Beth Tharp started out at Community Hospital Anderson at the age of 13 as a candy striper.
After graduating from nursing school in 1980, Tharp (Anderson University AS ’80, MBA ’05) returned to Community where she has worked her way from third-shift nurse to vice president of patient care services and chief nursing officer.
When she first started at Community, Tharp looked up to her nursing supervisor and decided that was her dream job. More than three decades ago she never expected she’d be named Nurse of the Year out of more than 900 nominees from across the state.
“I was thrilled,” she said of the award. “It is such an honor.”
Across the state, nurses are nominated to The Indianapolis Star’s Salute to Nurses award program. Once nominated, a selection committee names one nurse to five different categories — advancement of nursing, community outreach, inspiration, lifetime of compassion, and educator of the year.
One of the five picked in those categories is then named nurse of the year. Community never had a winner before Tharp.
“Those that have had the opportunity to work with Beth can see her talent and dedication in action over and over again, as well as the strong results that she achieves year after year,” said Leah Campbell, Community’s director of marketing and community relations. “She is an exemplar of nursing leadership, fully committed to providing the best care and experience for our patients and employees. The award is a fitting testimony to Beth.”
Tharp has held several positions during her tenure at Community including director of women and children’s services. She helped that program grow and then later assumed responsibility for medical/surgical and intensive care.
“From there I have grown so much,” Tharp said. “I’ve had added responsibility and have helped create some things like the Clinical Research Center, the Advanced Wound Healing Center and Cancer Center. I love my job; the sky’s the limit. It’s a wonderful thing to be able to see a need and help fulfill it.”
Tharp stressed that much of what she’s been given credit for, especially with this award, wouldn’t have been possible without support from the hospital and her support staff.
“All I did was clear the path and stay out of the way so they could do it,” she said. “We are a team here. Nothing happens without all of us working together. I consider everybody in this hospital to be an unbelievably wonderful family.”
Tharp said she has several fond and memorable moments from throughout her 32-year career. But most important is the impact she felt she’s been able to make, both with her patients and in creating programming like the wound and research centers.
She recalled a night she was working as a bedside nurse spending hours with a family overnight after their loved one passed away under her care.
“Years later I ran into one of the family members and they came up to me and hugged me,” Tharp said. “It was really special. It makes you stop and think about the impact you can have on peoples’ lives without even knowing it.”
Nursing, she said, isn’t a job or even a career, it’s a calling.
“The wonderful part of my job now is that I have the opportunity to look at the big picture and have an impact on an even larger level,” Tharp said. “There have been points in my career where I’ve thought, ‘I wish I could be taking care of patients,’ because I really loved doing that. But I can have an even greater impact now.”
Keith Trent, Community vice president and chief foundation officer, said Tharp has accomplished much at Community.
“She has the respect of her staff, really of all the hospital’s staff,” he said. “She is well-liked and knowledgeable. While she would quickly give credit to others, most understand she is the one responsible for starting the Clinical Research Center and Center for Advanced Wound Healing. I believe neither would be here today without Beth and her determination to make those things happen.”
Tharp was also given the Advancement of Nursing award, fitting for her, Trent said as she is supportive of the nurses at the hospital and has created several opportunities for them to advance, achieve and do things they might not have otherwise been able to do.
Also nominated from Community for nurse of the year was Debra Maddy, Licensed Practical Nurse.
— Abbey Doyle is a reporter for The Herald Bulletin. Story reposted with permission. Photo credit: John P. Cleary/The Herald Bulletin.
Anderson University is a private Christian university of 2,600 undergraduate and graduate students in central Indiana. Anderson University continues to be recognized as one of America's top colleges by U.S. News and World Report, The Princeton Review, and Forbes. Established in 1917 by the Church of God, Anderson University offers more than 65 undergraduate majors and graduate programs in business, education, music, nursing, and theology.