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DECATUR — When the Herald & Review asked in February for readers to nominate their favorite nurses, Justin Norris thought of his aunt. 

Norris, currently a nursing student, often looks for help and advice from Samantha Vogel, whom he describes as a role model. “I saw what she did and it inspired me to help others,” he said. 

Vogel, now a facilities nurse supervisor for the Illinois Department of Public Health, also previously worked as an emergency-room nurse for 15 years. She was among 10 Decatur-area nurses recognized for their work in the profession during a special luncheon Thursday at the Decatur Club.

The newspaper sought community nominations in February, “and wow, did we get a great response,” said Michelle Pazar, Herald & Review publisher. A panel of judges selected the final winners from 95 nominees. The newspaper published a special section with the nurses' biographies on May 12, marking the conclusion of National Nurses Week, which was created by the American Nurses Association to recognize the country's four million registered nurses. 

In addition to Vogel, honorees included:

  • Decatur Memorial Hospital's Morgan Ashby
  • Richland Community College's Shelly Baldwin
  • Allison Beyers at Cancer Care Specialists
  • Sabre Bratcher at Fair Havens Christian Village
  • Karen Carlson at HSHS Mount Zion's Medical Group Family Medicine
  • Decatur Manor Healthcare's LiaShawn Cunningham
  • Retired nurse Sandra Friesner
  • District School nurse Shelia Lanker
  • Ronald Sia from HSHS St. Mary's Hospital nurse
  • Samantha Vogel with the Illinois Department of Public Health

The selection ranged from those new in the profession to retired nurses. They work in physicians offices, clinics, nursing homes, operating rooms, schools and battlefields.

Nearly 400 votes were cast for Lanker, the People’s Choice winner. “You’ve got a big fan club,” Pazar told her.

Lanker has worked as a nurse for 18 years at area school districts and 14 summers at 4-H camp. “There’s kids all year round,” she said. “But this is an unexpected honor.”

The remaining nine recipients were chosen by judges Carol Carlton, director of clinical nursing services at Macon County Health Department; Ellen Colbeck, dean of health professions at Richland Community College; and Ebonie Wright, nurse and doctorate of nursing practice student at the University of Illinois, Chicago.

Herald & Review Regional Marketing Director Jonell Kehias said the judges were chosen because they are well-known in the profession. “And just like we wanted a variety of nurses, we wanted a variety of judges,” she said.

The judges acknowledged the process of selecting honorees was difficult. “Everyone had great stories,” Wright said. “You could tell everyone had such passion for their work.”

Each judge searched through the submissions looking for something that highlighted their individual work. “I looked for a variety, seeing what else they had done, to see what they cared about the most,” Carlton said.

“They were all very deserving,” Colbeck said.

Nominations were submitted by spouses, parents, doctors and other nurses.

As one of the honorees, Sia said hopes the opportunity to honor local nurses continues in the future. He is a registered nurse working the second shift at HSHS St. Mary’s Hospital.

“This pushes them to really do their best,” he said.

Guest speaker for the luncheon was Tara Peasley, director of emergency services at HSHS St. Mary’s Hospital.

“Nursing is a demanding profession and has more skills and challenges than ever before,” she said. “You do more than most people can imagine, and your impact is enormous.”

The list of a nurse’s daily responsibilities varies each day and with each patient, she said. They work with infants, children, teens, adults, elderly and the dying.

“We work in hospitals, schools, prisons, nursing homes and clinics,” Peasley said. “We are everywhere because we care.”

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Contact Donnette Beckett at (217) 421-6983. Follow her on Twitter: @donnettebHR

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"Together Decatur" Columnist and Food and Drink Reporter

“Together Decatur” columnist and food and drink reporter for Lee Enterprises Central Illinois.

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