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August 24, 2006 at 6:16 am

MRH Oncology Nurse Among State’s Best


Nancy Cameron had just finished the first trimester of her first pregnancy when Guillain-Barré Syndrome dealt her a stunning blow.
The ailment, which begins with nerve weakness and can progress to the muscles, left the young mother-to-be paralyzed and dependent on others for her every need for four months. Cameron attributes her recovery and the eventual delivery of her healthy baby to the excellent health care she received during that time.

“It was after that illness that I decided that nursing was what I would like to do,” she says.

It took her a while, until the youngest of her five children was 16 years old, but Cameron eventually became a nurse. A certified oncology nurse on the Inpatient Oncology floor at FirstHealth Moore Regional Hospital, Cameron was this year named one of North Carolina’s Great 100, an award that recognizes nursing excellence and supports nursing practice in North Carolina.

“Nancy has been a great nurse at Moore Regional, and she is very deserving of the award,” says Linda Wallace, vice president of patient care services and chief nursing officer at Moore Regional. “We are very fortunate to have her as a part of our nursing service. She has truly been a model for the nursing profession.”
Kerry Husted, administrative director of Pharmacy/Oncology Service Line at Moore Regional, nominated Cameron for the award and echoes Wallace’s thoughts about her.

“Nancy is an energetic and enthusiastic person,” Husted says. “She comes to work with a smile and leaves with a smile. She strives to make the best of bad situations and encourages her co-workers to do the same. She truly encompasses what it means to be a great nurse, as her core beliefs and unselfish actions come from her heart and a complete pride and dedication in her profession.”

According to Husted, Came-ron’s devotion to cancer patients extends beyond hospital care and into the community, where she has long been actively involved with National Cancer Survivors Day and Relay for Life programs.

Despite her devotion to her profession, Cameron acknowledges nursing as her “second career,” one that followed many years as a stay-at-home mom. It was only after her youngest child was well into high school that she felt able to pursue the nursing goal that she set during the Guillain-Barré episode.

She began with an associate degree from Sandhills Community College and a job on a medical/surgical floor at Moore Regional. Although her job involved caring for patients with a variety of conditions, she felt especially close to those with cancer.

“When the oncology unit opened, I jumped at the chance to work there,” she says. “This was the patient population that I was drawn to and wanted to care for.”

Cameron continued to work while taking the prerequisites to enter nursing school at the University of North Carolina and then commuted to Chapel Hill — while still working work full time. She earned her bachelor’s degree in 2000, graduating with honors and as a member of the Sigma Theta Tau nursing honors society.

“It was hard,” she says. “I had time for nothing else, but it was something I really wanted to do.”

“Nancy commuted to Chapel Hill two to three times a week, took a full load of classes and worked full time, but never missed a day of work or a meeting,” Husted says. “She didn’t feel that her co-workers deserved to have to work short staffed because she was in school.”

Cameron suspects her father’s struggle with cancer, one that he lost at age 63, has something to do with the affinity for oncology work that she discovered while working on the old Jackson Hall unit at Moore Regional.

“I love working with the families, too, because they’re also going through a tough time,” she says. “It’s quite an experience being an oncology nurse.”

According to her supervisor, Birtha Shaw, assistant director of Inpatient Oncology, Cameron always gives her job “her 110 percent.”

“Nancy is never too tired to go that extra mile for her patients, their families and her peers,” Shaw says. “She really does have a heart to care for people, and she deserves to be a Great 100 nurse.”

Cameron is now one of three nurses in her family. Daughter Kathy Allen works on 2 Neuro at Moore Regional. Another daughter, Kim Fagan, actually became a nurse a year before her mother and worked in Moore Regional’s Cardiac Care Unit before returning to Chapel Hill for her master’s and doctoral degrees and teaching nursing at Texas Woman’s University. She now lives in Boston, where she is following her mother’s early lead as stay-at-home mom to 7-month-old twin sons, two of Cameron’s nine grandchildren.

Cameron is Moore Regional’s seventh nurse to receive the Great 100 recognition since 2003. She will join the 99 other 2006 honorees for an awards gala at Greensboro’s Joseph S. Koury Convention Center on Oct. 7.

“I feel most honored and quite surprised,” she says of the recognition. “It means a lot to me to be recognized for my work in such a special way.”