SEBRING - For Sharmin Jones, nursing and health care gave her direction in life as a young girl and became the core of who she is now. Her grandmother inspired her to make a difference in the lives of others, and that's exactly what she has set out to do.
A 2003 graduate of South Florida State College's licensed practical nurse to registered nursing program, Jones provides care to a community that is considered rural and underserved. In her capacity as director of nursing at The Palms in Sebring since 2003, Jones strives to maintain a collaborative work environment by improving nursing services and management. She looks at financial strategies, oversees accreditation compliances and protects patient's information. Previously, she worked for Highlands Regional Hospital and the Kenilworth Care and Rehabilitation Center.
"As a nursing student, Sharmin embraced every challenge with an exemplary degree of professionalism and compassion," said Dr. Michelle Heston, SFSC director of nursing education. "It is no surprise that she is now a nursing leader in our community, continuing to influence patient care in a truly positive and caring manner. We are proud to call Sharmin one of our graduates."
As a single parent in college, Jones struggled to make time for school, work and her family. It was a constant battle knowing how to survive from day to day. But the light at the end of the tunnel kept her moving forward. She knew that if she succeeded in college, job opportunities would arise when she finished.
"It was hard finding time to study and spend time with my family since I was working double shifts on the weekend and attending college full-time," Jones said. "I had to overcome obstacles and struggles to finish my education. Without my family's support system, I wouldn't be where I am today."
Jones entered the nursing program at SFSC to expand her ability to make a difference. A family member's illness and regular hospitalization during her schooling gave Jones a chance to observe nurses at work and recognize their autonomy and specialized disciplinary knowledge.
Jones' grandmother inspired her to become a nurse and dedicate her life to caring for people.
"My grandmother passed away while I was in college, and it was one of the hardest things I had to overcome in my life," she said. "I want to inspire and take care of people like she did."
"My experience at SFSC was like no other, beginning with our first lecture," she said. "Not many nursing programs can say that their staff knows each student by name and genuinely cares about them as individuals. Because of the college's location and the partnerships SFSC's Nursing Education Department has formed with local hospitals and offices, I had amazing real-world experiences."
SFSC provided her with a solid education that was financially and conveniently close to home. "The faculty in the Allied Health Department were excellent and prepared me well to advance to the next level of my career," Jones said.
Jones feels that faculty and classmate support were essential to her college experience. She has been inspired by many, including Heston, Helen Shoemaker and retired SFSC nursing professor Dolores Champion.
Attending college at SFSC turned out to be the best experience for Jones. "The small classes allowed instructors to spend more one-on-one time with me and develop relationships that still exist today," she said. "Instructors never just gave us the answer. They provided in-depth reasoning as to why it was the answer and how."
"Sharmin was always a respectful person to her peers, the faculty and patients," said Shoemaker, a professor of nursing. "She was a remarkable class president and team player and always made herself available to help her peers. Her confidence radiated."
"It is great to have an impact on clinical care and to continue to improve the experience for both staff and patients," Jones said. "But the job is challenging - the average director of nursing leaves after two years."
"Currently, it is very rewarding to bring my relationship with SFSC in full circle by working with faculty and students again in a new role," Jones said. "Students are able to have hands-on clinical experience at The Palms just like I did as a student. The students are bright, eager and want to learn. It is satisfying to see them grow and develop professionally."
Moving forward, Jones will continue following in the footsteps of her grandmother, incorporating her desire and passion to serve and improve access to quality health care for seniors. Her ultimate goal is to return to college and earn her master's degree in anesthetics or forensic nursing. Jones' work with The Palms has demonstrated that even a small group of innovative, dedicated individuals can make a significant impact on health care for the elderly.
"I am lucky to have a career that I enjoy; one that allows me to meet people from various backgrounds and to frequently make a difference in their lives," Jones said. "Just to know I saved a life or made someone's experience worthwhile means the world to me."