Linda Brown, Emory University Hospital

She ‘leads by example, and her enthusiasm is contagious’

Linda Brown never had any hard career choices to make. She always knew she was destined to become a nurse.

“It was just something in me,” said Brown, who has been with Emory University Hospital the past 40 years. “I wanted to care for others.”

That’s why she was presented with an AJC Nurse Excellence Award on Tuesday afternoon, after being nominated last fall. About 800 nurses were nominated, with 10 being honored.

Her mother, Miss Rosie, was her inspiration, she said.

Miss Rosie always welcomed the neighborhood kids for a meal — despite having nine of her own to feed.

“She was compassionate, helpful and just a really good person,” Brown said. “That was really my first entry into nursing — seeing her and the way she was with people.”

Brown, who talks about the job with great enthusiasm, said nursing has been “such a blessing.”

“It seems my life was predetermined for me, and I just went along for the ride,” she said.

And what a ride she has had. She has spent 43 years in nursing — all but about three at Emory — and working almost exclusively at the bedside, where she’s closest to the action and patients.

“It feels like it was a gift from God to me, and it is work he wants me to do,” she said.

Brown is the nurse scholar and weekend charge nurse in a 16-bed unit for patients with complex medical conditions.

A native of Prichard, Alabama, she received her nursing degree from the Capstone College of Nursing at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa and accepted a position at Providence Hospital in nearby Mobile one week later. It was in Mobile she met the love of her life, Barry Oliver Brown.

A couple of years later, she moved to Atlanta and Emory as medical-surgical nursing.

Co-worker Mark Lee, who nominated Brown for the award, said she “makes nursing come to life.”

“For Linda, the charge of caring goes beyond her patients,” Lee said. “She cares deeply for the nurses and team members who are fortunate enough to call her a colleague. Linda leads by example, and her enthusiasm is contagious.”

With her signature red lipstick, pearl necklace and flower pin on her uniform, Brown gives a warm welcome to newly admitted patients and their families. She leads executive tours of the units and makes it a point each day to connect with all patients to ensure their experience is excellent, Lee said.

He said Brown lives up to her signature tagline: “Making a difference.”

Lee recalled that Brown had a major part in restoring the health of a young man who was too sick to safely receive the lifesaving surgery he needed. She met with the patient and his family and motivated him to take control of his recovery.

Brown was with the patient for his daily workouts, motivating him to the song “Push It” by Salt-N-Pepa.

“Linda inspires not only the patient under her care but also the team members who she brings in to bear witness to her nursing excellence,” Lee said.

Brown has received several awards in recognition of her years of work. She is a three-time winner of the DAISY Award for Nursing Excellence, the 2018 March of Dimes Nurse of the Year, and the 2021 winner of the Emory University Hospital Excellence Award in Transformational Clinical Leadership.

“When you love what you do, it is relatively easy,” she said, addressing the accolades with gratitude and humility. “I get the wonderful fulfillment of knowing I’ve done honest and impactful work. I can say my life has been blessed. When nursing goes well, the rest will follow.”

Read about the other winners