Building together

“It was my home away from home… I spent half my life there.”

~Volunteer Carol Carter

Carol and Joni look through a scrapbook together from their nursing careers at Samaritan.

Volunteering Helped Retired Nurse Stay Connected to Her Passion

In 1999 Carol Carter retired from nursing. During her 37‑year career at Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center it is estimated that she cared for 35,000 newborns and changed more than 1 million diapers.

However, six months into retirement Carter found herself frequenting the hospital’s Center for Women & Families, this time as a volunteer.

She spent parts of the next 16 years with her “family” in the center racking up an impressive 2,328 recorded volunteer hours and countless more diaper changes.

“That is a lot of hours and a lot of years of commitment,” said Luanne Barnes, director of Volunteer Services at Good Sam. “She loved that area so much during her career. She knew so many of the volunteers because she worked directly with them in the nursery.”

Colorful pictures of her career at Samaritan fill Carol's scrapbook.

With Carter’s knowledge of the unit, she mentored many of the volunteers coming through the center. Carter taught them the normal routine of checking in with the nursing team, rounding on patients, helping restock supplies and, on occasion, comforting or changing the diaper of a newborn.

“It was my home away from home, literally,” said Carter. “I spent half my life there, it seemed.”

Carter attributes her decision to pursue a nursing career to a neighbor and well-known Good Sam nurse, Mida Harvey.

“She told me about nursing and what a wonderful job it was,” said Carter. From there, Carter became a member of the nursing education program at Corvallis High School and was even featured in the newspaper taking care of a simulated patient in 1958 in a classroom created to look like a hospital room.

Carol caring for an infant early in her career.

She started nursing full time in 1962 after graduating from the University of Oregon Nursing School, which later became Oregon Health & Science University. However, Carter points out that she started her college career at Oregon State University before transferring to the nursing school in Portland and still roots for the Beavers.

Her starting pay for the night shift was $2.25 per hour and nearly 13 years later, the year she was preparing to move to the new hospital facility, her pay more than doubled to $5.03 per hour.

“I worked in the medical surgical unit at nights for my first two and a half years,” said Carter. “Working nights was a challenge because back then it was me as the RN and one aide to take care of the 25‑patient floor.”

“Carol is the definition of dedication with her career and coming back to volunteer and having such a high level of commitment.”

~Luanne Barnes, Director of Volunteer Services at Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center

Carol and a fellow colleague care for babies in the maternity ward of Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center.

After that she began working in labor and delivery. The old hospital’s nursery was one long room. There were 5‑foot‑tall oxygen tanks chained to the walls, she recalled. Sick babies were placed in large incubators called Armstrong warmers. Technology over the years have made those units less cumbersome with increased efficiencies.

At that time treatments and techniques weren’t as advanced in Corvallis as at larger hospitals. This all changed when the administration selected Carter and another nurse to undergo a week-long training in Portland at OHSU where the most critically ill babies from across the state were transferred to for care.

“We learned about new equipment and new procedures,” said Carter. “Upon returning, we implemented several things including IV pumps. Looking back, the pumps looked funny, but then they were new. The training changed a lot of our practices.”

Many of those time‑tested practices are still used to this day.

Carol watering her garden.

By 1967, Carter and her husband had established a home in Linn County just across the river from Corvallis. Behind her ranch‑style house she cultivated her second passion of gardening. The Carters established their family, raising a son and daughter, at the half‑acre site.

The 83‑year‑old still waters her vegetables, prunes her roses and picks her fresh strawberries for breakfast almost daily during the spring and summer.

Both of Carter’s children were born at Good Sam. So were her grandchildren and great grandchildren. Carter also became a patient at Good Sam 13 years after the birth of her son.

“Her comforting presence is an intangible that exemplifies Samaritan’s values.”

~Luanne Barnes

Carol out in her garden reflecting on her 37 years at Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center.

One Saturday morning she woke up with chest pain.

“I felt this elephant on my chest,” said Carter. “No pain, just pressure.”

She was 38 and having a heart attack. Her son called 911.

“By the time the medics got here, they couldn’t get a blood pressure reading,” said Carter. Carter recalls the ambulance ride to Good Sam, including the medical transport shifting gears to climb the hill to the Emergency Department.

“I didn’t remember much about the first three days,” Carter said. “I remember my first bath and how grateful I was to get a bath and a shampoo.”

The heart attack prompted her to become a CPR instructor. She started leading CPR classes at the hospital giving lessons to staff, the public and new parents. These classes were a mainstay at the hospital until her retirement.

Carol with a group of close knit co-workers.

Now, every Friday, Carter and a group of five other retired nurses gather for a few hours to reminisce over a few glasses of wine. This has been going on for more than 35 years, long before the nurses retired.

“We’d get off at 3:30 or 4 and run just down the hill,” Carter said. “Sometimes the doctors would come and join us, or our husbands.”

“It was a social thing,” said Carter. “It was both psychological and physical healing.” 

Carter decided to retire from volunteering after the birth of her second great grandchild who she would care for. Now she enjoys gardening, travel and time with her family.

When thinking about Carter, Barnes said, “Carol is the definition of dedication with her career and coming back to volunteer and having such a high level of commitment to the Center for Women & Families and nursing. Her love of babies and helping them with that first start into the world, supporting the parents, teaching, just providing that reassuring and really comforting presence is an intangible that exemplifies Samaritan’s values.”

Volunteer With Samaritan 

Volunteers play a vital role in the day-to-day operations at Samaritan Health Services. They are the warm, welcoming faces visitors look forward to seeing and provide important support to doctors, nurses and staff. There are a variety of opportunities available in both clinical and non-clinical settings, seven days a week. You’ll receive thorough training for your area of interest.

Find Local Volunteer Opportunities

Learn about volunteer opportunities at each location and download an application packet.

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