reports and works closely with physicians, pharmacists, psychologists and medical residents.
"Many, many patients and their families call her by name and share stories of their life with her," Dr. Sy Saeed, chair of the Department of Psychiatric Medicine, said about Merritt in his nominating letter. "She tries to meet any unmet patient need that she can … or at least help patients with community support. She is never short on ideas on projects that would help to improve or better our services to our patients."
Merritt said she’s honored to have been named nurse of the year and credited the teamwork within her department for making it possible.
"We all work closely together and have the same goal, which is to provide the best patient care possible to the psychiatric population," Merritt said. "I love being a nurse and being a part of ECU Physicians and the Department of Psychiatry."
Merritt is a graduate of Pitt Community College and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She lives in Hookerton with her husband, Johnny, and two sons, Cole and Alec.
Merritt is the daughter of Larry H. and Bonnie V. Capps of Selma and is a 1986 graduate of North Johnston High School in Kenly.
Six other nurses, Leanne Potter, Jandra Thomas, Donna Spain, Rita Bowden, Joyce Bryant and Shelby Gardner, were also finalists for the award, which recognizes nurses who work in the medical school's group practice, ECU Physicians.