By Holly Desrosier

In 2006, John Peter had his life in order. He lived in Michigan and was happily married with two children. He had just graduated Lake Michigan College and had a stable job in the radiology department of a small hospital that he really enjoyed.

Over the next few years, John continued working as an X-ray technician but began to develop a fascination with the field of nursing. Though he had never previously considered becoming a nurse himself, he was intrigued with the work they did. He pushed that interest aside as he and his family decided to move somewhere with less snow.

In 2010, John, his wife and two sons settled in New Bern. John began working at Vidant Orthopedics in Kenansville and soon learned about the reputable nursing program at Craven Community College (Craven CC). With his interest in nursing reignited, he seized the opportunity to pursue it.

“I applied for the program, completed my TEAS test and all other requirements,” he said. “And then I got into the nursing program and that’s how everything started for me.”

Craven CC’s Health Programs department has a close relationship with CarolinaEast Medical Center (CEMC), and students in the nursing program complete much of their clinical training and hands-on learning there each semester. By the time John completed the program in May 2017, he had built an impressive rapport with the hospital. They hired him as an ER nurse two months later.

John had already worked with patients in his previous jobs, but he quickly showed that he had a natural aptitude as a nurse. His ability to attune himself to patients’ feelings and help them feel at ease has made ER visits much less intimidating for many people.

“People don’t want to be in the hospital, and I know that; it’s not a fun place to be,” he said. “So what I try to do is to make their environment as inviting as possible. It’s all about how you conduct yourself: body language, tone of voice. You try to make people as calm as possible because they’re not happy being there. And that’s my approach to all the patients that I take care of.”

One family took notice. Their autistic son was terrified of his visit to the ER and everything that went along with it. John immediately went to work putting the boy at ease, making his stay as easy as possible on an emotional level and making a lasting impression on the family. Just a few days later, the boy’s grandfather found himself in the same setting, and John took care of him as well.

John was recently honored with a DAISY Award. This international award recognizes extraordinary nurses across all 50 states and 28 other countries who go above and beyond for patients and families every day. He felt very humbled that someone took the time to show appreciation for his services.

“I got recognition from the family for taking care of this kid who was petrified by being in the ER, getting an IV and all this kind of stuff,” he said. “He’s a sick kid and going through all this, and it just traumatizes these kids. So I took care of him, and I guess they recognized me for what I did. It was pretty cool.”

John’s colleagues at CEMC have also taken note of his inspiring patient care and overall demeanor, with several jumping at the chance to offer kind words.

“John Peter is a valued member of the CarolinaEast team,” said Jim Davis, Chief Nursing Officer and Vice President of Nursing. “He is compassionate and approaches every patient as an individual. He connects with his patients and their families and provides excellent care to all patients he comes in contact with. His attitude and heart combined with his nursing knowledge make him an excellent emergency department nurse.”

Deb Rogers, Director of Acute Care, echoed those sentiments, stating that he always shares his professionalism and pride with everyone he encounters.

“John is technically skilled; he sees the big picture and is aware of the expectations and possible outcome for patients in the emergency department,” she said. “John has strong collegial relationships and is well respected by the entire ED team. John is a gem and a treasure, never without a smile and a kind word, even in the busiest of times. He is a team player that his peers can rely on and he always helps without hesitation.”

Jamie Keene, Emergency Department Manager, also weighed in on John. She stressed how lucky the emergency department is to have him.

“John is caring and compassionate to his patients, their family members and his coworkers,” she added. “All of the staff enjoy working with John and look forward to having him as their teammate. No matter how stressful or difficult a situation is, you will always find John with a smile on his face and a willingness to help. John has been on our team for three years now, and I cannot think of a time that I’ve seen him without a smile on his face.”

CarolinaEast Health System officials present John Peter, former Craven CC nursing student, with a DAISY Award for outstanding service. Pictured left to right: Ray Leggett, President/CEO of CarolinaEast Health System; Jim Davis, Chief Nursing Officer and Vice President of Nursing; John Peter, ER nurse; and Becky Skinner, BSN, RN, PCCN and Professional Development Specialist.

While a lot of John’s success can be attributed to his love of nursing and drive to help others, he believes Craven CC’s nursing program helped him achieve that extra level of professionalism through hands-on training from knowledgeable staff who truly care about the students.

“These people, they are awesome,” said John. “The nursing program here at Craven really prepares you mentally and physically to, when you get out there, do a very, very good job. They actually demand excellence from you, which is really, really good for nurses. You’re dealing with people’s lives, and it is very important that you prepare nurses for what they’re going to be dealing with. It’s not an easy job, but the love of the job and the dedication that they put into really helping us to get to that level of excellence is awesome.”

He encourages any high school student at the hospital doing job shadowing to take part in Craven CC’s programs and start off with the community college environment instead of going straight to a four-year university. John recalled struggling through part of his first semester but said the smaller classes, personalized instruction and knowledgeable teachers really helped him get through it.

“It’s a very good school,” he said. “Craven partnering with the community, partnering with the hospitals really provides an opportunity for not only employment, but it contributes to actually helping the community. With the hospital being here, it’s a great resource. The community college environment is bar none—one of the best environments when it comes to actually helping people understand the work and actually working one-on-one with students to be the best that they can be.”

It’s clear the hospital shares in John’s enthusiasm for Craven CC’s nursing programs as well. The two institutions have formed a mutually beneficial partnership that aims to produce highly skilled healthcare workers who go on to work in a professional hospital environment that offers superior patient care.

“Craven Community College nursing students graduate prepared to hit the ground running,” said Davis. “The nursing program at CCC combines exactly the right balance of academic and clinical concentration, which helps prepare nurses to function as competent nurses at the bedside.”

John’s two sons have also benefitted from Craven CC: His 18-year-old attends Craven Early College, and his 13-year-old has attended many of the college’s summer camps.

“And even with my 18-year-old son, I said math at Craven and math at ECU is the same thing,” said John. “And he’s like, ‘well, I never looked at it that way.’ So I really emphasize the community college environment. It’s a blessing for the community. In my opinion, it really is.”

Even though work has been much more intense over the past few months due to the outbreak of a pandemic, John’s professionalism and compassion have continued to serve patients well. His exemplary efforts showcase the importance of remaining calm and understanding to everyone, even during the worst of times.

Anyone interested in pursuing a career in the medical field is encouraged to visit cravencc.edu/health or contact 252-639-2025 or nursinginfo@cravencc.edu for more information.

This article was originally published in the New Bern Sun Journal on August 20, 2020.

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