Judy Page dedicated 38 years of her life to serving those in need, and says her retirement Friday, Nov. 30, will not keep her from continuing that passion.
After a stroke two years ago and losing her home to a fire in July, Page said it was time to retire from her role as community health nurse for Presbyterian Hospital Matthews. She’s in the process of building a new house and continues rehabilitation to deal with short-term memory loss caused by the stroke.
“I prayed about it and just spiritually, I felt it was time to stop being full time,” she said.
However, Page, of Midland, said this week that her retirement doesn’t mean an end to her community service.
“I want to come back, maybe do CPR classes and things like that,” she said. “I’m not done. Thirty-eight years later, you never stop learning.”
For Page, nursing was a goal from an early age.
“A lot of people say that nursing is a calling, or that helping people is a calling and I do believe that to have a good outcome and to have a good career, it helps for that to be the case,” she said. “It certainly was that way with me.”
Her journey began at age 10 when her brother was hospitalized for several months.
“I was allowed to visit him a lot, as a very underage sister,” she said. “I was told I was good medicine for him, which I didn’t understand then, but do now. I saw how nurses and doctors interacted with him and I saw them save his life. So I saw the positive impact early on.
“I knew after that. He was in and out of the hospital for a couple of years and I was about 12 by the time they had him stabilized. After that, I never wanted to do anything else.”
Page began nursing in a time when close interaction with patients was encouraged.
“I started in a generation when we could sit and talk to the patient and hold their hand,” she said. “That, to me, helped mold me as more of a therapeutic nurse than nurses now can be. It was nursing at the bedside. We got to feel what it was like to meet the patients’ needs — needs that weren’t always connected to technology.”
Connecting with patients on a deeper level helped make Page into the nurse and health advocate she became known for, she said.
“There’s a quote I like, ‘Patients don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care,’” she said. “They don’t care how techy you are. They want to know that you care about them. Somehow in this busy society of healthcare, we need to build that back into our day-to-day interactions with patients.”
Since her start 38 years ago, Page said advances in medicine and prevention technologies, as well as technology improvements like electronic medical records, have really made a difference.
But technology, she said, can only go so far.
“We have the tools now to take care of sick folks,” she said. “But we are not reaching out to them at the physician office level or in the schools. I feel like we need to be more involved in our schools and churches, because that’s where we have a captive audience. We all need to try to stay healthy and live a long life with a group of friends and family to support each other. We’ll still have people in the hospital because there will always be genetic factors leading to illness, but the cost of healthcare has gotten so high that we really need to start earlier with healthier living.”
Page has worn many hats during her time in healthcare: working as a nurse, health educator in the Presbyterian nursing school and as a community health educator, as well as establishing programs at the nonprofit Levine Senior Center in Matthews for heart health, diabetes, arthritis, stroke, memory screenings and support groups, among other positions.
But for Page, the community work has been the most rewarding.
“I think our future in healthcare is going to revolve around community health and healthy living, each of us being accountable for our own wellbeing,” Page said. “Even I have started being more conscious of my diet and exercise and how I treat my body in the past two years since my stroke. You can’t change genetic makeup, but you can change how you react to things like stress.”
Educating the community, especially the younger members of the community, is important, Page said.
“I definitely hope that we can be a part of the school system,” she said. “We could interact with the schools and teachers to help their curriculum to include healthy lifestyle tips to get them started at an early age.”
Page is also passionate about the Congregational Health Ministry program Presbyterian Matthews has begun.
“People find refuge in their churches, so any church that would like to come to training, we teach them how to have a health committee within their church,” she said. “We teach things like how to take blood pressure and organize health fairs, how to minister to the congregation but also be that link to help them find health resources, since it can often be so intimidating. So we have the outreach program to try to help fill their spirit and meet their needs for creating a better world and help their congregation be healthier.”
Contributing to the health education of her community has been the highlight of Page’s career.
“Community health was my favorite,” she said. “I felt like I made the most difference when I could help people and could see the sparkle in their eye when I told them simple little things like, ‘There is too much salt in that.’ I feel that my guidance for other people is a strong point and I feel like I can help us develop a program for the schools and the churches that would be successful.”
Working with children in the churches has also been a favorite for Page, and one she hopes to continue.
“I love going into the churches and starting with the little kids,” she said. “Vacation Bible school is one of the best places to have a healthy lifestyle
component because you’re teaching them that your body is a temple. When you teach them at that level, they grow up healthier so there are lots of ways to do it.”
Working with the towns of Matthews and Mint Hill also has been a great experience, she said.
“I have always felt very supported by the leadership of Matthews and Mint Hill,” she said. “I have always known the mayors personally and the (town) councils have always been very supportive of all we do. I’m looking forward to the Mint Hill hospital so we can build it as a proactive hospital and I know the people of Mint Hill have been waiting for it for a long time. My prayer is just that when they get it, it will be so wonderful that they will not have minded the wait.”
Page said she’s eager to spend more time with her family, but knows the transition will be hard.
“It’s just leaving something that I knew so well to do something that I have not done,” she said.
Roland Bibeau, president of Presbyterian Hospital Matthews, said Page has been an inspiration for him and everyone she meets.
“Anyone in their life who has contributed so much to an organization and community, it’s always nice to see them recognized,” Bibeau said. “Sometimes people just retire and people wonder what they did and what’s going to happen to them.
She’s not going to go away quietly. She made a difference at Presbyterian Healthcare and in the community for many years. She certainly has made a mark on many nurses, nurses assistants and other staff.”
Roland echoed Page’s emphasis on her community-oriented career.
“The heart of her work certainly has been in her community relations and her ability to connect with every segment of the population,” Bibeau said. “She has this way of connecting with people. To spend a few minutes with Judy, you understand her passion for educating people to take care of themselves and create a wellness balance physically or mentally. She has this innate ability to connect with those around her and for those around her to feel better about themselves.”
Page’s departure will leave a large hole to fill, he said.
“I don’t want to say she can be replaced because they just don’t make them like Judy anymore,” Bibeau said.