Celebrating Nurses Profile: Vicki Guthrie

Nurses treat patients and help heal them every day, but it’s not often that they do the same for a colleague. Vicki Guthrie has done it twice, and strangely enough, she came to the aid of the same person both times.

Guthrie, RN, MN, is a nurse therapist at WellStar Outpatient Counseling Services off Windy Hill Road in Atlanta. A nurse since 1974, she oversees the nursing portion of the mental health and dual diagnosis intensive outpatient program and partial hospitalization program.

Last year, Rachelle Moore, a licensed clinical social worker at the facility, complained of nausea and a headache. When Guthrie noticed that Moore was dropping things, she suggested that her friend see a doctor. Moore said she had already seen a doctor about the headaches and wasn’t too worried.

Suspecting that the situation was serious, Guthrie insisted that Moore get an MRI and even offered to drive her.

“You never forget your nursing instincts,” Guthrie said. “She looked alarmed but she trusted me as a nurse and as a friend.”

A friend drove Moore to see the doctor. She had an MRI and was admitted to Cobb WellStar Hospital, where she had emergency brain surgery for a subdural hematoma the next morning.

“Vicki saved my life... The medical staff in the ER at Cobb [WellStar] remarked how fortunate the timing was that I got there when I did, given the stroke-like symptoms I was experiencing, that had been subtle to me but not to Vicki,” Moore wrote in her nomination.

That wasn’t the first time Guthrie had come to Moore’s aid. About 10 years ago, when they were both working at Ridgeview Institute, Guthrie noticed that something was wrong with Moore and drove her to the hospital. It turned out that Moore had tachycardia (an extremely rapid heartbeat) and she was treated in the ER. Guthrie stayed with Moore through the entire ordeal.

“Her care extends in this same manner to our clients here at OCS. Her powers of observation are second to none,” said Moore, also the assistant director of the Atlanta Center for Social Therapy. “Thanks to her excellence as a nurse, colleague and team member, I am alive and functioning normally today.”

“I’m honored that she feels that way, but that’s my job everywhere I go,” Guthrie said. “It’s just part of who I am.”

When she attended the ajcjobs Nursing Excellence Awards event in May, Guthrie didn’t realize that she would be one of two nurses recognized with honorable mention accolades.

“It was such a shock,” she said. “When they read the letter [nomination], I burst into tears. I was so honored and flattered that Rachelle... took the time to write a letter to honor me. She’s a wonderful therapist and a great friend.”

Guthrie, who also handles initial intakes, nursing assessments, referrals, crisis counseling and fills in as a group therapist at WellStar Outpatient Counseling Services, was drawn to nursing by her compassion.

“I enjoyed helping people and I decided to become a psychiatric nurse because I saw a lot of people in crisis because of illnesses or other traumatic things in their life,” she said. “I knew that they needed someone to talk to. People need compassion and understanding.”

Guthrie knows she choose a profession that suits her.

“I love nursing because it’s never boring and I enjoy helping people with problems and leading them in a better direction in their lives,” she said. “The support I’m able to give them makes me feel like I contribute to better health.”