When she graduated from nursing school, Mary Gullatte's uncle reminded her of a letter she had written in the third grade saying she wanted to be a nurse when she grew up.
Now, almost 30 years later, her childhood dreams have not only come true, but she has been awarded one of the state's top nursing honors - the Georgia Nursing Association's 2004 Nurse of the Year.
Gullatte, a 26 year employee of Emory University Hospital, has served in various roles from staff nurse to various management positions. She is currently the director of nursing for patient oncology and transplant services for Emory Hospitals and the Winship Cancer Institute, and has served on the boards of the American Cancer Society and the National Oncology Nursing Society. She has served as a volunteer through countless organizations, such as the American Red Cross, American Heart Association and the Georgia Special Olympics.
During her career at Emory, she has completed her master's of nursing degree and her credential as advanced practice nurse practitioner from Emory's Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing and has been able to balance graduate school, work, home and motherhood. She is currently pursuing doctoral studies in cancer nursing research, supported in part by a National Cancer Institute training grant at the University of Utah School of Nursing
Gullatte was nominated for the award by Emory Healthcare's Chief Nursing Officer, Dr. Alice Vautier. Vautier sited Gullatte's many contributions to the nursing profession, including her promotion of the image of nursing, impact on local, regional, national and international nursing and healthcare, mentoring, and advocating for access to affordable, safe patient care.
"Mary is a consummate professional who has a way of inspiring others to act and brings out the best in their professional achievement," says Vautier. "She is a tireless worker as she strives to make a difference in the profession for patients and nurses and within the communities she serves."
Gullatte knew she wanted to work with oncology patients soon after her first encounter with healthcare. She began her career while in the Air Force, volunteering at a female surgery and pediatric ward at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida. "Many female surgeries were cancer related - that was my first encounter with oncology," she recalls.
From then on, she knew oncology was her calling, a calling that would allow her to work closely with her patients and their families. "A draw for most oncology nurses is the close relationships with our patients. Since most of our patients are repeaters, you get to know them and their families. You become an extended member of their family, but you are the one with the knowledge to help them through the unknown. You are meeting patient care needs outside of technical and medical treatments, you are there for them emotionally, spiritually and socially.
Gullatte states that oncology nurses go the extra mile to be there for her patients, from arranging weddings on patient floors to setting up reunions between parents and children. "We do whatever it takes. Healing is more than physical," she says. "We are here to help them make memories for their families and friends. Many people fear they won't be remembered. We can make suggestions on how to create memories - we encourage patients to write poems, journals, take photos. We give them permission to think about the future and put their thoughts and feelings on paper."