Barbie Harter, CNA, CMA
2005 National Winner (Healthcare Professioal Category)
Grace Living Center, Bethany, OK
“ I find taking care of the elderly exciting and fun. We need young adults to continue to fight for the rights of the elderly and for nursing home reform, to ensure that no patient must endure abuse or neglect, and to help insist that their staff be the best for their patients. I pray that someone will fight for me when I have no voice.”
Barbie Harter, CNA, CMA

Despite her professional achievements, Barbie Harter measures her success in life by the personal impact she makes on other people – whether she’s befriending a senior citizen or protecting a disabled person.

For going the extra mile, Harter has received the prestigious Cherokee Inspired Comfort Award, one of only 14 people honored nationwide in 2005. The award is granted annually by Cherokee Uniforms – a leading designer and manufacturer of healthcare apparel – to recognize nurses and other non-physician healthcare professionals who demonstrate exceptional service, sacrifice and innovation and have a positive impact on others’ lives.

“Barbie Harter is the kind of healthcare professional that everyone respects. She leads by shining example, as her patients’ protector, advocate and friend,” said Wendell Mobley, who directs the national award for Cherokee. “She represents the heart and soul of healthcare professionals, and we are delighted to honor her with this award.”

As a National Winner in the award’s Non-Physician Healthcare Professional category, Harter receives an all-expense-paid trip to a 2006 U.S. medical conference of her choice, an annual membership to a clinical organization, a wardrobe featuring the best of Cherokee Uniforms and Rockers Footwear worth more than $1,000, a 2005 Cherokee Inspired Comfort Award trophy and placement in Cherokee’s 2006 Inspired Comfort Award calendar.

Harter is a certified nurse administrator at the Grace Living Center in Bethany, Oklahoma, which has 120 residents. She was nominated for the Cherokee Inspired Comfort Award by her colleague Kim Selvey, director of nurses at Grace Living Center, who said Harter “truly has found her calling.”

At Grace, Harter coordinates the skilled nursing care and physical rehabilitation that residents receive. She arrives early and rolls up her sleeves to help prepare breakfast, make beds and answer call lights. She even styles hair – and sings karaoke.

She began her career 15 years ago as a nursing aide. During those years, Harter said, “I realized that the people I was caring for were so much more than what I saw with my eyes. They were husbands, wives, fathers, mothers.… I realized that a job can be so much more than a paycheck.” She later entered school with her then-employer’s encouragement to train for a career in healthcare administration.

Years later, Selvey remembers the powerful first impression Harter made. “I will never forget her words because I thought I would never find someone who felt so strongly about the elderly like I do,” she said, recalling Harter’s declaration that “You have to understand that this job is my passion. I want to provide the best care to these elderly people because I honestly love each and every one of them.”

Harter also took a younger resident at Grace under her wing – a woman from Mexico in her early twenties. The woman was recovering from serious injuries from a car accident in which a drunk driver killed her child and fiancé. Harter spent many hours contacting government officials and community leaders, telling the woman’s story and requesting medical supplies and other donations. Harter also successfully advocated for the woman and her daughter, both illegal aliens, to be allowed to stay in the United States to live with nearby family in order to receive necessary care that was unavailable in Mexico. 

Since the Cherokee Inspired Comfort Award was established in 2003, more than 3,400 healthcare professionals have been nominated in the Registered Nurse, Licensed Practical Nurse/Licensed Vocational Nurse, Student Nurse and Non-Physician Healthcare Professional categories. A panel of nursing professionals and Cherokee representatives evaluates nominations.

For every nomination in 2005, Cherokee Uniforms donated $1 to Nurses House, a national fund that provides short-term financial assistance to registered nurses facing serious hardship. Cherokee donated $1,300 to Nurses House in 2005.
Nominated by: Kim Selvey (Director of Nurse, Grace Living Center, bethany, OK)
I am truly honored to work with such a wonderful, loving group of people. I cannot tell you how excited I was when I saw this opportunity to nominate some of my co-workers for this award. I have several people I would like to nominate, but one in particular holds a special place in my heart.
Barbie Harter is the Administrator at Grace Living Center in Bethany, Oklahoma. She has been with Grace for a little over one year. Prior to working at Grace, Barbie and I worked together and when a move was discussed I knew that I would never find another administrator like her. She is truly amazing.
First of all, Barbie started out approximately 15 years ago working in a small town nursing home as a Certified Nurses Aide. She later moved to the Oklahoma City area where she continued this practice and later became a Medication Aide (CMA). She worked in almost every available position, and the facility chose her to be educated in the Administrative field. She has been an Administrator for approximately 5 years.
One thing I will never forget during my first interview with her was when she said, "You have to understand that this job is my passion. I want to provide the best care to these elderly people because I honestly love each and every one of them." I will never forget her words because I thought I would never find someone who felt so strongly about the elderly, like I do. She does! She has proved this over and over.
She has kept her CNA current and still comes in early in scrubs on occasion to help get people up, make beds and get breakfast fed. She isn't afraid to answer call lights. She is not afraid to help get someone to the bathroom. She is just a hands-on administrator. She has chosen the administrative side of providing for our elderly, but she is never in her element like she is when she is face- to-face laughing with someone, or fixing their hair, or even helping them on and off the toilet.
One thing that comes to mind when I reflect on how far she will go for a resident is actually with a young girl who was living in our facility. This was a very sad story because this girl, less than 25 years old, was in a terrible car accident. She was hit by a drunk driver and her fiancé and one of her two children were killed. She would never be the same. She could not speak, could not move without assistance, and had been living in the facility for quite sometime before Barbie began working there. She was also an illegal alien.
Barbie called every Hispanic resource she could find to try to get her some assistance. She called immigration, congressmen, the Governor, and even the President of the United States. She spent countless hours meeting with members of the Hispanic community, writing letters, making calls, and used every resource available. She said she would not let this young girl, whose life had been dramatically changed due to a drunk driver, be sent to Mexico without the needed resources. She would need extensive therapy, medications, tube feeding and medical supplies in order to survive and possibly get better.
Her mother lived locally and was raising this young lady's daughter who survived the accident. What would she do without some help? She only spoke Spanish and had no idea where to start. Well, thanks to Barbie, she did not have to fight this battle alone. They worked together and were successful.
This young lady now resides with her family. Thanks to Barbie, she received the help she needed in order to continue residence in the United States where her mother and daughter also reside. She has family support and has many donated medical supplies and resources to help her and the family.
I am so thankful to work with such a wonderful lady. She is truly an amazing Administrator, Mother, Wife and Friend. She truly has found her calling and I am so proud to say that our elderly will benefit from her efforts.
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