Three win Nightingale Awards

November 21, 1996


Staff Writer

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Alma Cullers knew she wanted to be a nurse at age 9, when her father had a heart attack and spent six weeks in the hospital.

"When he came home it was like the decision was made. That was going to be my life choice," said the Chambersburg woman.

Cullers' father encouraged her to stick with nursing, even through some pretty rough times.

Unfortunately, he wasn't alive to see Cullers earn the greatest award of her career - a Nightingale Award.

Of six nurses in Pennsylvania who received the prestigious award this year, three work at Chambersburg Hospital.

Nurses Tammy Maclay and Lydia Wittman were also recognized at a banquet in Hershey, Pa., last month.

The hospital has had other Nightingales, but never more than one a year, said hospital spokeswoman Sheran White.

"These people have really made a difference," White said. "They weren't nominated just because somebody liked them. They're impacting people's lives."


In the last three years, Cullers has established a new intravenous technique at the hospital.

The new IVs can be used for up to a year to give patients food or medicine through their veins.

That saves patients, especially those who are terminally ill, from having to be stuck with needles continually.

Wittman, the program director and nurse manager for behavioral health services at the hospital, also broke new ground for the hospital.

She developed the hospital's mental health treatment program in 1984, after getting her master's degree in nursing at the University of Maryland.

More recently, she started a partial-hospitalization program in the hospital's behavioral health wing.

"Whatever they learn here during the day, they can apply at home," said Wittman, of Chambersburg.

Wittman didn't realize she wanted to specialize in behavioral nursing until she got her first on-the-job experience.

When a 6-year-old boy was hospitalized with meningitis, Wittman found herself drawn to his emotionally distraught mother.

That's when she knew she was interested in healing the mind instead of the body.

Maclay, of Shippensburg, Pa., works in the hospital's fast-paced critical care and emergency care units as a clinical specialist.

"I just love it. I can't think of anything else I'd rather be doing," said Maclay, who studied nursing at York College of Pennsylvania after graduating from Chambersburg High School, teaches life support techniques to ambulance volunteers in the community.

She got her master's degree at the University of Maryland in 1989.

"There are so many good nurses out there. It was an honor just to be a finalist," she said.

For Cullers, the award was the culmination of a 27-year nursing career.

Early in her career, the night before her wedding, her father had his second heart attack.

"I felt so inadequate because there was a lot of things about heart disease that I didn't know," she said.

Later, while working in intensive care, a critically injured patient turned out to be her brother.

"That almost put an end to my career," she said.

But her father convinced her to stick with it and in the end, the experiences made her a more compassionate nurse, she said.

As she walked up to get her Nightingale Award, Cullers could imagine her father next to her. He would be saying, "Keep it in perspective," she said.

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