One night last year, a 16-year-old girl thought of harming herself and wanted someone to talk her out of it. She dialed two crisis hotlines but couldn’t reach a human. Staff at two hospitals answered and suggested the teen call 911.
But when she called the pediatric emergency department at WellStar Kennestone, the girl finally found someone to help her: registered nurse Anna Paller.
Paller’s co-worker, Alexis Reed, had tried to elicit information from the girl — Was her mother home? What was her address? — but was having no luck. So she asked Paller to intervene.
“Anna is a very experienced pediatric ED nurse, and she was able to reassure the young girl and gain her trust within a few minutes,” Reed said.
The teen gave Paller her address, and Reed contacted the police and worked with an EMS team standing by to bring the girl to the emergency room. When the girl arrived, Paller was waiting with arms wide open, ready to give her a big hug and praise her for reaching out for help.
“I do believe that, if it weren’t for Anna and her ability to quickly establish a trusting relationship with this child, there would have been a very different outcome,” Reed said.
That’s one reason Paller was presented with an AJC Nurse Excellence Award on Friday afternoon. More than 800 nurses were nominated last fall — Reed nominated Paller — with 10 receiving awards.
Paller, a native of Marietta, said she wanted to be a nurse “ever since I can remember. I really like kids.”
She said she considered becoming an orthodontist, but realized that wasn’t the right fit.
“I wanted to help people, and I felt like nursing was more my calling,” she said.
Paller received a degree in Spanish from Kennesaw State University and her nursing degree from Georgia Southwestern in Americus.
She started her career at Piedmont Hospital in Atlanta in the mother-baby unit and still works part time at the hospital in newborn admissions.
After joining Wellstar Kennestone full time four years ago, Paller said she was ready to try something “a little more challenging and different” in the pediatric emergency room.
She said she loves helping injured and sick children and is motivated when they leave smiling and happy, and their parents are so appreciative.
Talking through the distress call from the 16-year-old girl was a first for Paller. It was scary because the teen said she wanted to hurt herself and “had a plan,” Paller said.
Children and families have come to the ER for help with mental health issues. But this was the first time Paller had taken such a call. The teen was later able to receive in-facility care.
“I learn something new every day, and my co-workers are amazing,” said Paller, who is married to her high school sweetheart and has two children under age 3.
“I love them — they are just great people,” she said of her co-workers. “I just can’t imagine doing anything else. It’s just a very, very amazing job.”
To read about and watch videos of all honorees, please visit www.ajc.com/pulse/#celebratingnurses.
Paller and her husband, Drew Paller have two young children, have a 3-year-old and a child under age 1. Drew Paller is director of bands for Cobb County Schools. Anna Paller said she does her best at work and then leaves it all behind. Her children, she said, are her joy and motivation.
READ ABOUT THE OTHER AWARD RECIPIENTS
Nurse leader Millie Sattler, Emory Healthcare
Terri Holden, Piedmont Cartersville Medical Center
Rita Ford, Northside Hospital Gwinnett
Brandie Christian, Northside Hospital Gwinnett
Kathleen LePain, Piedmont Athens Regional Medical Center
Lisa Treadwell, Piedmont Eastside Medical Center
Stacey Howard, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Egleston
Kellie Mitchell, Wellstar Paulding Hospital
Mark Lee, Emory University Hospital
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