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Home Health Nurse Wins National Award

Home Health Nurse Wins National Award

CC photo courtesy of NatalieMaynor

Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal

July 12, 2010

July 12 – TUPELO – As Registered Nurse Jan Starling was preparing to transition from work on a hospital floor to home health, one of her colleagues had a dire prediction.

“I don’t know how you’re going to make it in home health. You cry when we send them home from the hospital,” she recalled a co-worker telling her. “What are you going to do when they’re dying?”

“I said, ’I’ll cry with them,” Starling said. “That’s just what makes you part of the family. … You laugh with them, you celebrate the grand babies and you mourn the deaths with them.”

Seventeen years later, Starling is not only still in home health, she has been recognized at the hospital, state and national level for her work as a home health nurse.

In June, the Mantachie woman, who is the cardiopulmonary outcomes case manager for North Mississippi Medical Center Home Health, became one of two Mississippi nurses ever recognized by the American Nurses Association with the 2010 ANA Honorary Nursing Practice Award.

“It was such an honor,” said Starling, who was able to accept the award with husband Joe, children Bradley and Sallie and parents Janice Buchanan of Blue Springs and Dewey Petigo of Columbus watching. It’s the relationships that she’s developed with patients and patients’ families over the years that have made her the nurse she is, Starling said.

“The relationships you establish are your road map to success,” Starling said. “You have to build trust.” That’s especially true in home health, where nurses work while in a patient’s personal space.

“You always take care of the whole patient as a nurse,” Starling said. “But in home health you get the package deal – spouses, kids, dogs and cats.”

Starling likes to take time to share some love with pets that seek her out, even though it means extra hand washing, and not just because she’s an animal person. “The pet accepting you has a lot to do with the patient accepting you,” Starling said. Although working around pets does present a challenge at times.

“I have one patient where if I lay out my blood stuff, the cat steals it,” Starling said with a chuckle.

In addition to building relationships, home health nursing requires sharp technical skills because they are delivering many services that used to be limited to the hospital, all without colleagues to close at hand for a quick consult. Nurses have to complete at least two years of hospital work before going to home health.

“You have to know your stuff and be able to make good judgments,” Starling said. “You are the eyes and the ears for the doctor.” The care Starling and her colleagues deliver make it possible for many of their patients to remain in their homes, where they can be surrounded by familiar things, pets and family.

On Starling’s road map, nursing was her career destination from an early age.

“I can’t remember wanting to do anything else,” Starling said. “I’m a caretaker. I’ve got that kind of personality.”

She completed her associate’s degree at Northeast Mississippi Community College in Booneville and got her first job working on the cardiac floor at NMMC 19 years ago.

“Once I started working at the hospital, I couldn’t see myself doing anything else,” Starling said. “I tell people heart failure is my first love.”

These days, Starling checks in on patients in person and by phone, audits charts, serves as a nurse educator, watches over patient safety and serves on congestive heart failure and other hospital committees.

“I have one of those jobs where I have to look in the mirror to see what hat I have on,” Starling said.

To see more of the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to

Copyright © 2010, Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, Tupelo, Miss.

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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