Family and Friends Work Life

AdventHealth Embraces a Culture of Family

Nurse Sandy Barton with her daughter Sarah Durden

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It’s not unusual to hear a company’s employee say something along the lines of, “My coworkers are like family.” But in the case of AdventHealth, that sentiment takes on a more literal meaning. That’s because coworkers aren’t just like family in many cases — they actually are family.

Among AdventHealth’s three Georgia market hospitals — AdventHealth Murray, AdventHealth Gordon and AdventHealth Redmond — you’ll find multiple instances of family members working together within the same facilities.

It’s an embodiment of a deeper philosophy, an extension of AdventHealth’s approach to whole-person care that applies to the well-being of its own team members. The belief is that structuring a work environment around a family-centered culture leads to happier team members, leading to a higher quality of patient care.

Say hello to some of the families of AdventHealth.

Family Taking Care of Family

Annette Peden and Nurse Mary Peden Bray
Annette Peden and Mary Peden Bray, RN

Annette Peden is a true outlier these days. She started her career at Murray Medical Center, now AdventHealth Murray, in 1976 and recently kicked off her 48th year at the hospital. It’s also worth noting that she was born at the original Murray Medical Center facility.

“I tell everyone my goal is to see a new hospital built here so I can retire there and bring everything full circle,” she said.

Peden’s career began in her high school’s vocational office training program, which entailed spending a half-day at school and the other half in an actual work environment. At the start of her senior year, she took a job as a file clerk in the hospital’s medical records department. When she graduated school in June, she continued as a full-time employee.

In the ensuing 50 years, Peden has filled several different roles, transitioning into administration in 1995. Today, she works in medical staff credentialing, processing the applications of newly hired providers.

“This has been a good job, very fulfilling,” she added.

“Because it’s a small hospital, it’s been like family. Everybody knows everyone else. We’ve all raised our families here. Our kids grew up together. It’s family taking care of family.” —Annette Peden

In Peden’s case, that rings especially true, considering that her daughter, Mary Peden Bray, RN, works works the overnight shift at AdventHealth Murray as a medical-surgical nurse. Bray, who says she had wanted to be a nurse since the age of 10, started as a licensed practical nurse in 2019 and became a registered nurse in 2021. She earned a Bachelor of Science degree in nursing in 2022 while working full-time at the hospital.

“I believe it’s what the Lord called me to do,” she said. “I’m grateful that He placed me in a family that’s involved in health care. It’s almost been a family tradition to start a career at this hospital.”

Mandy Bartley and Lynn Herring
Mandy Bartley and Lynn Herring, MSN, FNP-C

For example, Bray’s sister Laura worked in registration and as a pharmacy tech at AdventHealth Murray before stepping away to become a full-time mother. Two other family members — aunt Lynn Herring and cousin Mandy Bartley — were also at AdventHealth Murray before shifting into different roles at AdventHealth Gordon.

“Seeing my mom’s longevity at her job told me right away that this was a great place to work,” Bray said. “And I’ve always looked up to my aunt for inspiration. If I become half the nurse she is, I feel like I’ll be doing pretty good.”

Lynn Herring, MSN, FNP-C, currently works as a nurse practitioner at AdventHealth Medical Group Urology at Calhoun, a position she’s held on a full-time basis for the past year. From 2017 to 2020, she served as a hospitalist at AdventHealth Murray.

“We had moved to Alaska for a while, but in 2017, my sister [Annette Peden] told me they were looking for a nurse practitioner at the hospital, so I came home,” said Herring, who had first considered a career in accounting before realizing nursing was a better fit.

“I like working for AdventHealth because of their Christ-centered care. That means everything to me, and I enjoy praying with patients.” —Lynn Herring, MSN, FNP-C

Herring notes that although she and her family members all work for AdventHealth, each person chose a distinctive path.

“Everyone was drawn to health care, but we’re different in the way we act and the fields we went into,” she said. “Annette started it all, and the rest of us followed suit.”

