Portrait of Etoile Patrick
Etoile Patrick is a registered nurse who coordinates care for adult dialysis patients at the Jackson Medical Mall.
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People of the U: Etoile Patrick

Published on Friday, March 13, 2020

By: Ruth Cummins

Registered nurse Etoile Patrick spends her days at the Jackson Medical Mall, coordinating care for more than 150 adult dialysis patients a week.

But it was the health crisis of a child – her now-grown daughter – that led the University of Mississippi Medical Center provider to switch careers after receiving her bachelor’s degree in psychology from Millsaps College.

She worked as an administrator for a small Christian school before moving with her husband to Birmingham. They’d barely gotten settled when their daughter Prisca was diagnosed as a 1-year-old with brain and spinal cord cancer. Patrick had been studying to become a marriage and family counselor, but her daughter’s illness put that on the back burner.

“She was at the Children’s Hospital there for three years, going through treatment and receiving chemo,” Patrick said. “When she was at home, they would come to the house and get her bloodwork. They were so concerned about her and took such good care of her.

“I thought, when my daughter gets over this, I’d love to have that type impact on someone’s life. I wanted to look into going into nursing,” Patrick said.

She returned to school when Prisca was in kindergarten and became a licensed practical nurse. When the family returned to Jackson, Patrick worked for a dialysis center – but she really wanted to care for children with cancer.

Patrick worked as an LPN, caring for children with cancer for Children’s of Mississippi, and enrolled in nursing school at Hinds Community College to become a registered nurse. “My daughter had the same kind of cancer as some of the kids on the (hospital) floor,” she said.

In March of her last semester, her teenaged son, John Michael, was killed by a drunk driver. Patrick said. She thought about quitting school, but didn’t, and in the aftermath, she needed a change at work. “I told my nurse manager that my heart was too tender,” Patrick said of working with very sick children.

She was invited to become part of the Medical Center’s kidney dialysis team and has worked both nights and days, sometimes in the Adult Kidney Unit on the main campus, and currently at the Jackson Medical Mall. And once again, she went back to school, earning her bachelor of science in nursing from the University of Mississippi School of Nursing.

Her husband’s cancer diagnosis almost derailed her. “I was at the hospital and my husband was having surgery. I called my advisor and said I’d have to withdraw,” Patrick remembered.

“And they said no. They told me to observe what was happening with him, to learn about his cancer, to learn about his options for after his diagnosis, and to learn about his follow up. They told me to write papers on it and to submit them.”

She went back to working nights and hit her textbooks hard. And although she wasn’t able to make the ceremony, she graduated.

Although Prisca’s school encouraged Patrick to put her into special education classes following her cancer treatment, Patrick refused.

It was the right decision for Prisca, who earned her master’s degree in public policy and finance and works for the city of Dallas as a financial analyst. Patrick’s youngest child, Nicholas, is a student at Jackson State University.

Today a shift supervisor, Patrick helps lead a very busy operation for those who must have frequent dialysis to survive. This month, she celebrates her 13th anniversary at the U.

She is passionate about caring for patients Monday through Saturday, and until 9:30 p.m. on Monday, Wednesday and Friday nights. “We’re open all holidays except for Christmas and New Year’s days,” she said.

“We make sure that we have good infection control and safe patient care,” she said of the day-to-day operations. “We have nurses and certified technicians. It’s a good crew.”

She has advice for those who keep running into life’s obstacles.

“You keep on going,” Patrick said.

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