CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Nurses in Charleston are being honored for their hard work amid Nurses’ Week and an ongoing shortage of them coming into the field.

Charleston Area Medical Center held a ceremony and luncheon in celebration of the national week recognizing the impact the sector of healthcare workers has on people’s lives Wednesday where they presented 80 nurses with the Award of Excellence in Professional Nursing.

This year’s theme was “Nurses Make the Difference” to honor various roles of nurses and the quality level of care that each one brings to the table.

CAMC Chief Nursing Officer Heidi Edwards said award recipients are nominated by peers and nurse leaders, which she said is truly a reflection of how it goes to those who exemplify skill and professionalism in the field.

“It’s the most incredible feeling to feel like you’re able to give back for a day for all that they give throughout the entire year,” Edwards said. “This award really does epitomize nursing from an excellence standpoint, from a value standpoint, how they care, how they nurture, and everything that nurses do.”

The 80 award recipients Wednesday covered RN’s and LPN’s throughout CAMC’s entire five-facility system, including Memorial Hospital, General Hospital, Women’s and Children’s, Teays Valley and Greenbrier Valley Medical Center as well as all of their ambulatory locations.

According to the West Virginia Hospital Association’s workforce report last year, the nursing field in the state began seeing shortages prior to the Covid-19 Pandemic in 2020, and CAMC has not been immune to those scarcities.

The association said nursing professions have a vacancy rate of 19.3% and a turnover rate of 26.3%.

However, Edwards said by honoring nurses at events like Wednesday’s is another step in helping to alleviate the shortage.

“As far as from a recruitment standpoint we do a lot of things for recruitment, but we have to remember retention as well, and by recognizing those that work with us who exemplify excellence and care for our patients every single day should be recognized, and this just gives us the opportunity to do that,” Edwards said.

Edwards said, however, that their recruitment efforts to attract more nurses and medical staff to the hospital has overall been going very well.

Rachel Persinger was one of the Registered Nurses at CAMC being presented an award Wednesday.

She said she was honored to receive the award, and after debating being a teacher, a lawyer, and a dental hygienist, she discovered that nursing was her true calling.

“I went to college at West Virginia Wesleyan and I went through their BSN and MSN program and I just kind of fell in love with the career of being a nurse, and I enjoy my patients and I enjoy CAMC, so it has just truly been a fulfilling career for me,” Persinger said.

Persinger said that they always welcome potential new recruits into CAMC if they’re interested in shadowing a nurse to get an idea of what the job entails.

She said they currently have job positions available that doesn’t require a nursing license, so this helps people decide if nursing is something they can really see themselves doing in the long run or not.

“If they like it, they can go through nursing school and CAMC can help them with tuition and then they can get a job with CAMC, so everything’s kind of set up, but they’ve got to get their feet wet first,” she said. “So, yes, there is an ongoing nursing shortage, but if people are interested then they just need to come knocking on our door and we’ll welcome them in.”

And Persinger said there has been at least one way they have made dealing with the shortage of nurses work for the past few years.

“We support each other, here at CAMC we support each other and we make it work, so that’s a really big blessing that has been there for me is getting the support from the administration, from a leader and my coworkers, there’s never a shortage of help,” said Persinger.

Edwards added that nurses are very special people who leave a significant impact on the lives of others.

“If you’ve ever been in the hospital, if you’ve ever been sick and you know the way a nurse makes you feel and you never forget your nurse, that’s the difference that they make, because they’re your one advocate, they’re the person who’s with you the entire time,” said Edwards.