Three generations celebrate National Nurses Week at BMH

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Photo above: Beaufort Memorial Hospital has three generations of nurses in Karen Carroll, her daughter Lauren and her mother, Yvonne Manuel. Photo by Paul Nurnberg.

Staff reports 

Celebrating National Nurses Week, which is May 6-12, is a family affair for Beaufort Memorial Chief Nursing Officer Karen Carroll. Both her mother and daughter also are RNs. 

Moreover, the three generations of nurses all serve in some capacity at BMH.

Karen, now in her 37th year with the hospital, is vice president of Patient Care Services. Her youngest daughter, Lauren, worked in the Emergency Department for two years before becoming a traveling nurse in 2015. She continues to fill in as needed in between her out-of-town jobs. 

Karen’s mother, Yvonne Manuel, retired in 2014, but volunteers during flu season, administering influenza vaccinations. 

“Nursing was a good career for me,” Yvonne said. “I like to help people.”

 The matriarch of the nursing dynasty was 25 years old with two young daughters when she registered for a one-year practical nursing program in 1963.

“I had always wanted to be a nurse, but I got married young and had children at an early age,” she said. “My husband told me this was my chance and I needed to go.”

Her husband even offered to take care of their two girls when Yvonne was in class. A year later, she landed her first job in the surgical ward of West Virginia’s largest coal miners’ hospital. In 1973, the family moved to the Lowcountry and she went to work for Beaufort Memorial. During her 41 years at the hospital, she served in the Intensive Care Unit, Recovery Room and ER.

“Back then, you could move from one department to another and learn as you went along,” she says. “Now with all the new equipment, drugs and protocols, nursing has become very specialized.”

Yvonne passed on her passion for the profession to her daughter, whose first career choice was to become a flight attendant (or “stewardess,” as they were called then). Wanting to further her own education, she enrolled along with Karen in the associate degree program at Armstrong State College in Savannah. Both RNs went on to achieve BS degrees in nursing at the Medical University of South Carolina.

Karen started her career at age 21 as a staff nurse at Beaufort Memorial and worked her way up from charge nurse to department director of the Critical Care Unit. She was serving in that position when Hurricane Hugo hit in 1989. Just four weeks after delivering Lauren and with her 4-year-old daughter, Stephanie, in tow, she was called into the hospital. 

“My husband worked for the highway patrol and had to work during the storm, so I had no choice but to take the girls with me to the hospital,” she recalled. “I made a pallet for Lauren on the floor of my office. When I made rounds, I strapped her in a little carrier and took her with me.”

Despite her early introduction to the profession, Lauren wasn’t keen on becoming a nurse. Her sister had chosen to become a pharmacist and now works for Beaufort Memorial. 

“I wanted to help people and see the world,” Lauren said. 

It was her mother, who had been persuaded into the career herself, who sold her on the idea of going into nursing. 

“I told her it was meaningful work and that she would be making a difference,” Karen said. “And if she continued to learn, it would lead to more job opportunities.” 

It was a path that had proved successful for Karen, leading to her current position in senior management. In 1994, she earned her Master’s in Nursing at MUSC. Twenty years later, she achieved a doctorate in Nursing Practice at Sacred Heart University in Connecticut.

 “All three of us love being nurses,” she said. “It has been a perfect fit.”

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