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Managing the unexpected

Chances are you’ve met Regina Watson if you’ve ever visited the emergency room at D.W. McMillan Hospital — or you’ve at least been touched by her work as manager of the department.
Watson, who has been managing nurses at McMillan since 1993, now manages operations in the emergency room — a place where every day is unlike any other.
“Every day is different in the emergency room,” Watson said. “We never know what the day will hold when we arrive here at the hospital.”
As daily changes are common on the job, Watson said other changes within the operations of the healthcare facility are a constant on the job.
Recently the hospital switched to paperless bookkeeping — a change Watson said will create changes in the care of the patients at the hospital.
“Our department has a bit longer before the change is complete,” Watson said. “We have until January to change completely to the paperless system.”
With 17 people on staff in the emergency room — four secretaries and 13 nurses — Watson’s job is hectic with day-to-day and changes in the hospital.
Plans are already in place that will continue to change some aspects of D.W. McMillan. Those changes will take several years to evolve into a new, more efficient emergency room.
“We will have some new equipment,” Watson said. “We won’t have all new equipment but some of what we have will be updated. We also plan on having a new parking area across the street from the current emergency room.”
The hectic life Watson lives daily on the job, has her in a spot that was never a part of her life while growing up.
Watson was born into a large family of children — one she says was short on money but big on love. Good grades in school wasn’t high on the list for Watson’s parents but something she learned was important later in her life.
“I didn’t really try very hard in school,” she said. I never had too high of grades on any of my school subjects, just enough to get by. I was an alternate cheerleader and Miss Sophomore and graduated from high school in 1975. I got a job at Dairy Queen when it was owned by Ray and Joann Baggett.”
Watson also gave college a try at Jefferson Davis Community College, but dropped out the first week into the second semester.
“I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life,” she said. “I came to the hospital in 1979 when Betty Lowery was the superintendent of nurses. She hired me to be a nurse’s assistant. I was paid less than I was making at Dairy Queen, but I was ready to take a job that had a real future.”
While working as an assistant for the nursing staff Watson found she really enjoyed the job and loved being able to help others who needed nursing care.
Watson graduated from Reid State in 1982 while she continued her job at D.W, McMillan Hospital. Hoping to earn a better salary, Watson decided to pursue a nursing degree and went back to Jefferson Davis Community College where she graduated as a registered nurse in 1986.
“I never had applied myself in school, but I made good grades graduating at the top of my class,” Watson said. “I moved into the position of relief supervisor on the medical-surgery hall doing a variety of jobs. I liked what I was doing, but I really wanted to get into the ER. I talked to Linda Burkett, who was the ER manager, and was able to return 1993 when I was promoted to nurse manager.”
Although her education was adequate for the job, Watson always longed to continue to improve her performance and abilities.
“I still wanted to do better, so I went back to school,” Watson said. “I earned my bachelor’s degree from Auburn University at Montgomery in 2005. I also got my minister’s license in 2005, and became the associate minister at Second Saint Siloam Baptist Church.”
Watson was married in 1975 and has one son, Sammy Jackson Jr., from that marriage. She has been married to Joe Watson since 2000 and they are raising Joe’s niece, Rosa. The addition of five grandchildren make the family complete.
Watson’s dedication to her job and to the people she manages has proven to be beneficial for those around her.
Sheila Bondurant — who has worked with Watson for 23 years in the ER — said Watson is more than a manager for those she oversees.
“Regina loves what she is doing,” Bondurant said. “She is easily motivated and helps us, and even works for us sometimes. It’s a joy to work here and I have learned a lot from her. She manages her office and works on the floor. She finds time for us if we need her.”
Watson said she is not ready for retirement. Looking ahead to the future she said she knows she will continue to serve the community, working and helping friends and neighbors.