Local nurse practitioner wins national award

By Frank Lewis

October 11, 2013

Frank Lewis

PDT Staff Writer

The night before Portsmouth Nurse Practitioner Gail Miller received word that she was one of only three people nationally to receive a 2013 Natioanal Association of Nurse Practioners in Women’s Health Inspiration Award, she was going over her devotionals.

“It was kind of funny because it said - ‘Aspire to inspire before you expire,’” Miller said. “The executive director called me and told me I was to receive the award and I told her about it. She kind of laughed. So when I got the award, I said a few words, and I said, ‘but I’d like to change that. I’d like to say - ‘Aspire to inspire before you retire,’ since I haven’t done that yet.”

Miller says she is not even looking in the direction of retirement.

When Miller first became a Nurse Practitioner in Portsmouth it was not accepted by 100 percent of the medical community. Fast forward to today, and she sits in her office at Compass Community Health with her coveted award, presented by Teva, a company that makes women’s health products.

“Every year they have a conference that fluctuates from the east to the west coast, and this one was on the west coast,” Miller said. “They give something called the Inspiration Award. I had a couple of people from here who sent in letters of support. It’s an award about how I have inspired them.”

One of the people who nominated Miller, told her story through her nomination letter.

“My relationship to the nominee can be classified as personal and professional. I met Gail in 2009. With no prior relationship, I sought Gail’s professional guidance as to how to approach the Ohio Board of Nursing regarding my lapsed licensure and personal struggle with addiction,” The nurse wrote. “Without hesitation she offered her time and knowledge which ultimately led to me obtaining my RN license back and proceeding to complete my BSN.”

The other person who nominated her for the award was her daughter, who worked alongside her in the office of Dr. George Pettit for 10 years.

“They called me, told me I had won, and I went out to California,” Miller said. “The award was that they paid my way for the registration for the conference, and my airfare, and then a stipend. It’s a real privilege. It’s a real honor. This is a group that all they do is worry about women’s health.”

Miller recalls when she finally went back to work after having four children, she was employed at a hospital in Fairfax, Va., before going to work in an ob-gyn office. She moved to Marysville, Ohio, where she became head nurse at the obstetrics unit for five years. She eventually moved to Mansfield, Ohio, where she went to work for Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood started the Nurse Practitioner program in the 1970s, so she was able to go to a training school in Milwaukee, Wis., without having to pay tuition. She returned, and did a preceptorship with one of the nurse practitioners.

“Then I moved to Portsmouth, Ohio in 1982, which is the year I got certified,” Miller said. “So I have been certified for 31 years now. And this is the only place I’ve worked.”

Miller said making the move to becoming a nurse practitioner was a life-changer for her.

“It has been great,” Miller said. “I have to chuckle sometimes because I started out at the Portsmouth City Health Department. They had a very small grant ($13,000) for women’s health, and John Oliver was Health Commissioner, and he contacted me, and he said he had applied for this grant, and would I be interested in working as a nurse practitioner. I could use the existing staff that was at the Health Department. But I had to run the clinic by myself. That was kind of interesting. I was the telephone operator, and the one who worried about who got billed, and I also saw the patients.”

They were eventually able to hire another nurse from Pediatrics at SOMC, Joanne Wright, who took some of the load off of her. They were also able to scrape together the money for her to go to Nurse Practitioner school.

Miller says the patients she works with now through The Counseling Center, a part of Compass Community Health, are quite different from those she has worked with in the past, but she is inspired by them because of the challenges they face.

Miller tears up when she speaks of the award and how it has vindicated her decision to become a nurse practitioner.

“It makes me feel that maybe all I’ve done in the past years has been worth it,” Miller said. “This (award) makes it all seem good. And I loved it. I still do. This aspect at Compass is so different from what I have been doing all of my career. Here it’s the whole patient. It’s the whole client. And everybody has problems. That’s why they’re here. That’s why they come. Hopefully I’ve been able to help some of them. It is trying to fill voids in their lives that these women haven’t had.”

Frank Lewis may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 252, or at flewis@civitasmedia.com. For breaking news, follow Frank on Twitter @FrankLewisPDT.