Kelly Aiken, who serves as Lead School Health Nurse for the Dare County Department of Health & Human Services’ Public Health Division, has been named Dare County Employee of the Month for December 2022. The award was presented to Aiken by Dare County Department of Health & Human Services Public Health Nurse Supervisor Jodi Wyant during the Dare County Board of Commissioners meeting that was held at 9 a.m. on Monday, December 5, 2022.
Aiken began working for the Dare County Department of Health & Human Services’ Public Health Division on August 13, 2018, when she was hired as a Public Health Nurse II to serve as the school nurse for Cape Hatteras Secondary School. She was promoted to the position of Lead School Health Nurse on January 24, 2022, and transferred to Cape Hatteras Elementary School in August 2022.
As she began her presentation at Monday’s meeting, Wyant provided a bit of background information on Aiken and how she came to be a Dare County resident and employee.
“Kelly graduated from East Carolina University with a Bachelor of Science in nursing in 2011,” said Wyant. “While at ECU, she was swept off her feet by a charming Hatteras Island local boy, and they were later married. Kelly worked in hospitals in both North Carolina and Florida where she gained extensive pediatric experience. As happens with a lot of Dare County locals, roots run deep, and Kelly and her husband moved back to Hatteras Island several years ago. And this is my favorite part: I was able to hire Kelly as the Cape Hatteras Secondary School nurse in 2018.”
According to Wyant, since Kelly was initially hired in 2018, she has managed to establish herself as an integral part of the school health and public health teams, transitioning from pediatric in-patient nursing to a new role in a community setting with students in grades 6 through 12.
“As any of us with teenagers know, this is a unique time in a student’s life and requires a lot of everything,” said Wyant. “She managed to handle everything that came her way with intelligence and a striking intuition.”
In 2020, Aiken became one of the first public health nurses in Dare County to take on the role of COVID-19 contact tracer, helping to shape the early community interactions during the pandemic. During the 2021-2022 school year, Aiken accepted the role of lead school nurse for Dare County and became the first to serve in this newly created position.
“She immediately began proving herself to be the correct choice for the role, eagerly seeking out leadership opportunities and offering to help with distribution of responsibilities,” said Wyant. “Her coworkers say that she is always available with an answer and a smile.”
Wyant also highlighted the fact that Aiken has stepped up to the plate to cover more than just her own daily duties as lead school nurse, frequently pitching in to assist whenever and wherever she is needed.
“Our team had a bit of a hurdle with several open positions starting this 2022 school year, so this amazing team of nurses that I have has been deftly covering multiple schools for months,” said Wyant. “Kelly has taken on the bulk of the responsibility for covering both schools in Hatteras while we send nurses down to help rotate coverage. And, just when you think that’s enough, Kelly moved from the secondary school to the elementary school and had to learn a whole new age-appropriate level of care. We have recently hired a new nurse for Cape Hatteras Secondary School and hope to finally allow Kelly to settle into her new-new role as the Cape Hatteras Elementary School nurse.”
In addition to Wyant, several of Aiken’s colleagues that work closely with her on a daily basis also submitted Employee of the Month nomination forms recommending her for the prestigious honor.
“Kelly Aiken is well-deserving of Employee of the Month,” wrote Christina Pasko, who serves as the school health nurse for Kitty Hawk Elementary School. “She has embraced her new role as school nurse lead, readily stepping up to the plate to assist with providing support to the school nurse team. Due to staffing shortages, Kelly has also been tasked with covering two schools, a daunting job that would have a lesser nurse running for the hills. However, Kelly has handled it all with aplomb. She is always ready with an answer and a smile. She is a dedicated and integral part of both her schools and the school nurse team. lt is an honor and a pleasure to work with Kelly Aiken.”
Kelly Sutton, who serves as Public Health Nurse II for the Dare County Department of Health & Human Services’ Public Health Division, wrote the following in her nomination form: “Kelly had to manage two schools, two sets of administrators and two different populations of students, as well as be available to the school nurses for any questions, concerns or situations. Kelly also made time to travel to Manteo many times to attend meetings and interviews at the health department. Kelly took on two schools and a leadership role and performed her duties flawlessly. Dare County—especially Dare County students—are lucky to have her.”
A third nominator, Anna Miller, who works as the school nurse at First Flight Elementary School, echoed her colleagues’ sentiments about Aiken, writing the following in her Employee of the Month nomination form: “Kelly is a huge asset to our team. She brings so much knowledge and compassion, especially fulfilling her dual roles. She serves as both a school nurse covering both Hatteras schools and in her new role as lead school nurse. She has taken on this dual role with enthusiasm, positive energy and attentiveness to all of the students’ needs in both schools and our school health team that she serves. She is always available and willing to help with questions, and I can always count on her to bring an answer with a smile and confidence. She is very deserving of this award! Thank you for all that you do, Kelly. We appreciate you!”
As she concluded her December 2022 Employee of the Month presentation and presented Aiken her award, Wyant commented, “In all of this—changing career focus, navigating a pandemic, taking on a newly created position, providing coverage for a vacant position and shifting to a new age group—Kelly has never once complained. Not once. She’s phenomenal: a gifted nurse, an intelligent leader, a competent employee and a dedicated teammate. She’s very deserving of the Employee of the Month award.”
For more information about the Dare County Department of Health & Human Services, click here.