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2010 Health Care Champion Honoree: Carol Thomas

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Carol Thomas had a backup plan in high school. She took every available high school secretarial course, just in case nursing didn’t work out.

As it turns out, Thomas needn’t have worried. She chose the path of nursing and has stayed with it for 38 years.

“Nursing has been really good to me,” says Thomas, a radiation oncology nurse at CoxHealth’s Hulston Cancer Center.

The Fair Grove native went to nursing school, graduating from what is now known as Cox College.
Thomas has worked in intensive care, pediatrics and same-day surgery, where she stayed for 27 years. In 2007, she switched to radiation oncology.

“Sometimes, you need a new stimulus and a change, and I just felt like it was something different,” Thomas says. “Both of my parents died of cancer, so I thought it would be interesting. There’s been a lot to learn, and the patients are so appreciative.”

The nursing field is more technical than it was when she started her career, Thomas says.

“As a new nurse, we did a lot of hands-on nursing,” she adds. “There are just so many drugs. Procedures have advanced. Technology has advanced.”

Rhonda Southard, Thomas’ nurse manager, says she picked up information easily when the two went through oncology certification .

“It seems like she was just a natural when she came into here,” Southard says. “She studied hard. … I’m glad she’s on my staff.”

Thomas is a member of the local chapter of the Oncology Nurse Society and attends seminars through CoxHealth. She’s also part of Hulston Cancer Center’s patient-first team and works to improve communication and patient care as a member of the multidisciplinary Hulston Cancer Center Education Committee.

“You don’t want patients walking in feeling like they’re in a cold, sterile environment,” she says, noting that such effort helps her to be a better nurse. “It gives you more insight into your patients and their needs.”

Even with nearly four decades of experience, learning and preparation are a lifelong commitment for Thomas.

“I think a nurse can make a difference in the life of every person you touch, but you can make a bigger difference with a wider knowledge base,” she says.

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