Mandy Bartley — Annette’s and Lynn’s niece and Mary’s cousin — started as a nurse at AdventHealth Murray in 2017, working in the operating room until transferring to AdventHealth Gordon in 2020. Now serving as a first surgical assistant, Bartley’s role includes taking over the OR room after the surgeon leaves the room — managing blood control, suturing patients and bandaging, to name a few of her duties.

She says her grandfather’s passing from a heart attack prompted her to seek out a career where she could help people before their health situations became too severe. The fact that her aunt Lynn was a nurse served as further inspiration.

“She works with one of the surgeons I work with,” Bartley said. “Those of us in surgery are a close-knit family as it is, so having my actual family there is really cool. I know I have someone there to talk to when I have a bad day.”

Growing Into a Leader

AdventHealth Gordon is more than just a facility where patients can go to receive treatment and care; it’s also a conduit through which health care resources extend into the community at large.

It’s in that capacity that registered nurse Sandy Barton, MSN, RN, serves the people of Gordon County. Specifically, she works as the lead school nurse for the county’s school district, overseeing the deployment of nurses to each of the ten schools within the system.

“I’m a liaison between the school system and the hospital, making sure that all the nurses are knowledgeable and that everyone is following best practices,” said Barton, who has worked at AdventHealth Gordon for 30 years.

Nurse Sandy Barton with her daughter Nurse Sarah Durden
Sandy Barton, MSN, RN, and Sarah Durden, BSN, RN

Her nursing career began 43 years ago, and during that span, she has covered a variety of departments in her field, including trauma, intensive care, education and emergency. Following the passing of her husband two years ago, Barton decided to change things up and stepped into her current role in school nursing.

She also gets to share a workplace with her daughter, Sarah Durden, BSN, RN, who is the assistant director of inpatient nursing for both AdventHealth Gordon and AdventHealth Murray.

“We don’t see each other much during the workday, but we usually have a debriefing session every day, discussing what happened, batting ideas around, looking for solutions on our own time,” Barton said, noting that she and her daughter live next door to each other.

Durden has worked two stints at AdventHealth Gordon. The first was from 2007 to 2011, during which time she worked as a patient-care tech in the emergency room while also attending school at Georgia College and State University in Milledgeville. She graduated in 2009 and continued at AdventHealth Gordon as a nurse on the medical-surgical floor.

After moving to Cumming, Georgia, with her husband, Durden returned to Gordon County in 2016 and began working at the hospital as a manager in medical-surgical nursing. She stepped into her current role about a year ago, helping to oversee the medical-surgical units at the two facilities. As an assistant director, she wears multiple hats, including department management, scheduling, quality control and budgeting.

“I miss my mom being in the building as much as she was before,” Durden said. “She was always someone I could run ideas by, and she’s always been my biggest fan and prayer warrior.”

She noted that nursing wasn’t her original career choice. Her first inclination was to become an educator, but after taking her parents’ advice and working at a local summer camp program, she had a change of heart.

“I realized I love kids, but that teaching wasn’t what I wanted to do,” Durden recalled.

“The more I watched my mom, the more I saw all the different things she did. I remember the influence she had on people and how much people respected her. So that’s where I ended up, too.” —Sarah Durden, BSN, RN

In turn, Barton has had a front-row seat in being able to watch her daughter’s career grow.

“I used to do leadership exercises with new nurses, so it was a pleasure to watch her mature in a leadership role and to see how she has developed her skill sets,” Barton noted. “And our experience with AdventHealth has been nothing but positive. There have always been opportunities here for her, and my being here hasn’t held her back in any way.”

My Greatest Accomplishment

There’s an old adage about following in a parent’s footsteps. It usually means that a child has chosen to pursue the same profession as their mother or father. In Debbie Ashley, LPN's, case, however, it was the other way around. After her daughter, Brandy Purdy, RN, graduated from nursing school, Brandy encouraged her mother to enter the same career field.

