By Jana Carver

Vallery Johnson (Photo by Jana Carver)

It was a moment that anyone else might have panicked in, but Vallery Johnson, a graduate of Guilford Technical Community College’s nursing program, had trained for this.

Johnson had just become a licensed practical nurse (LPN) and was working in the medical surgical unit at a local hospital when she discovered that a patient’s chest tube had fallen out—a complication that can be life threatening if not corrected quickly.

“I wasn’t even on my side of the hall,” Johnson recalled.

It was purely by chance that Johnson was the one in the room when the tube fell out, but nursing instructors Aleta Harper and Jennifer Wallace had prepared her for this.

“Every week, Ms. Harper or Ms. Wallace said ‘If they lose a chest tube, you better cover that hole and scream bloody murder’ because unless you have the right supplies, you’re not going to be able to help that patient,” said Johnson, 51 of Siler City, N.C.

Johnson put this training into action in a matter of seconds, covering the hole with her gloved finger and calling for help, all while keeping the patient and herself calm. Johnson’s ability to remain in the moment and recall what she had learned enabled her to think quickly and save the patient’s life.

“I’m so glad I listened and remembered all those times they talked about chest tubes,” Johnson said. “I’m glad I could help.”

Helping people has always been something Johnson wanted to do. In fact, her innate desire to help others is what led her to go back to school.

“Since I was a little girl, I’ve always wanted to be a nurse,” she said.

But that dream was put on hold so that she could meet the needs of her family. It wasn’t until her children were grown, and she found herself in an unfulfilling job that she let that dream come back into view.

“I needed to do something different,” Johnson said. “I needed more.”

She enrolled at GTCC in fall 2015 and eventually decided to go into the GTCC practical nursing program, a diploma course that would give her the practice and experience needed to help her pass the licensing exam and become a professional nurse.

Johnson said choosing the practical nursing program was one of the best things she could have done because she received the encouragement and the training that helped her believe in her own abilities.

“The instructors at GTCC, especially the nursing instructors, you can tell that they’re passionate about their jobs,” she said. “They make a difference, and I don’t even know if they know that, but they do.”

Jennifer Wallace, a practical nursing instructor in the program, was one of the people who made a difference for Johnson.

“At my age, I have had a lot of instructors, and none of them have been as compassionate and willing to guide as Ms. Wallace and the other GTCC nursing instructors,” she said.

Wallace, who has been an instructor at GTCC for nearly 25 years, said that it was clear that Vallery was meant to be a nurse from day one.

“She is very passionate about her patients,” Wallace said. “In every clinic assignment she had while a student here, the patients’ needs were first and foremost.  She communicated their needs to her clinic instructors and staff nurses.”

Wallace said she and the rest of the nursing faculty at GTCC are proud of Johnson’s accomplishments.

“She never gave up, learned from her mistakes and was accountable for her actions,” Wallace said. “We all agree Vallery could take care of any one of us or our families.”


July 11, 2017