Jay Connelly, RN, Stroke Program Manager, Piedmont Henry Hospital

AJC Celebrating Nurses honoree: Jay Connelly, RN, Stroke Program Manager, Piedmont Henry Hospital

Registered nurse Jay Connelly seeks to live every day to do work that’s purposeful and worthwhile and to make a difference in the life of someone else.

It’s the mantra he picked up from visionary and leadership coach Quint Studer 17 years ago, and it’s stuck with him ever since. He uses it daily in his job, managing the stroke program at Piedmont Henry Hospital.

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After spending much of his 22-year nursing career as an emergency room director, Connelly took over the hospital’s stroke program in 2015. It’s a position that places him back in patient care, his favorite part of nursing.

“Love it, love it,” said Connelly about his nursing role at Piedmont. “I’ve done enough tickling with books and budgets. This (position) puts me back at the bedside, which I love. Not a day goes by when I don’t hug someone, or someone doesn’t hug me. I’m able to be actively involved in their care.”

Connelly leads a monthly support group for stroke victims and their families as a way to share wisdom and strategies to help prevent, treat, and understand strokes. He also looks for ways to help stroke patients overcome obstacles in their path toward healing.

Last year, Connelly arranged to take one of his group members, Chante, to an Atlanta Hawks vs. Detroit Pistons basketball game at State Farm Arena, after finding out that the young man was a huge Pistons fan.

“Jay thought it would be a great way to get Chante feeling more positive and independent,” said co-worker Brittany Martin.

All South Warehouse donated premium seating, and executives from the Hawks and Pistons arranged for the men to be courtside for pre-game warmups. Connelly recalled how Chante’s face lit up as the NBA players came around to greet him with fist bumps and words of encouragement.

“The whole night went perfect,” said Connelly, remembering how happy Chante was on the ride home after the Pistons soundly defeated the Hawks.

Said Martin: “Piedmont’s purpose is to make a positive difference in every life we touch, and Jay did that with a simple act of kindness and connection.”

For Connelly, arranging the basketball outing for a patient was nothing out of the ordinary. Service to others was modeled by his parents, and it’s the way his own family lives life. Connelly’s wife is a special education teacher, and their two sons also are in service careers; one as a nurse at Piedmont Henry Hospital and the other training to be a firefighter.

“Service runs deep in our family,” Connelly said. “We don’t think anything about it. It’s just something we do monthly with somebody. Besides, my mom would roll over in her grave if I’d done anything differently.”