HH's Nurse of the Year strives to make the ER experience better for patients, families

Each May during  National Nurses Week, Huntsville Hospital surprises one extra-special caregiver with its Nurse of the Year Award.

This year’s honoree is Eileen Jenkins, RN, BSN, a pillar of the Emergency Department staff since 1994 who currently doubles as pod leader and member of the hospital’s elite red scrub-wearing Trauma Team. 2024 HH Nurse of Year Eileen Jenkins With Leaders PS

Despite being born outside Chicago, Eileen seemed pre-destined to become a nurse at Huntsville Hospital. Her father’s career brought the family to the Rocket City in 1972; their new neighbor happened to be a hospital educator. She took a liking to Eileen and suggested the youngster might make a wonderful caregiver someday.

Intrigued, Eileen joined Huntsville Hospital’s “candy striper” volunteer program for teens and then job shadowed at the hospital in 1979, her senior year at Grissom High.

She was hooked.

After enrolling in nursing school at Calhoun Community College, Eileen got her first paying job as a nurse tech and moved into HH’s women’s dormitory on Franklin Street (where the TOC building now stands). The dorm mother, Anne King, had all the attributes of the very best nurses and became Eileen’s mentor.

Eileen earned her nursing associate's degree from Calhoun and went on to complete a bachelor's in nursing from the University of Alabama in Huntsville. After starting her career at Humana Hospital (now HH for Women & Children), she eventually found her home in the ER – one of the most challenging places to work in any hospital, but also one of the most rewarding.

Thirty years later, she has the same hunger for helping people that attracted her to nursing as a teenager.

“I just try to make the experience a little better for my patients and their families,” Eileen says. “I really believe there’s a star quality in everybody – even patients having their worst day.”