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Clark honored as KentuckyOne Health Employee of the Year

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By Kacie Goode

Jill Clark thought she was walking down to the conference room at Flaget Memorial Hospital for a marketing activity, so she was truly surprised to enter a room packed with her extended family, friends and co-workers all waiting with grins to greet her.

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“I’m speechless. I’m totally surprised,” said Clark, a longtime nurse, upon learning she had been selected as the hospital’s first KentuckyOne Health Employee of the Year.

Jennifer Nolan, Flaget’s new president, opened the Nov. 6 reception for Clark.

“I’ve been here right at two months, and one thing that I knew immediately was why Flaget is special and it’s because of our employees,” Nolan said. “Folks are so very committed to our patients, to their co-workers, to this community,” and Clark met that description. Mission Leader Shane Fitzgerald went on to say Clark embodies and lives the core values of reverence, integrity, compassion and excellence, which contributed to her being chosen.

KentuckyOne Health rolled the new recognition program out this year with each facility under KentuckyOne recognizing one employee. A criterion for the recognition included work ethic and how well rated the employee was on their annual performance evaluation, among other criteria. Clark would have been nominated for the recognition by a co-worker or administrator.

Clark, taking in the room, was short on words during the surprise reception, but many hospital leaders spoke well about her as an employee.

“The first thing that came to my mind was #Deserving,” said Maggie Smith, a supervisor with the Flaget Cancer Center, where Clark works. “Jill is a knowledgeable, skilled nurse. Someone I consider an expert in our field of oncology nursing and nursing in general.”

Smith described Clark as kind, caring, honest, straightforward and someone the staff could look to when improving patient care.

“Jill exudes compassion for each and every patient that walks into our clinic,” Smith said. “She truly cares for them as if they are her own family.”

The event not only recognized Clark in front of family and friends, but she also received a $500 check and a plaque will be placed in the hospital to honor her.

Building a career of compassion

When Jill Clark originally started thinking about her future, she was majoring in accounting, was 19 and newly married. After she became a mom, however, she started rethinking what she might want to do. Having such a great experience with the nurses who helped her deliver her children, she started looking at the medical field.

“I decided I thought I wanted to deliver babies,” she said, and she received her acceptance into nursing school the day she came home from the hospital with her second son.

She received an associate’s degree in Elizabethtown, and has been a nurse since 1986, spending many of those years with Flaget Memorial Hospital. While at Flaget, Clark has worked in several different departments, with the last five years being in oncology. She officially became certified in oncology this year, and the year prior, received her bachelor’s from McKendree University, where she was also inducted into the Nursing Honor Society.

While delivering babies had inspired Clark, she quickly moved into critical care instead, and for 16 years she worked in the hospital’s emergency department.

“No matter what area of nursing you go to, it’s a very flexible career to have,” she said. “You can do so many different jobs with a two-year degree that I don’t think other careers offer.”

But no matter what area of nursing she has worked in, Clark has learned one thing.

“You are always with people at their most vulnerable,” she said. “It’s a gift to be allowed into that experience.”