Caring is in all of us, and nurses truly embody that spirit. Independence Blue Cross received nearly 700 submissions for its Celebrate Caring campaign. We are honored to share the stories of our top 10 finalists, including Evelyn Cannon-Dingle, a nurse at Inspira Medical Center Vineland.
Learning the Value of Community
Evelyn Cannon-Dingle decided she was destined to become a nurse when she was in the second grade. She fondly recalls watching her mother — a nurse who cared for the whole neighborhood — get ready for work, “Every day I’d watch her get dressed in her white uniform — all nurses wore white back then. She would put on her nursing cap, and she would look so pretty, and I knew she was going to help people.”
The importance of community was instilled in Evelyn at an early age. Her mother and father were always hosting people at their home — friends, family, school teachers, and members of the church. “I just grew up loving people,” she recalls. “I knew I wanted to do more than just love them. I wanted to help them.”
Determined to Become a Nurse and Advocate for Patients
Evelyn began her career doing administrative work at Newcomb Hospital, which later became Inspira Medical Center Vineland. In an interview for a scholarship to nursing school through that job, she was asked what she would do if they didn’t give her the scholarship. She replied simply, “I will find a way to get there anyway.” They gave her the scholarship.
She’s been with what is now Inspira Medical Center Vineland for 37 years. She started in the post intensive care unit and moved to same-day surgery about 15 years ago. Her day-to-day schedule is focused on making sure patients have what they need to manage their care after they leave the hospital. First and foremost, she thinks of herself as a patient advocate.
“Recently, I noticed a doctor ordered crutches for a patient being discharged. The patient had a bad wrist. It didn’t seem like the right fit,” she said. Evelyn made some calls and faxed over a prescription for a walker. “It’s not just one person. I do what I have to do for all my patients. If I can’t do it, I call someone else. I love people. Period.”
A Champion of Health for Her Church Community
For Evelyn, practicing her faith also means being actively involved at church. She’s been a part of her church’s nursing ministry for years, helping members manage their chronic diseases and organizing preventive screenings.
One New Year’s Eve during mass, she saved a man’s life when he collapsed in the middle of service. In all her years as a nurse, Evelyn never had to use an automated external defibrillator (AED) before. But in seconds, she was performing CPR and delivering a shock to the man’s heart to stabilize him before emergency responders arrived. Without her quick decision-making, he wouldn’t have survived.
Evelyn also picked up on dangerous signs when a member of her church fell ill. When his voice started changing, he blamed it on allergies, but Evelyn knew something was not right. Soon, he was experiencing other symptoms like weight loss.
Evelyn took him to the doctor. When he received a serious diagnosis, she worked her schedule around his appointments. She and her husband drove him to church or wherever he needed to go until he regained his strength. He finished treatment earlier this year.
“I’ve been on the journey with him from the beginning. Any member of my church family can call, and I’ll show up at appointments with them. If they need support I go,” she said.
Continuing her Education and a Campaign for Nursing
Evelyn received her master’s at Wilmington University in 2008 and hopes to enroll in a doctoral program in the future. She’s passionate about “continuing the campaign of nursing,” with an emphasis on the importance of loving people.
“I can’t even begin to explain what a rewarding career nursing is when you have the right attitude, vision, and focus — when you can see yourself helping people. You need to love people to be a nurse.”
Evelyn credits her strength and dedication to the love and support of her family, including her husband Craig, sisters Emily, Anna, and Linda, their husbands and children. Evelyn also counts the team in Same Day Surgery at Inspira Medical Center Vineland and the community at Union Baptist Church in Bridgeton, NJ as family.