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Newport Nurse Always Wanted This Job

By Tricia Schug

At age 4, Terri McCulley announced to her family that she wanted to be a nurse. 

“My parents thought it was just a phase, but I never wavered from that path. I played nurse as a kid. I aligned all my classes throughout school toward nursing. I always wanted to be a nurse,” she said.

McCulley, a registered nurse at Samaritan Pacific Communities Hospital, obviously made a good career choice. She recently celebrated 30 years of service at the Newport hospital, having started in 1987 as a nurse in home health before moving into the Post-Anesthesia Care Unit (PACU), where she is today.

“I love the pain management aspect of surgery recovery,” McCulley said. “I enjoy helping patients be as comfortable as they can after surgery so they can heal.”

She finds it rewarding to help alleviate a person’s anxieties and fears, too, something she has learned that happens even to health care professionals.  “I’ve been a patient a couple of times, the last time for a more major surgery. I was pretty relaxed about it, giving my coworkers a hard time, but at the last minute I got scared and wanted off the table. I was really taken by surprise by that,” she said. “However, that experience has helped me understand my patients and what they’re going through better and has made me a better nurse.”

Besides enjoying her job, McCulley said she has stayed for so many years in her position because of supportive coworkers who have felt like family to her.“When you work 14 to 16 hours at a time together, you get to know your coworkers really well. They’ve seen me through good times and hard times,” she said. “I joke that I live at the hospital and get to go home occasionally.”

Indeed, McCulley has spent a lot of time at SPCH, practically growing up here. She started as an aide in the hospital when she was a senior in high school, and worked here during her breaks from nursing school. After graduating from nursing school in 1982, she worked at hospitals in Portland and Prineville before returning to SPCH in the late 1980s.

Early in her career, McCulley learned a great deal from other nurses and aides, she said, especially Mary Lou Mate, RN, now retired.“Mary Lou set up the recovery room we use today and taught me everything I know about recovery nursing. As a brand new nurse, I learned by listening to everyone around me, no matter their position,” McCulley said. 

With no plans to retire just yet, McCulley knows that the 4-year old she once was made the clear choice so many years ago: nursing is still the right path for her.

McCulley was one of three SPCH employees recognized for 30 years of service at a recent employee event. The annual celebration honors employees with five years of service and more.