A Commendable Career

by Apr 16, 2024People, South Brunswick

Upon retiring from Novant Health Brunswick Medical Center, Gaye Taylor reflects on her 56-year career in nursing.

Gaye Taylor relaxes in the cafeteria at Novant Health Brunswick Medical Center in Bolivia and talks of taking a Viking cruise and visiting Amsterdam. The Oak Island resident has not decided what other activities will occupy her future years because for the past 56 she’s been a nurse, 22 of them at Novant. She loved her job but chose to retire on January 7, the day after her 78th birthday.

“My brain still works, but my body is tired,” she says.

Taylor served in a variety of units and positions throughout her career, from clinical head nurse to intensive care unit nurse to operating room supervisor.

“I liked every job I did,” she says.

Rob Stumbo, nurse manager of the critical care unit, was Taylor’s supervisor when she retired.

“She was someone you can rely on, and she wasn’t one to complain,” Stumbo says. “She’s an incredible resource, especially for the younger nurses. The amount of influence she’s had on cultivating new nurses is extraordinary. She shares her knowledge so easily with others.”

What Taylor values most in her job is seeing people heal.

“I like helping people get better,” she says. “You don’t always win, but sometimes you can help them and their families get through the hard times.”

Taylor’s calm demeanor reflects the way she responded to medical emergencies.

“You can’t lose it during a crisis, especially if you are a team leader,” she says. “If you stay calm, the whole crew stays calm.”

As an example, one time when Taylor was working alongside a surgeon in the operating room, her sharp eye noticed a patient’s tissue that appeared blue instead of pink. She immediately brought it to the team’s attention, and the physician took action. “That surgeon used to say, ‘If Gaye says something, you’d better pay attention,’” she says.

Despite all the diseases and illnesses Taylor has seen, COVID was the worst.

“People couldn’t breathe,” she says. “You reassured them and told them hopefully things will get better.”

Taylor recounts that her mother was an English teacher and her father a Presbyterian minister. He took Taylor and her twin, Galen, to hospitals when he visited members of his congregation, and she was fascinated by nurses.

“I knew I wanted to be a nurse,” Taylor says.

Novant Nurse Gaye Taylor

Galen entered a program in clinical psychology at Columbia University in New York but died when he was 24 from a blood clot after breaking his ankle. Taylor’s sister Peggy Yates, who turned 93 on February 1, was a medical technologist. Her brother John and sister Mary have passed away.

Taylor received her training at Watts Hospital in Durham. During the last of the three-year program, her instructor gave her a male patient who had a kidney ailment.

“You shouldn’t have given me a guy that’s young and reasonably healthy,” she said. Roger Taylor took the advice of the man in the bed next to him and asked for Taylor’s phone number. He and Taylor married two days after she received her nursing diploma.

Roger grew up in California but came east and earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in English from East Carolina University in Greenville. One summer he received a Fullbright Scholarship to study Dante in Italian at University of Perugia in Italy.

Newly married, the couple lived in Greenville, where Roger taught English at Beaufort Community College, and Taylor was a surgical nurse at Pitt County Memorial Hospital. Her second year as a nurse, she was nominated for Pitt County Nurse of the Year.

Young Gaye Taylor Nurse

“I didn’t get it, but just to be nominated…” she says. She was clinical head nurse and operating room supervisor for four of the nine years the couple lived in Greenville. The Taylors moved to Transylvania, North Carolina, with their son, Patrick, and daughter, Jackie, when Roger accepted a position at Brevard College. Taylor then practiced at Transylvania Regional Hospital. Two years later Roger got his dream job at Western Wyoming Community College in Rock Springs.

“We moved in the summer, and we saw green grass, but it was snowing,” Taylor says. “I wondered, ‘What has my husband brought me to?’” Taylor worked at Memorial Hospital of Sweetwater County in Wyoming, and says, “The jobs we got in Wyoming were a blessing. In two years we both doubled our salaries.”

The family enjoyed hiking and boating at Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area, Grand Teton National Park and Ashley National Forest in Utah. Taylor spent her free time sewing her children’s clothes, making jewelry and doing cross stitch. “Cleaning the house was a chore I never could accomplish,” she says.

Taylor stayed in Wyoming for two more years after Roger passed away from Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 1999. “I moved back because I was going to be left alone out in the cold, cold wild west,” she says with good humor.

She accepted a job at Brunswick Community Hospital, now Novant Health Brunswick Medical Center, and says over the years technology has changed her job.

Instead of writing reports, nurses put data into computers and cannot spend as much time with patients. An advantage of technology, she says, is telehealth where doctors and nurses consult with patients.

Gaye Taylor Retired Nurse Novant NC

“I’ve enjoyed my career,” Taylor says. “I think I’m going to miss it a lot because I’ve always enjoyed what I did.”

Her greatest career accomplishment, she says, is “working 56 years.”

Photography by Matt McGraw