PerfectServe’s Nurses of Note awards program honors nurses who deserve recognition for their remarkable resilience and unwavering dedication to their patients. In the second year of the Nurses of Note program, PerfectServe wants to shine a light on the integrity, perseverance, and compassion that nurses so regularly display in the course of caring for patients.
The incredible stories of these honorees paint a pretty clear picture of the people who populate this noble profession, and their experiences offer just a glimpse into the many ways they make the world a better place. Of the 200-plus nominations PerfectServe received, we selected a group of providers to spotlight during the month of May—which, of course, is home to National Nurses Week—and throughout the rest of 2022.
Honoree 4: Chris Morgan, RN — QAQI Director at CHESI (Cairo, IL)
Chris Morgan arrives early to work every single day. He is the type of nurse who volunteers during his off days and comes in on weekends to provide support when Community Health and Emergency Services Inc. (CHESI) is understaffed. The small, Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) has nine regional primary care locations in seven counties and serves everyone who walks through its doors—no one is turned away.
Chris is the QAQI/Risk Management Director at CHESI, located in Cairo, IL. But he didn’t start out in risk management or even as a nurse. In fact, Chris retired from another field to become a nurse to better serve his community and to take advantage of the opportunities available to him. Chris worked in the design field for over 20 years, teaching interior design at the University of North Texas. He moved to Cairo, IL, and as there was no longer a market for his design specialty, he began looking for other ways to serve those around him and to challenge himself to learn something new.
Chris enrolled in a local junior college and took many courses in a nursing program designed to increase the nursing population in the area. For the past 13 years, he’s served in Alexander County, a county with one of the highest rates of poverty in the state of Illinois (and the entire US). Service came naturally to him, having been a teacher for two decades. At 61 years old, he describes himself as spry and says that nursing allows him to utilize the “other side of his brain.”
When the pandemic hit, Chris created vaccine programs with the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) and Independent Health Care Plan (ICARE) to obtain information and stock to vaccinate the community. Chris did all the applications, orders, and training required to be eligible for the vaccines from the government-assisted programs, allowing CHESI to begin administering the vaccine on the first day of the national rollout—way before many state health departments could do so. He also independently set up PCR and Rapid Testing locations through IDPH, ICARE, and the CDC. These sites also opened on the very first day possible, with all nine CHESI locations participating.
Beyond his planning work for vaccinations and testing, Chris dressed in PPE daily to perform COVID-19 testing at the door of the largest CHESI facility. He also volunteered to regularly disinfect every surface and machine inside CHESI facilities to protect coworkers and patients from the spread of the virus. According to Chris’ nominator, “There is literally no job too big or too small for him. He is always the first one willing to jump on board with any project that may benefit our organization and our patients. Any time he takes on a task or role, he does whatever he can to make sure it is done correctly. His empathy, veracity, attention to detail, and optimism are characteristics that make him an exceptional nurse.”
Chris’ detailed vision, can-do attitude, and dedication to nursing—especially after pursuing a completely different career path for decades—remind us of the incredible nurses who do life-changing work for their patients every single day. The critical, hands-on work that Chris performed across all CHESI locations makes him a remarkable nurse, indeed.
Chris, we at PerfectServe are honored to highlight your story and your diligence in serving your community. Your journey to becoming a nurse highlights the fact that nurses come from many different backgrounds and take many different paths to arrive at the bedside. The common theme? They all want to help their patients get healthy. Thank you for the planning you do and the care you give to those around you. We are honored to call you a 2022 Nurse of Note!
In addition to learning about Chris’ previous career and his various roles at CHESI, we posed a few additional questions to get to know him better.
Why did you choose to become a nurse, and how long have you been one?
I retired from teaching interior design at the University of North Texas. I moved to Cairo, Illinois, in Alexander County, which has the highest poverty rate in the state and nation. It’s not quite the area to continue design work! The dean’s wife in Texas oversaw two nursing programs and encouraged me to look into taking courses. I thought this would be a way to help my community and serve those in need. I went to the local junior college and took advantage of a program to increase the nursing population in our area. I have been nursing full time for 13 years!
What is the biggest lesson you learned while serving as a nurse throughout the pandemic?
I learned the importance of being flexible and proactive in whatever you perceive as the next problem. You also must cut through the fat of multipage announcements or alerts and get to the point; I want to receive the CliffsNotes version of what is next and what is essential!
What’s one piece of advice you would give to your younger self about serving in the healthcare field?
Make sure you reflect and review concerns. Ask yourself if the situation you are in is really a disaster or just an inconvenience. Also, don’t overanalyze the “what if?” questions in life.
What do you do to relax after a stressful day?
Weather permitting, I put my top down on the short drive home. I also like to walk the dogs to the river every evening. That is my ritual, and I am sure to do it on good and bad days.
What changes would you like to see in the nursing field of the future?
I believe there should be some type of compassion/empathy entry exam for nursing school. Some get into this field simply as a career choice, and it is so much more than that! If you don’t care about people, you should not be a nurse.
If you had to pick one song that describes your life as a nurse, what would it be?
“The Walker” by Fitz and the Tantrums. When I hear it, I can’t stay still. It also gets me pumped at the end of a long day!
Make sure to follow our blog as we publish in-depth profiles about more of our deserving Nurses of Note honorees throughout the year.
For more about Nurses of Note 2022, check out the full list of winners.