May 12, 2023 – Bruce Roberts always had a career path in mind for his daughter.
“My daddy always told me he wanted me to be a nurse,” Kristie Adkins recalls with a laugh. “But I said, ‘No, Daddy. That’s not for me.’”
It’s not that she didn’t want to go into healthcare, but nursing wasn’t what the Belfry, Ky., native had in mind.
“I was thinking X-Ray tech or something like that instead,” she explains.
But when her grandmother was diagnosed with cancer, Adkins glimpsed the nursing field with new eyes.
“I was with her for a lot of her appointments and when she was declining,” she says. “That’s when I thought, ‘You know, this might work for me after all. This is what I like.
“I was 19.”
Christine Roberts died in 1994, shortly after her granddaughter finished LPN school and took a job at Tug Valley ARH Regional Medical Center.
Adkins says she took comfort in knowing her grandmother was in loving hands.
“It was good to know that my co-workers took as good of care of her as I would have,” she said.
Adkins worked mostly in labor and delivery over the next 12 years, but after she finished her RN degree in 2006, she decided to make a change.
“A job in the OR came open and I thought I’d try that out,” she says.
The change turned out to be a good fit as she worked as a circulator and eventually as OR Clinical Nurse Manager.
“It’s kind of a charge nurse position,” she explains. “I helped our manager with scheduling, requisitions, assigning rooms – just really anything she needed me to do.”
In 2016, when the OR Nurse Manager position became available, the mother of two moved into her current role.
“I loved the staff and felt like it was a good transition for everybody for me to move into the position,” she says of her decision to accept the job. “It’s a great department to be part of and I was excited for the opportunity.”
In addition to working alongside a staff she respects and considers family, Adkins says she feels the surgery department is her perfect fit.
“I love that you have a sick patient or a patient in pain and we can do something that fixes the problem for them quickly,” she says. “You might have a patient who is worried about something and when they come out of surgery, you can tell them, ‘You’re all good now.’
“There’s an immediate fix to most problems that come to our door.”
Bruce Roberts passed away two years ago but Adkins says she knew her father was proud of her career path and happy she had listened to his advice.
In his final days, he became one of his daughter’s patients as she helped care for him at home, an experience for which she says she’s grateful.
She says providing close, comforting care is what nursing really is.
“Nurses are the hands of the doctor,” she says. “Whether it’s medicines or taking care of special diets, we’re the ones who do that. Sometimes we’re just the people who sit there at a bedside, talks to them and makes them happy.
“You love them and respect them and take the best care of them you possibly can.”
Although Adkins, who became a CNOR (Certified Nurse Operating Room) in 2020 and serves as the PIC line nurse for Tug Valley ARH, originally pushed back on the idea of nursing, she says she’s happy right where she is.
“I can’t imagine I would have ever been as happy with anything else,” she says. “There’s just nowhere else I want to be.”
Appalachian Regional Healthcare (ARH), is a not-for-profit health system operating 14 hospitals in Barbourville, Hazard, Harlan, Hyden, Martin, McDowell, Middlesboro, Paintsville, Prestonsburg, West Liberty, Whitesburg, and South Williamson in Kentucky and Beckley and Hinton in West Virginia, as well as multi-specialty physician practices, home health agencies, home medical equipment stores and retail pharmacies. ARH employs more than 6,500 people with an annual payroll and benefits of $330 million generated into our local economies. ARH also has a network of more than 600 active and courtesy medical staff members. ARH is the largest provider of care and the single largest employer in southeastern Kentucky and the third-largest private employer in southern West Virginia.