OR Nurse

Nursing | 17 days ago

Devoted OR Nurse Retires After 42 Years

For four decades, Jill Addison advocated for patients when they were most vulnerable. She witnessed many exciting milestones at Atrium Health and trained other nurses to work in the OR.

“I never had a boring day. And if I had the choice, I would do it all over again,” Jill Addison, lead operating room (OR) nurse with Atrium Health Sanger Heart & Vascular Institute, reflects on her rewarding nursing career. In April, Jill retired after 42 years with Atrium Health.

Jill spent the majority of her career at the bedside in the OR and for the last 10 years has held a nursing leadership position. She witnessed several significant accomplishments throughout Atrium Health’s history of cardiovascular care, including supporting Atrium Health's first heart transplant in 1986. In addition, she played an important role in shaping the careers of new nurses. 

Jill’s passion for nursing started at UNC Charlotte, where she earned her Bachelor of Science degree in nursing. After graduation, she passed the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses.

While at UNC Charlotte, Jill noticed a flyer on the bulletin board in the nursing building advertising an operating room externship at Charlotte Memorial Hospital, which is now Atrium Health. After completing the interview, she was selected for the two-year program. 

“From the first day, I knew this was where I needed to be,” Jill says.

The externship taught her how to work as a scrub nurse in the OR. She learned how to set up for surgery and hand instruments to the surgeon.

Jill was recruited by Charlotte Memorial Hospital’s OR leadership to take a registration nurse position in the cardiac unit after graduation. At that time, new hires were required to have OR experience, which the externship provided. Jill was assigned to work with another nurse who guided her through the cardiac cases until she could function independently.  

Historical growth and milestones

Jill counts herself fortunate to have supported many firsts in cardiovascular medicine at Atrium Health, including:

“Working on the front line allowed me to get picked to learn something new,” explains Jill. “It always meant a lot to me that the OR leaders valued my role.”

Jill recalls her experience during Atrium Health’s first heart transplant.

“I remember it being a very serious day,” Jill says. “We were all a little bit nervous but also prepared.”

The cardiac team used an in-house donor for the transplant. Jill supported the team in the donor room, which was located right across the hall from the recipient.

“I was so young at the time and had only been working in the cardiac unit for about a year, so I felt really lucky to be able to help,” says Jill.

Jill notes how Sanger Heart & Vascular Institute’s transplant program has expanded exponentially in the last five years.

“Much of that expansion had to do with the donor population and how we transport organs,” Jill explains. “Thanks to the TransMedics Organ Care System, we can travel further to get organs for transplantation. It’s so rewarding to see the population we can serve grow because of that technology.”

Teaching the next generation 

As a staff nurse, Jill loved teaching new teammates about OR nursing.

“I enjoyed being able to help new nurses learn the ropes in the OR,” she says. “Cardiac, vascular and thoracic surgeries are challenging. So I broke it down into more simple segments to make it easier to understand. I tried to help these nurses cultivate a love for their work.”

Over the past 15 years, Sanger Heart & Vascular Institute has grown its perioperative nurse residency program, making it easier to train new graduates or existing nurses in the OR. Since the beginning of the program, Jill participated in the interview process for nurses applying to the program and provided feedback on their fit for the role.

“That's one way we can keep our staffing the way we need it to be,” Jill says. “We're just growing our own, and I was lucky to play a big role in that.”

As part of Sanger Heart & Vascular Institute’s OR leadership team, Jill worked with Atrium Health’s human resource partners to select and hire teammates for nursing roles as well as surgical technologist positions.

For the last six months, Jill was responsible for the education and orientation of new hires for Sanger Heart & Vascular Institute’s cardiothoracic and vascular team, a role that Jill found especially rewarding.

“I’m so proud that I could share my knowledge and expertise with them,” says Jill. “These nurses needed this training since the OR is not covered in the nursing school curriculum. As I remembered what it was like to be a new OR nurse, it truly brought me full circle.” 

The voice of the patient

OR nurses play a critical role as patient advocate during surgery.

“We make sure that all the procedures are followed for their safety,” says Jill. “We’re there to support all the technical aspects of the procedure so that the surgeon has everything they need. If there's an emergency, we know what to do to help.”

According to Jill, it takes a special kind of nurse to work in the OR since they have few opportunities for patient interaction. Even so, OR nurses serve as a vital link between the patient’s family and the OR staff, providing updates and communication when needed.

“There are many times when you form a little bond with the family,” Jill notes. “For example, if a patient's procedure gets delayed, you may have to go out to the preop area and talk to the family. You build some rapport and then circle back with them later – just to make sure everything's OK. They always appreciate the personal attention.”

Strong bonds of friendship

The long hours spent working together in the OR help surgeons and nurses form special bonds of friendship, which are essential to smooth operations in the OR.

“You build strong bonds like a family,” Jill explains. “As the surgeons teach you how to help them, you also learn about each other’s kids and pets. You need that kind of relationship because it helps you interact and get the job done safely and efficiently.”

Throughout her career, Jill always felt recognized and appreciated by her teammates and her leadership team at Atrium Health. For example, in 2013, she was honored among the Great 100 nurses of North Carolina. Because of these supportive relationships, she never felt the need to pursue a career outside of Atrium Health.

The next chapter

During retirement, Jill plans to join Sanger Heart & Vascular Institute’s heart surgery team for some mission work in Belize. She has supported several mission trips over the years and enjoys helping those in need.

In addition to her volunteer work, Jill is looking forward to spending more time with her friends and family, including her parents, who are in their early 90s, and her adult children. Jill also plans to spend more time traveling and golfing with her husband, Tom. 

Even with all these plans, Jill is happy to leave the door open for future part-time work opportunities. 

“I know that retirement will be a big adjustment,” Jill notes. “But I'm willing to take it on and see how it goes. Maybe you’ll see me back at Atrium Health in the future. You never know!” 

Learn more about advanced cardiac care at Atrium Health Sanger Heart & Vascular Institute.