FAH Hospital Policy Blog

Perspectives on health policy affecting America's hospitals and the patients we serve.

Workforce | FAH Policy Blog Team

The Real Story: Courtney Clarke, RN

Hospitals aren’t just the four walls of a building. They are integral parts of community infrastructure, with the caregivers who live in the community, and provide critical care – both physical and emotional – to their neighbors.

The Federation is embarking on a new campaign to tell The Real Story of hospitals through the voices of patients and caregivers – and Courtney Clarke is one of those people. A registered nurse from Somerset, Kentucky who went above and beyond to meet the needs of a patient and her family.

She joined Chip for a special episode of Hospitals In Focus to share her compelling story.

It started when a patient came to Lake Cumberland Regional Hospital with signs of being anemic. It was clear to the staff that she would need to be admitted so the issue could be treated properly, but the woman refused and threatened to leave because there was no one to care for her children.

“The doctor strongly advised her not to leave because her blood levels were so critically low that they feared that if she left there was this strong chance that she may not make it back.”

Her husband was serving in the military and the family had only moved to Somerset two weeks earlier, so they didn’t have any friends or family in the area. The patient’s number one concern was picking her children up from school.

That’s when Courtney’s training as a caregiver and instincts as a mother kicked in.

“At that point it wasn’t if we were going to help this family, it was how far can we go to make this happen!”

She and the team at the hospital came up with a plan. They would take care of the kids at the hospital while the mom received treatment.

“We were able to round up some extra beds and we put four of them in the room. Then I contacted the dietary services department to let them know we would need additional meals for the kids. We also collected clothes, toiletries and snacks so that the children would be as comfortable as they could be while they were here.”

Courtney also arranged to get them to and from school during their stay and one day even fitted the kids with scrubs and took them on a tour of the hospital.

“I’m a mother too, and I think that’s why this tugged at my heart strings maybe just a little bit more. I put myself in her situation, you know, I would want my kids, even though in an unfamiliar situation and area, to have as much as normalcy as possible because that’s important for kids.”

While she spearheaded the efforts, Courtney says it was team effort to keep this family together.

“This isn’t something that we normally do, but under these unique circumstances, we had to bring all forces together. Everybody jumped in and we had to find a way to help this family, especially being new members to the community. I mean, what a way to really show, and set an example, that you’ve come to a good place. We’re here for our neighbors. We’re going take care of you. Whether you’re in the hospital or whether I see you at the grocery store, I’m going shake your hand and give you a hug.”

Her caring and kindness were appreciated by the family. The children wrote her a letter that currently hangs in her office and the patient’s husband was so grateful – he wrote the governor of Kentucky singing Courtney’s praises. A little while later another letter showed up, this time it was from Gov. Andy Beshear.

“He thanked, not only me, but our hospital and community for helping this family during that time. It was a nice gesture, you know, it was just the cherry on top of the whole situation. And it was nice to get that recognition because nurses do this daily. I’m honored to have done this and I would do it again a million times over. Nurses around – not only in the nation – but the world, we do this on a daily basis. We go above and beyond for our patients, maybe not in the same way, but in other ways. It’s nice every now and then to get that recognition, to know that I had done something really good.”

And with a growing hospital nursing shortage, she encouraged others to join her at the bedside.

“Just do it – follow your heart. That’s what I did and it led me to right where I needed to be. Nursing school, I will say, is one of the hardest things that I’ve ever done in my life, but it’s definitely worth it. If you’ve ever considered it before, and if you ever feel that in your heart or in your gut, that it’s what you’re meant to do then that’s what you should do.”

She also credited LifePoint Health, the integrated health system that manages Lake Cumberland Regional Hospital, for not only caring for patients, but also caring about its nurses.

“Some think if you work for a big system, you’re not really considered to be anything other than a number, but with LifePoint, and I can say, especially at our hospital, you are more than just a number. They truly look out for you and your best intentions all the time. And if it hadn’t have been for them, I couldn’t have afforded to go to nursing school. They helped me with student loans and additional assistance. I appreciate LifePoint and I feel that I couldn’t work at a better organization or facility.”