AMERICUS, GA -- One can clearly see the compassion and intelligence in the warm, brown eyes of Teresa Edwards, a registered nurse. She is one of legions of nurses across the country who were recognized and appreciated during National Nurses Week, May 6-12, and since this week is National Hospital Week, it is only fitting to recognize “one of our own” nurses at Phoebe Sumter Medical Center.
Edwards is charge nurse of the 7 a.m.-7 p.m. shift on the medical-surgical floor (fourth) at Phoebe Sumter. While being a top-drawer professional, Edwards is also a nurse who knows her field from both sides.
Taking a few minutes from the floor recently, Edwards said that although she has been a registered nurse since receiving her associate’s degree in nursing from Georgia Southwestern State University (GSW) 17 years ago, her interest in nursing predates that time.
While a freshman at Tri-County High School, Buena Vista, Edwards, a Schley County native, said her grandmother suffered a stroke and she became interested in nursing after observing the home health nurses who came to care for her loved one. She took health occupations in high school and became a licensed certified nursing assistant (CNA). She worked as a CNA at Four-County Health and Rehab in Richland on weekends in high school.
Edwards said she wants to promote the health occupations path in high schools.
“It allowed me to follow the path I wanted,” she said. “Then it was able to put me in the nursing field and I was able to work while I was going to school. It gave me that opportunity.”
She said that young students need that now because it offers the opportunity to work and gain experience in their chosen field and make money while still in school.
Since becoming a n RN, Edwards has worked part-time at Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital in Albany, Flint River Hospital in Montezuma and at a Fort Valley hospital.
Edwards says she finds nursing a very rewarding career and she enjoys helping her patients do the “littlest things to the biggest things. There’s a sad part of nursing, too, but there’s the part where you can be there to comfort the family, comfort loved ones ... I really like helping people,” she said. “That’s just part of my nature. I like taking care of people.”
Eleven years ago she was diagnosed with lupus so she knows what it’s like to be a patient. She also gave birth to a premature baby and her elder son has dealt with sight problems, so she knows how it feels to nurse professionally and as a mother.
“Every day I think about if I wasn’t able to work or give care,” she said, “to make people smile or laugh, to make it a positive experience, to bring something positive into their lives.”
Edwards is also a staunch believer in and advocate for organ donation, having been the recipient of a corneal transplant in 2004.
“I was very grateful I was able to receive it (the transplant). I understand that serving others is part of ministry, to make a difference. That is what nursing is — making a difference. It’s not just my job but my life. As a Christian, that’s what I do — I serve.”
Why has Edwards stayed in the med-surg area of nursing for all this time?
“We get various people of various ages, pediatrics, middle age and elderly, and it’s just always been my thing ... I just always have migrated toward med surg,” she said.
Edwards says she loves the new Phoebe Sumter Medical Center.
“All private rooms, more space, a roof-top garden (which helps in promoting healing) — all this is great. Before all we had (at Sumter Regional Hospital, destroyed by March 1, 2007, tornado) was confined space. I view this, coming out of this tragic event, as a triumph — getting over the tornado and getting a bigger, better facility.”
Married to Illy Edwards, who commutes to Warner Robins AFB daily, Teresa Edwards is mother to two sons, ages 14 and 10, and a stepdaughter, 24.
When she’s not working, she enjoys spending time with her family and is involved in her church, Living Word Christian Ministry. She also enjoys riding motorcycles, she said.