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Vital signs: Gina Turner directs nurses at Madison Hospital

"The nurses (must) think outside of the box and connect all the dots with the patients' diagnosis, like lab values and vital signs," Turner said. (Photo by Jen Fouts-Detulleo/JFD Photography)
“The nurses (must) think outside of the box and connect all the dots with the patients’ diagnosis, like lab values and vital signs,” Turner said. (Photo by Jen Fouts-Detulleo/JFD Photography)

MADISON – As a nursing director at Madison Hospital, registered nurse Gina Turner is responsible for the medical, surgical and intensive care units, along with inpatient physical therapy.

As a high school senior, Turner chose the field of medicine because biology and the human body fascinated her. “My first choice was anesthesia school. My adviser started me on the nursing track to become a nurse anesthetist. After life choices and decisions, here I am today,” she said.

Nurses in the medical unit and ICU share similar yet different responsibilities. On the medical unit, nursing is a teamwork approach. These nurses “have more patients; time management is a must … to manage patients’ plans of care timely, admitting or maybe even discharging patients, which calls for establishing a new process and relationship with a new patient,” Turner said.

Medical/ICU nurses must communicate with multiple physicians about patients’ progress or if a patient begins to decline. “It takes a team to handle the variety of responsibilities on the unit,” Turner said. “Nurses have health care aides who assist with patients’ vital signs and activities of daily living.”

In ICU, nurses have fewer patients because of the patients’ critical nature. “The nurses (must) think outside of the box and connect all the dots with the patients’ diagnosis, like lab values and vital signs,” Turner said. “They must anticipate what will happen next in the disease process and be proactive before the patient declines.” Time management is a key.

Turner earned a bachelor’s degree in nursing at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. She now is studying for a master’s degree in management in health care with the Owen School of Management at Vanderbilt University.

In other jobs, Turner worked at Huntsville Hospital, Surgical Trauma Intensive Care Unit; Decatur General, Pediatric Critical Care Unit; Crestwood Medical Center, Special Procedures and Nursing Administration as House Supervisor; and as a travel nurse in California.

Positive, word-of-mouth comments led her to work for Madison Hospital. The hospital also better accommodates her home schedule and responsibilities.

From years of nursing, Turner quickly remembers an ICU patient who “could not talk because she was clinging to life on the ventilator. However, her family could not stop raving about her. The patient was in her 90s and had an unfortunate horse-riding incident while celebrating her birthday.”

“At first, I was mad. A 90-year-old lady should have never been on a back of a horse, but this woman was not your typical 90-year-old. This lady lived her life to the fullest every day and was fearless,” Turner said. On her previous birthday, she went skydiving.

The woman’s family “bragged on how she showed them love every day and included them on her adventures. The family didn’t regret allowing her to ride the horse; they just reflected on how happy she looked while doing it,” Turner said.

“This woman’s family … didn’t challenge her wishes nor did they second-guess themselves when approached by physicians and staff with the life-ending decision. I could only hope to be as fulfilled at the end of my life,” Turner said.

Turner’s husband Tim works as an independent contractor for U.S. Postal Service. Their children are Sylvaughn, 18, a senior at East Limestone High School; Timari, 14, an East Limestone freshman; and Nicaya, 7, a Creekside Elementary School second-grader.

Gina Turner enjoys sports, especially volleyball, and assists Columbia High School’s team. “I’m my kids’ biggest fan. I’m always at one of their games,” she said.

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