As far as Evelyn Samples, clinical nurse manager in Akron Children’s infant/preschool unit, is concerned, her career at Children’s was meant to be. When she was 5 years old, she was admitted to Children’s with congestive heart failure as a result of rheumatic fever. Evelyn was so sick that she wasn’t expected to live through the night.
Evelyn not only survived, but she also found her life’s calling.
“I knew I wanted to be a nurse after that,” she said. “I loved all my nurses, especially the night-shift nurses who would take me out to the nurses’ station and feed me cookies.”
On November 4, Evelyn retires after a 34-year career at Children’s. She intends to hang out with her youngest daughter at their Portage Lakes home and enjoy all of Ohio’s seasons. She also plans to garden, read and cook. Whenever the urge to travel strikes, Evelyn is ready. She already has two cruises booked, and with two of her children living in Florida, she always has someplace warm to visit.
What brought you to Children’s?
Even though I told everyone I was going to be a nurse, life had other plans. After high school, I got married and stayed home to raise my children. I started taking nursing classes at The University of Akron, earning my degree around the time my youngest child started kindergarten. Although I interviewed at multiple hospitals, it was when I walked into Children’s neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) that I knew I had found my home! Eileen Enin interviewed me. She offered me a position that day, and I accepted.
Have you always worked in the same department and role?
I worked in the NICU for 30 years as a staff nurse, clinical coordinator and assistant nurse manager. Everything about the NICU, from the babies to the noise and how busy it is, appealed to me. I also loved working the night shift, which I did for 11 years. I decided to pursue a master’s degree in nursing, which enabled me to become a nurse manager. After graduation, a nurse manager opportunity existed in the infant/preschool unit. I grew professionally by working with and mentoring colleagues and staff. It’s gratifying now when these same people thank me for our years together.
What have your biggest contributions been while here?
It’s important to me to get involved. I’ve done this by participating in Children’s Career Achievement and Recognition of Excellence (CARE) Ladder Program, which helps nurses develop professionally. In late 2019, I became the chair of Children’s Leadership Council, whose membership includes our nursing and respiratory care leaders. Despite COVID-19 affecting our volunteerism, we still found creative ways to accomplish our mission. Additionally, my family and I have volunteered in events like the Kids Are #1 Run and Family Fun Day and the Teddy Bear Run, a motorcycling event.
How has Akron Children’s changed since you started here?
Even though our employment numbers have grown, people are friendly and always say hello in the hallways. For awhile, I worked as a PRN at another hospital’s nursery and would say hello to people to see if anyone said hello back. Here, everyone always makes me feel welcome.
What gave you the most satisfaction at work?
Whenever a child is discharged to go home, especially from the NICU where a baby’s hospital stay might last months or years, it’s a definite celebration!
What’s your most memorable and/or happiest moment at Akron Children’s?
Early in my career, I heard a heart murmur in a baby that no one else detected. I persisted, and the baby underwent an echocardiogram where it was discovered that he needed surgery to repair his heart. His family was thankful, sending me pictures of their children to stay in touch.
Another moment included a colleague, who was also a clinical coordinator. Once, we accidentally wore matching scrub tops and thought it would be fun to do this again. The NICU staff laughed about clinical coordinators coordinating their outfits. It made me happy to bring joy into the NICU, where it can be intense sometimes.
Do you have any advice for people just starting at Children’s?
Be humble, say hello to passersby and always say “please” and “thank you.” It makes others feel valued.
What couldn’t you live without?
My children. Becoming a mom was the greatest thing I did in my life. Now I have grandchildren as an added bonus!
What’s the last book your read?
“The Last Days of John Lennon” by James Patterson