Kellie Mitchell, Wellstar Paulding Hospital

Nurse considered ‘go-to’ person for cancer patients at Wellstar Paulding

Kellie Mitchell said she believes God steered her into nursing and into her latest, and arguably best, role — helping cancer patients navigate the challenging road from diagnosis to treatment.

“God has always just moved me along to where I needed to be,” said Mitchell, a 30-year nursing veteran and the oncology nurse navigator at Wellstar Paulding Hospital in Dallas.

Nine years ago, she began working as an oncology nurse, and for the past six years has been the only oncology nurse navigator at Wellstar Paulding in Dallas.

“It is my calling and the best of both worlds,” Mitchell said. “I teach. I hold hands. I am there when their diagnosis is first told to them, and they are devastated. And I can give them that love they need.”

That’s why Mitchell was presented with an AJC Nurse Excellence Award on Friday afternoon, after being nominated last fall. More than 800 nurses were nominated, with 10 being honored.

A native of Mableton, Mitchell married her high school sweetheart and moved to New York at 18. She had planned to study teaching, but that changed when she learned of a vacancy in the nursing program and a scholarship that could go with it.

“God just put me right in there,” she said, “because I fell in love with it.”

Three years later, the single mom was back in Georgia as a registered nurse in the intensive care unit of a Douglasville hospital. A need for a more flexible schedule after her daughter’s heart surgery prompted her to move to the hospital’s emergency department.

From there, she transferred to oncology and became a nurse navigator, where she helps patients navigate the system to get the care and treatment they need quickly and gives them an idea of what’s coming.

“I love them,” Mitchell said of her patients. “And they love me.”

Her colleague Dr. William Thoms said Mitchell has made numerous contributions to the hospital meriting her recognition with a Celebrating Nurses award.

He said she is a team player, a tireless promotor of Wellstar Health System’s oncology nursing, and a person who garners “enormous respect” from staff and patients.

“When a patient has a problem, she is their go-to solution,” Thoms said.

He said she’s had the biggest effect within the hospital’s breast cancer and ear, nose and throat populations.. On breast biopsy days, it’s not unusual for her to spend an hour or more with patients who receive an abnormal mammogram result, answering their questions and providing emotional support, Thoms said. She does the same on breast surgery days, he added.

Mitchell is often called to coordinate care for new ENT patients, and her timely intervention eliminates weeks these patients might wait for radiation therapy and chemotherapy. If a patient can’t afford the gas to come for treatment, she pops up with gas card donations. Thoms said Mitchell’s patients are welcome to her cellphone number, and she’s been known to answer calls from doctors and patients at all hours.

Thoms said Mitchell also stays late and goes above and beyond to work in the chemotherapy infusion and radiation oncology clinics when there’s a staffing shortage. She did that 31 times in 2022, he said

In 2022, Mitchell resurrected Paulding County’s Cancer Survivor Day and, for the first time, obtained funding for the event from the county government. It was the largest survivor event in Wellstar’s nine-hospital system, Thoms said.

“The most amazing thing to me out of all this is I still love what I do. I want to go to work,” she said. “I love making a difference for patients, and when I can do that, I’m at my happiest.”

To read about and watch videos of all honorees, please visit www.ajc.com/pulse/#celebratingnurses.


KELLIE MITCHELL

Mitchell is a wife, mother and grandmother of six. She has four daughters, including one with special needs and one who has become a nurse. Her colleague, Dr. William Thoms, said, “I am consistently amazed, as are all who truly know her, at how she balances work-life responsibilities.”


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

Mark Lee, Emory University Hospital

Janet Rollor, Wellstar Kennestone Hospital

Anna Paller, Wellstar Kennestone Hospital

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