Paula Harris graduated in May of 1979 from the Mattie Herseee School of Nursing in Meridian Mississippi. After graduation, Paula began her career as a registered nurse at Winston Medical Center, on June 4, 1979. During her first years at Winston Medical Center, Paula worked all shifts and areas of the hospital, to include medical/surgical floor and emergency room. Winston Medical Center housed the ambulance service for Winston County, which consisted of basic EMT trucks. On many occasions, a registered nurse would be required to ride with the EMT on an ambulance for 911 calls, and for the transfer of a patient to a higher level of care. Paula did a lot of traveling with the ambulance service during her early years.
After working a couple of years at WMC, Paula accepted the position as 11-7 shift supervisor. In 1998, she rose to the position of Emergency Room supervisor. With this position, she set forth the preparation for Winston Medical Center to become a part of the Mississippi Trauma Center. She collaborated with other hospitals in our district andassisted with getting the protocols and pathways for Winston Medical Center in place. Dr. Jack Sariego, with Newton Regional Hospital, was instrumental in providing Paula with the policies and protocols needed to accomplish this goal for Winston Medical Center.
In 1999, Winston Medical Center was inspected for trauma designation. The policies were reviewed at that time, and we were designated a level IV trauma center, with Dr. Michael Henry being the trauma director. In 2012, with our then CEO Lee McCall, we were changed to Central MS Trauma Region.
On April 28, 2014, an F4 tornado caused destruction and death in our county, with Winston Medical Center being in the direct path. Once the tornado struck our facility, our emergency room was destroyed, but our staff worked diligently to care for patients injured by it. In the days after the tornado, a mobile ER suite and hospital were brought into Winston County. These consisted of “MASH” tents that were present for approximately eleven months. It was cold in the winter and hot in the summer. When it rained, our nurses and staff were seen sporting their rain boots. Oncold winter days, staff would be bundled in their coats and sitting on heaters, and during the summer it was miserably hot. I am sure Paula has a lot of stories she could tell after having survived working eleven months managing an emergency room out of a tent. It was not the best of working conditions, but the best of the situation was made. Continuous efforts were made to use our resources to provide the best care for our patients.
Paula has been a key factor in Winston Medical Center’s Emergency Operations Plan as an advocate for improvement in the community emergency preparedness and assuring quality patient care. During Paula’s tenure at Winston Medical Center, for 44 years, she has worked in six different emergency room settings. She has had to initiate, improvise, innovate, and motivate plans for the emergency department. She gives God the glory for Winston Medical Center’s new emergency department that was completed in 2018. Over the past twenty-four years, she has seen much growth in the trauma program. Paula will be retiring this October, and her prayer is that the next trauma program manager will share her love and passion for the trauma system.