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Marsha Rodgers

Johnson City Medical Center’s Family Birth Center Manager Marsha Rodgers has always loved working in obstetrics — after all, she’s spent her entire 40-year career as an obstetric nurse.

Rodgers, who’s managed JCMC’s Family Birth Center for the last 20 years, graduated from East Tennessee State University for the first time in 1981 with a B.S. in nursing before graduating with her master’s in 2012. Rodgers is also a mother of two, and will celebrate her 40th wedding anniversary this October.

Recently, the Press spoke with Rodgers about her career, the pandemic and the things she wants people to know about being a nurse.

What made you want to become a nurse?

I do not know that any one thing made me choose my career. I know that, from childhood, I was always enamored by watching the medical community in action when I visited hospitals and doctors offices. When I was 9 years old, my father had his leg amputated in a traumatic farming accident and was hospitalized for months at the time. The actions of the healthcare team built on that desire to become a nurse in my heart. I believe this was God’s way of preparing me for my career, as I truly believe that being a nurse is a calling and not just a job.

I also believe my experiences and sharing them with my family impacted my sister and daughter to become nurses, as well as my son becoming a paramedic.

What’s your favorite part of being a nurse?

As a staff nurse, my favorite part of my job was caring for patients and making that time of becoming a family or adding children to a family very special. To this day, I still sometimes cry at the birth of a child, because it is such a miracle and such a special time for parents.

As an obstetric nurse, we also support mothers who lose their babies and do not take them home. The compassion shown to these patients is sometimes beyond comprehension. What is even more rewarding is seeing that mother return later in life and celebrate the birth of a child who gets to go home with her.

What’s the most rewarding part of your job? As a staff nurse, it was always making the difference for each patient and meeting their individual needs. As a manager of the Family Birth Center team, the most-rewarding part is helping grow nurses clinically and professionally. Nothing pleases me more than to round on patients and have them express their appreciation for the excellent care provided by the team. I enjoy seeing new graduate nurses build confidence in their skills and eventually become leaders on their team.

What has the last year been like for you?

To say the last year has been anything but chaotic would be wrong. I had been on vacation last year the first week of March — right before the pandemic was significant in our area. Concerns for our community escalated the week I was gone and were in full-swing when I returned. Every day, we received direction and instruction from the administrative team on how to care for and handle patients admitted with COVID-19.

For obstetrics, that was a bit more challenging, as we had to plan for care of the mother and baby. In addition, care for the laboring patient was intense and required one-on-one care by the nurses. The anticipation ended when we received a call that we were admitting the first COVID-positive patient to the Johnson City Medical Center, and she was an obstetric patient. The entire team learned so much, and each of them have experienced added stress due to the pandemic, but they have persevered, and they continue to give excellent care.

What do you want people to know about your profession?

I want people to understand nursing is a calling that requires care, commitment, compassion, flexibility and professionalism. Balancing these characteristics is becoming more difficult, as health is becoming more difficult. The shortage of nurses is complicating the ability of nurses to provide the care they want to give.

Regardless of the difficulty we face, this is the most rewarding profession anyone could have.

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