Chris Parke’s career at Sutter Coast is nearly as old as the hospital itself.

After holding nursing positions in obstetrics, the intensive care unit and medical unit for the past 25 years, Parke says there’s one memory that stands out among so many good ones.

“One particular night I was getting ready to give report to the night charge (nurse) that was coming on duty and one of my nurses said you better get to 128 real quick,” she said. “So I run down to the room just in time to deliver a baby from one of the visitors. That was not planned and it was very exciting.”

Parke said she delivered the baby and once the visitor was wrapped in a warm blanket and doing well, she handed her over to obstetrics. And the baby?

“It was a little girl,” Parke said. “A beautiful pink little girl.”

Parke has been a certified nursing assistant, a licensed vocational nurse, a registered nurse and, finally, a charge nurse. After 25 years of working at Sutter Coast Hospital, starting just a year after the old Seaside Hospital at 2nd and A streets in Crescent City closed, Parke has retired. Her last day was Thursday.

Parke, who started her career training with nurses who had been at the hospital for more than 20 years, said she worked on the night shift at the beginning. At the time, she said, there was no hospitalist and the only physician on duty at night was the emergency room doctor.

“We were kind of like an island on nights,” she said. “We had to count on the ER doctor to come down and help us and there wasn’t much supportive staff on nights, then it was just us nurses. We even had to clean the rooms if a patient was discharged and we had to wash down the wheelchairs at night and wash down the IV poles. We were multitasking on the night shift.”

The ratio of nurses to patients was different back then as well, Parke said. She said there would be 12 patients at night to one nurse, which was just her.

Now, the night shift has the support of a doctor as well as several supportive staff members, Parke said.

As a charge nurse, Parke’s job was to help new nurses grow and learn in their chosen profession, said Parke’s colleague Deanna Russell.

Parke says she calls the new nurses “my little chicks.”

“I love them. I mentored them,” she said.

Over the years, Parke said she has seen her “little chicks” grow in their own careers to become charge nurses in the ER, the intensive care unit and obstetrics. She said she feels like she made her mark on the hospital.

Parke pointed to Sutter Coast Hospital’s new dialysis and infusion center, saying these services weren’t available to her patients when she began her career. Dialysis and infusion are also fields that nurses can specialize in now, she said.

“We have a new batch of LVN students that are coming through here now and some of them I’ve already taken aside,” Parke said. “They’re very smart. They’re very enthusiastic. They’re very compassionate and I told my boss, I said, Deanna, I wish I could start my career now instead of ending it. It’s so exciting.”

Parke, who is a mother of five and an organic farmer living near Brookings, was one of the first recipients of Sutter Coast Hospital’s DAISY Award in 2017. According to Russell, given out quarterly, DAISY Awards are based on patient recommendations.

“It’s usually an RN employee of the month going above and beyond and really living those values,” she said.

Parke said she received the DAISY Award in April 2017.

“It was really nice being recognized by patients and also my peers,” she said.

Now that she won’t have to commute two hours a day to and from work, Parke said she plans to spend more time with her kids and grandkids. Even though they lived in Brookings, she said with her work schedule she was only able to see them about once a month.

“My sons are planning on coming to the house and having dinner a lot,” she said.

But, Parke said, there are several aspects about nursing that she’ll miss.

“Every morning I introduce myself as ‘My name is Chris and I will be your charge nurse today,’” she said. “It is a joy being a nurse and having the satisfaction that you’ve taken someone that is in a very stressful part of their life and you’re able to do or say the one thing to make the whole experience turn around and they can accept what’s going on and know that the best outcome ever will happen for them.”

Reach Jessica Cejnar at jcejnar@triplicate.com .

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