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Nurse living, sharing her dream

“I had always wanted to be a nurse,” said Ann Pinner, attributing the desire to positive experiences with nurses when she was a young girl.

She grew up in Hampton and attended the University of Virginia for nursing, graduating in 1974. Soon after, she accepted a marriage proposal from John Pinner, a Suffolkian who worked at Planters. Her first job then, would be, naturally, at Louise Obici Memorial Hospital as a registered nurse. Her bachelor’s degree opened doors for her, including one to the Louise Obici School of Nursing.

She joined the teaching staff there in 1975, at just 23 years old. She would stay at the school, teaching novice nurses the fundamentals, for more than 20 years.

Cathy Allsbrook was a student in one of Pinner’s first classes. While the memory of many of her professors faded with time, Allsbrook said Pinner was an ideal first instructor, someone who made the classes fun, but also stressed the importance of hard work.

“I would never forget her,” Allsbrook said.

Pam Blythe was in Pinner’s last class at LOSN. Blythe remembers Pinner as nurturing, friendly and someone who was always an advocate for her students.

“I loved her.”

In 1996, Pinner’s husband transferred to a new job in Georgia, but she kept teaching. She worked first at Georgia Perimeter College, then another community college in the area. Her focus broadened during that time to include maternal child nursing and more; but her strength and her preference has always been nursing fundamentals.

“I love molding (students) and giving them that foundation,” she said.

In 2005, ater years in the big city, making long commutes, Pinner and her husband decided it was time to come home. She knew the Louise Obici School of Nursing had closed, but she also was aware that Paul D. Camp Community College had started at new program offering an associates degree in nursing.

“I knew I had something to bring to them, and I really wanted to contribute to the community,” Pinner said.

Dr. Candace Rogers had operated and taught the program at PDCCC the first year; Pinner came on in the second year.

“She walked into my door, and I just thanked God,” Rogers said. “She was just the most qualified person I’ve ever seen.”

PDCCC’s is a professional school of nursing geared toward educating students to become registered nurses, and it also offers allied health programs for nurse aides and phlebotomy. It provides an education service by training nurses who want to and can stay in their communities, Rogers said.

Both she and Pinner hope to see the program grow and enjoy the respect that the Louise Obici School of Nursing did.

Ryan Kirkland, of Franklin, is a first-year student in PDCCC’s program. He calls Pinner a “phenomenal educator” who extends the same courtesy and caring to her students that nurses are expected to give their patients.

“She’s an excellent role model,” he said.

Some of her other students confirm that her teaching style, while perhaps enriched by more years of experience, have not changed much from those early days at Obici. She still provides a fun, comforting learning environment, but one that encourages her students to take their work seriously.

“She has a teaching technique for everything possible,” said Stephanie Gray, of Boykins.

Pinner says she has at least another 10 years of teaching in her, and she has good reason to keep at it.

“I keep doing this because I’d want to wake up by someone I taught,” she said, as well as know that her family and friends will be cared for by competent nurses.

Having taught about 700 students through the years, it shouldn’t be too hard to guarantee that.

At this point, Pinner’s career has brought her back to her roots.

“It’s a very exciting place to be. I really feel like I’ve come full circle,” she said.

As assistant professor in the PDCCC program, Pinner spends much of her week at Obici in clinicals with her new students. She has found, whenever she rounds a new corner, a familiar face, a surprised voice shouting, “Mrs. Pinner, it’s been so long!”

The newer students don’t miss a beat: “Mrs, Pinner, you’ve taught everybody,” they tell her.

Around here, it’s very nearly true. Pinner admits when she first started working the halls of Obici with her new students, she walked around in tears seeing all that her former ones have accomplished.

“They really are the experts now.”

Indeed, Allsbrook, for example, is the staff development educator at Obici, and Blythe is a clinical nursing instructor and skills lab coordinator with PDCCC.

It all just makes Pinner swell with pride, and, perhaps, awe.

“There are two groups of people that have humbled me in my life: one is my patients and the other is my students.”

ashley.taylor@suffolknewsherald.com