“She said, ‘Mama, you need to go to school to be a nurse. I didn’t think I could do it, but here I am.” —Debbie Ashley, LPN

Ashley has worked at AdventHealth Redmond for the past 18 years, having previously focused on raising her children. She had worked for a uniform distribution company and then earned her GED before entering nursing school.

Chloe Purdy, Luke Purdy, Riley Purdy, RN, Brandy Purdy, and Debbie Ashley
Chloe Purdy, Luke Purdy, Riley Purdy, RN, Brandy Purdy, RN, and Debbie Ashley, LPN

“I like taking care of patients and knowing I’m making a difference,” she said. “I like making their day a little brighter and helping them feel better.”

When chatting with Purdy, the love and respect she has for her mother is evident.

“My mom is the best mom,” she said. “It was tough for her because she had a family, and when she went back to school, she was in her forties. She had kids and grandkids while trying to go to school.”

There is no doubt that Purdy provided some inspiration for her mother. She has been working at AdventHealth Redmond as a progressive care unit nurse — on the same floor, no less — for 25 years.

“I’m one of the older nurses on my floor, and I enjoy being a mentor to the younger ones,” Purdy said. “I’m more of a charge nurse now, making patient assignments and being there to help everyone when they’re in a bind.”

Purdy was pregnant with twin boys when she started working at AdventHealth Redmond, and those sons, Luke Purdy and Riley Purdy, RN, also happen to work at the same hospital. Purdy’s daughter, Chloe (Luke and Riley’s younger sister), just started nursing school at Georgia Highlands College and has worked at AdventHealth Redmond as a patient care tech for the past year and a half.

“I’m so proud of my kids,” Purdy said. “They’re my greatest accomplishment. My boys work on the same floor I do but in different units. That’s awesome for me as a parent. I get a lot of compliments because they’re good, kind-hearted and caring kids.”

Luke has been working as an occupational therapist for the past year and a half, having initially considered nursing as his medical niche. He has been at AdventHealth Redmond for the past four months, working in acute care, primarily with older patients, to help them regain their independence in the aftermath of illness or injury.

He notes that working closely with so many family members has its benefits.

“We’re a tight-knit group,” Luke said, adding that he crosses paths with his mother and brother on a daily basis. “Some people say they’d never want to work with their family, but I think of it as a blessing.”

Luke’s twin brother, Riley, has worked as a nurse in AdventHealth Redmond’s intensive care unit for more than two years. He considers his service in health care a calling but says that both his mother and grandmother working at the hospital definitely had an impact on his decision to become a nurse.

“Everybody jokes with us about all of us working together, but we are 100 percent blessed with a great family,” Riley said. “And being at the same place makes it even better.”

Chloe has two more years of nursing school ahead of her and says her goal is to work in a pediatrics unit. Lately, she has been working night shifts at AdventHealth Redmond to accommodate her schoolwork.

“I always wanted to be a nurse,” she said. “I’ve seen how my mom and brothers help others, and I think nursing is a great opportunity.” —Chloe Purdy

Working as a tech has given Chloe valuable experience, learning from the nurses on the floor and acclimating her to working in a hospital setting. Naturally, having four other family members in the same line of work at the same facility has also had its advantages.

“It’s nice to know there’s someone you can go to for help who you feel comfortable with,” she said. “And if I have a bad day, my family knows what I’ve been through.”

You Can Make a Difference

Debbie Ashley, LPN, (the family matriarch featured in the previous section) has more than one family connection at her hospital. Her son-in-law, Daniel Smith, is a captain with AdventHealth Redmond’s emergency medical services. A licensed paramedic, Smith has been working out of the hospital’s EMS station for the past 11 years, having previously served with the fire department in Gordon County, beginning in 2007.

“When I got my paramedic license, I had the opportunity to come back home and work in my community with the people I knew and grew up with,” Smith said. “That was a draw for me.”

