Healthcare heroes: Local woman answers calling as nurse practitioner
Mary Virginia Halbrooks does not know what first made her interested in pursuing a career as a nurse, but she knows it has always been her dream. Now a nurse practitioner, Halbrooks said she is living out her calling every day.
Halbrooks has been working in the healthcare field since she graduated from the University of Alabama in Huntsville in 2011. With the COVID-19 pandemic, she said she is continuing to go to work every day for the same reason she first wanted to be a nurse: to help people.
“Healthcare workers are needed – they are always needed – but I think there is a sense of being needed more than ever right now,” she said. “When you hear stories of healthcare workers getting sick, you know there are dangers that come along with going into work every day. I think it’s hard to explain. I just feel like I am supposed to be there and supposed to be helping people during this time.”
Halbrooks said this time of intense medical need “is what I was made for. This time that we are going through is kind of what we as nurses went through school for, and that’s what we worked for – to help people during times they are most vulnerable.”
As nurse practitioner at Family Health in Hartselle, Halbrooks and her coworkers are on the front lines of tackling the pandemic. Despite this, she said she doesn’t feel like a hero; she feels like she is doing what she was always meant to do.
“I think I would speak for any healthcare worker: We don’t feel like heroes, we just feel like this is our job, and this is what we do,” Halbrooks said.
Family Health in Hartselle is one of the places testing for the COVID-19 virus, and Halbrooks said there have been some changes to how the office operates.
In addition to more frequent cleaning, the staff have begun wearing personal protective equipment with patients who are unwell. Patients exhibiting symptoms of the virus are admitted to a separate area of the office, and Family Health has also shifted to seeing well patients in the morning and sick patients in the afternoon.
Halbooks said the shift has been made possible by generous donations from area schools and businesses that have helped them supply PPE and extra cleaning supplies. The office hopes to continue to accept donations as the pandemic continues.
“We are rationing them so that we aren’t flying through all this PPE,” Halbrooks said. “We are trying to be careful and protect ourselves at the same time. We probably would have been in trouble if we had not received these donations from different organizations.”
In her career as a healthcare worker, Halbrooks has worked at a variety of places. Upon her 2011 graduation as a nurse, she worked briefly at Hartselle Hospital before it shut down, then moved to the women and children’s unit at Decatur-Morgan Hospital.
Having gotten a taste of working with pediatrics, Halbrooks spent five years working in the Huntsville Hospital for Women and Children. During her time there she began going back to school part time to become a nurse practitioner and was hired on at Family Health in Hartselle following her graduation in 2018.
Throughout her varied career, Halbrooks said she has had many moments that have shown her she is where she needs to be. What first came to mind was her time working with pediatric patients.
“When you just get the gratitude of a parent that you took care of their sick child, it gives you that kind of sense ‘I am right where I am meant to be,’” she said. “God has me doing exactly what He wants me to. I honestly couldn’t see me doing anything else besides being a nurse.
“Even though I am a nurse practitioner now, I still definitely consider myself a nurse. I feel like I am a nurse at heart,” she added. “There is only a certain amount of people that can be nurses and truly love what they are doing. It is somewhat of a calling. I definitely think I have been reassured of that throughout my career.”