“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.
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