He works an unorthodox schedule, spending every third 24-hour period on call at the station and then getting 48 hours off. Sometimes, however, an overtime situation or staffing issue may arise, resulting in a 48-hour shift.

While there is no such thing as a typical day in the EMS world, Smith says he may respond to anywhere from a handful to as many as a dozen or more calls in a 24-hour span. When he’s not in the field, there’s plenty to do in and outside the station, from cleaning to performing vehicle maintenance to attending community events.

“I love being able to help someone when they need it the most. You have to be on your game because you can make a difference in a patient’s outcome. In health care, you have to have a different mentality: A good day is when you can use your skills and knowledge.” —Daniel Smith

Karen Smith and her son Daniel Smith
Karen Smith and Daniel Smith

Smith added that he does see his mother-in-law, Debbie, from time to time during the course of a workday, most likely when he’s transporting a patient to her floor. In addition, he gets to work in close proximity to his mother, Karen Smith. She has been working in human resources at AdventHealth Redmond for the past two years, onboarding new employees and assisting them with any issues they may have during the hiring process, whether it’s explaining benefits or setting up direct deposits.

Prior to HR, Karen was a staff accountant at AdventHealth Redmond for 30 years, beginning in 1992.

“I was ready to do something different,” she said. “I thoroughly enjoy it. I get to interact with every new employee, and I like getting to meet them and know them. When I worked in accounting, we were in a building separate from the hospital, but in HR, I pretty much see everybody, including the current employees.”

Karen says she gets a feeling of accomplishment from being able to assist an employee, old or new, with an HR issue. And even though she’s not helping in a strictly medical sense, she is still addressing problems that are important to each person with whom she interacts.

“This has been a great place to work through the years, and it still is. Everybody here is like family, and I enjoy that family atmosphere with my coworkers.” —Karen Smith

Daniel has also been pleased with the culture since AdventHealth acquired Redmond Regional Medical Center in 2021.

“I feel like they’re very family-oriented, more than other companies I’ve worked for,” he said. “They make more of a conscious effort to care about you and your family’s wellbeing. I felt that from the very beginning.”

Treating Our Patients Like Family

In emergency medical situations, time is of the essence. Whether it’s administering urgent care en route to the nearest medical center or treating serious illnesses and injuries in the emergency room itself, it’s vital that care teams respond quickly.

Doug Douthitt and his daughter Nurse Bailli Lents
Doug Douthitt, EMTP, EMHP, and Bailli Lents, RN

Few people understand that dynamic as well as Doug Douthitt, EMTP, EMHP, and Bailli Lents, RN, both of whom work at AdventHealth Murray in emergency medical services and the emergency department, respectively. They also happen to be father and daughter.

Their family roots run deep at the hospital. Douthitt, who has worked for AdventHealth Murray since 1986, met his wife, Vickie, there. She worked as a registered nurse in the emergency department before working at AdventHealth Gordon.

“It was a natural flow for Bailli, with both her parents coming from the medical field,” said Douthitt, who worked at the local fire department before becoming an emergency medical technician and then training to become a paramedic. He has been director of EMS services at AdventHealth Murray since May 2023, previously serving as deputy director.

“Initially, I was in fire services, but I found the medical part of it interesting,” Douthitt said. “It’s exciting, getting to help the community. Taking care of my community and the people I know has more meaning than if I were from outside it. I’m more invested because I know everyone here, and the care I provide is a direct reflection on me.”

Lents’s first experience at AdventHealth Murray came while she was still in nursing school at Dalton State College. She worked as a nurse technician beginning in 2017, and after graduation in 2018, she continued as a registered nurse in the emergency department.

“I originally wanted to be a veterinarian, but while I was in school, I was drawn to nursing. Plus, my mom and dad were both in the medical field,” Lents said. “At first, I thought about working in labor and delivery, but I gained a lot of skills as a nurse tech in the ED, and I also liked the action of the emergency room.”

