"The patients always touch your heart."
Dixie began her career as a nurse later in life. She joined UPMC Western Maryland after working on the railroad for over 15 years.
In her railroad days, she was also a caregiver for her aunt and father as they battled serious health conditions.
“After they passed, I just really missed being involved in their care and taking care of them," she says. "So, I decided to switch careers and look into applying to nursing school."
Dixie says she earned her nursing degree because she "wanted to show my kids that you could do anything you put your mind to, no matter how old you are."
She believes empathy is one of the most important qualities for a nurse. She still remembers the experience of caring for her aunt and father. Those memories help to shape the care Dixie provides as a nurse.
"I still see my aunt and my dad laying in that bed, and I still feel like a family member that's going through that," she says. "I still advocate. I still try to remember what it was like to be the family or the patient."
Sometimes, that means going above and beyond in care. Dixie remembers a patient from her earliest days as a nurse who was in pain and wasn't eating. She learned he liked chocolate cake with peanut butter icing, so she baked him one. She brought another patient pie from the cafeteria after learning that was their favorite treat.
"(I can change lives) just by being there for the patients and trying to make the best of their stay," she says. "(I can) keep them informed and be there, listen to them, offer them resources. Whatever I can do to help them."
When the pandemic began, Dixie's unit became the COVID-19 unit at the hospital. That meant caring for sick patients and also being there for them when visitors weren't allowed in the hospital.
Again, Dixie went above and beyond. She volunteered to take on extra shifts when needed. And she offered her own phone so patients could talk or FaceTime with their loved ones.
“It's busy, but it's worth it," she says of her job. "I enjoyed being a railroader, but I truly love being a nurse and working here. Everyone I've worked with is helpful. The patients always touch your heart."
At UPMC, Life Changing Medicine means compassionate, empathetic care.
Stories like this one have helped UPMC earn local, national, and global honors over the years. See how our commitment to Life Changing Medicine continues to receive recognition.
Your health information, right at your fingertips. Select MyUPMC to access your UPMC health information. For patients of UPMC-affiliated doctors in Central Pa, select UPMC Central Pa Portal. Patients of UPMC Cole should select the UPMC Cole Connect Patient Portal.