June 18, 2008
Local Nurse Always Learning, Always Helping
By ANN FISH
MADISON -- Anne Tuttle continues to pursue college degrees "because I can't live long enough to know everything I want to know."
Tuttle was named as one of Moses Cone Health System's Employees of the Year for her outstanding nursing skills at the Moses Cone Behavioral Health Center. The system selects an employee of the year from each of its hospitals and divisions.
Currently, she's working on a master's degree in nursing education and a nurse practitioner degree.
"Medicine changes so quickly I want to keep up with everything that's going on," she said in a recent interview. "Ours is a profession that is evolving quickly, and it is important for seasoned nurses to mentor and teach young nurses."
In May, Tuttle was asked to speak to nursing graduates at GTCC, which "was a great honor," she said. The third child of the late Thomas and Anne Tuttle, this honoree comes from a family of "helpers." Her mother was a teacher and a big influence on her four daughters: Amy Tuttle works for the Rockingham County Department of Social Services; Lynn Tuttle is a fifth grade teacher at Leaksville- Spray Elementary School; Betsy Tuttle-Newhall, a transplant surgeon, is associate professor of surgery at Duke University Medical Center; and Anne Tuttle is a registered nurse and an administrative coordinator at Moses Cone Behavioral Services.
After graduating in 1970 from Madison-Mayodan Senior High School, Anne Tuttle obtained a bachelor's degree in music from Mars Hill College four years later.
She enlisted in the Army and served as a staff member at the U.S. Armed Forces School of Music, where military musicians are trained. She also was an Army musician at Fort Jackson, S.C., before leaving the Army to work at her father's car dealership in Madison.
During this time, a friend, Joann Williams, who worked at Wesley Long Hospital, inspired Tuttle to become a nurse.
"I had always cared for stray animals and patched up little children, and had always wanted to be a nurse but had never gone to a university or college where they had a nursing program," she said.
So while working for her father, Tuttle entered nursing school at RCC and was taught by Mickey Hair and Anna Wingate.
Once she received her associate's degree in nursing, Tuttle went to work in the emergency room at Wesley Long Hospital in Greensboro for 14 years and was charge nurse on the night shift. She also worked part-time at a substance abuse treatment facility and "found that I had a lot of respect for addicts who tried to stay clean." Because of that, she began working part-time in the assessment department at Moses Cone Behavioral Health Center.
"We went to emergency rooms at area hospitals (Annie Penn and Morehead) and evaluated patients who needed psychiatric services and tried to find them the services that best fit their needs," she said.
Eventually, she became the weekend night coordinator.
"To me, a nurse is not a good nurse unless they are both a nurse and a peer or advocate," Tuttle said. "I don't think you can speak on your patient's behalf if you are not prepared to speak on your colleague's behalf."
"A lot of time a nurse is the only voice a patient has," she said. "I get to see people in both the very best and very worst moments of their lives and help them in both situations."
In addition, Tuttle links administrative services and staff.
"I feel like we have a mutual accountability to teach other. I am the bridge of people above me to the people below me," she said.
Probably the hardest thing she has to cope with is seeing people who are "troubled and scared and frightened and you are trying to help them but they don't recognize it," Tuttle said. "It is painful to watch the staff work so hard to help people, and people don't realize they are trying to help them."
Patients stay in the facility an average of three to five days. Patients, their families and the doctors have a lot of input into the length of the stay.
"Sometimes we will stabilize them and try to send them out to an extended day program," Tuttle said. "We always try to have a follow- up for them when they leave. We don't just send them home; we send them home with a plan."
Everyone at the facility -- the housekeepers, cafeteria workers, nurses and nursing technicians -- works together to promote wellness and health.
"They try to help them every single moment they are there at the hospital," she said. "That is very humbling to me. I see how hard they work and just how committed they are to their patients, and it is very inspiring to me."
Of being honored as an employee of the year, Tuttle said: "I try to keep all things in perspective. I certainly wouldn't have received that award had not the people I work with not nominated me for it, and I wouldn't have received it had I not worked for and with such exceptional people."
"They make me look good every day," she said.
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