One of the aspects of the job she enjoys most is that there’s no set agenda or schedule for the day.

“You can see any race, gender, age or complaint,” she added. “It’s a very spontaneous job, and I love that you never know what the day will bring.”

Although Lents works in the main hospital and her father’s office is in a separate location, the two cross paths most days.

“He’ll come by the hospital daily and make his rounds,” Lents said. “He’s in management now, but there have been times when we have both provided direct care for the same patient. He has actually helped out in code situations in the ER.”

Douthitt has seen the hospital undergo changes in his 35-plus years there, but he has been pleased with the influence that AdventHealth has had since taking over operations in 2015 and then officially purchasing the hospital in 2020.

“I think the community is better off than it has been in the past because of their support,” Douthitt said.

“AdventHealth is super engaged in the community, and they promote a family atmosphere more than most health care organizations. They encourage you to have that family and work-life balance for the wellbeing of the employee. And in turn, we treat our patients like family instead of customers.” —Doug Douthitt, EMTP, EMHP

The Heart to Help

Nurses Chrystal Moore and Cheryl Canty
Chrystal Moore, BSN, RN, and Cheryl Canty, MSN, RN

One might say that Chrystal Moore, BSN, RN, and Cheryl Canty, MSN, RN, go way back. Their fathers were brothers, and both women grew up living less than a mile from each other. So, it may come as no surprise to learn that these two cousins not only chose nursing as a career, but they also work at the same hospital — AdventHealth Gordon.

Moore is in the cardiology department, working primarily in the catheterization lab. She started out as a respiratory therapist after attending college at Valdosta State University but later transitioned into nursing after graduating from Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College in Tifton, Georgia.

“When I was a little girl, my grandmother was a volunteer at the hospital, and when I was older, my summer job was volunteering there as a candy striper,” Moore recalled. “When I graduated from high school, the medical field was on my mind.”

She’s been at AdventHealth Gordon for the past 12 years, spending the last 10 in the cath lab as a registered nurse. Before that, she gained experience working at multiple hospitals and in different departments, including medical-surgical and emergency.

“I always had the heart to help people and educate them about how the heart works and what kind of diet they should eat,” Moore said. “I take that into my home life. I try to live right for my family and encourage them to live a healthy lifestyle.”

She says her colleagues at AdventHealth Gordon are like family, carrying out a shared mission to keep their patients safe and happy.

“I just love them. I don’t see myself doing anything else,” Moore said.

Canty is the manager of the intensive care unit (ICU), overseeing tasks such as staffing, employee evaluations, budgeting, compliance, safety and addressing both patient and visitor concerns.

A registered nurse for nearly 22 years, Canty has been in her current role since 2012. She transferred to AdventHealth Gordon in 2014, having previously worked at a facility in the Atlanta area.

“I always wanted to do something in health care. At first, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be a physician or a nurse, but this was my calling.” —Cheryl Canty, MSN, RN

Canty says being in a leadership role gives her the opportunity to interact with patients and their families. At other hospitals where she’s worked outside the AdventHealth system, patients and employees didn’t always have that direct connection with management.

“This is a family-oriented environment, so I get to know the staff on a more personal level and develop working relationships with them,” Canty said. “I like doing what we call ‘lead arounds,’ where I check in on patients and their families daily, addressing their concerns and providing care that goes beyond the hands-on part. I like it because it doesn’t completely pull me away from the reasons why I got into nursing in the first place.”

Moore shares her cousin’s assessment of AdventHealth’s leadership culture as a whole.

“At AdventHealth Gordon, the CEO and the CNO know who you are. You can feel the warmth and the love here.” —Chrystal Moore, BSN, RN

Canty also appreciates AdventHealth’s faith-based approach to health care, which allows her to practice her faith at her workplace.

“That’s unheard of these days,” she said. “That takes my relationship with my staff to another level. If they know I’m strong in my faith and upholding our mission, then they won’t hesitate to come to me when they’re in need.”

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