By her own admission, Lynne Matuk’s workweek is physically draining, emotionally demanding and long – often 60 hours long. But she thrives on challenge, juggling a full-time job at a health clinic, part-time work in a hospital’s emergency department and volunteer work with an ambulance service. Cheerful and upbeat, with an infectious laugh that never fails to cheer patients and colleagues, she commented that “Being a registered nurse is not just a job. For me, it is my life.”
Matuk is one of only 14 people nationwide to receive the prestigious Cherokee Inspired Comfort Award 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.
As a Grand Prize Winner in the award’s Registered Nurse category, Matuk receives an all-expense-paid cruise for two to the Cayman Islands, a crystal award and a wardrobe of Cherokee healthcare apparel. She also will appear in the nationally distributed Cherokee Inspired Comfort Award 2006 calendar.
“Lynne Matuk is an inspiration for all of us, not just those in the caring professions,” said Wendell Mobley, who directs the national award for Cherokee. “Her passion for the welfare of the people in her community is undeniable, and her contributions to her neighbors – whether she cares for them at the health clinic, at the hospital or in the ambulance – are well documented and much appreciated. We are delighted to recognize her exceptional service, sacrifice and innovation by giving her our top Cherokee Inspired Comfort Award.”
Matuk is both registered nurse and manager at The Village Clinic, a federally certified, walk-in health clinic in Chiloquin, Ore., founded by her nurse-practitioner mother with her own savings nearly six years ago. As the only health professionals in a rural area, they provide preventive and acute care to people of all ages – including loggers injured in accidents and Native Americans – tallying 5,000 visits annually. The clinic is open six days a week, but patients in need often show up at Matuk and her mother’s homes after hours.
She was nominated for the Cherokee Inspired Comfort Award by her friend and co-worker Louise Groomer, who commented that “It is not unusual for Lynne to work 45 hours at the clinic, then a 12-hour shift in the Emergency Department and then respond with the local volunteer ambulance on a call or two.”
As a certified advanced life support providerfor the Chiloquin Volunteer Ambulance Service, which serves a large remote area, she performs intubations and other urgent life support for children and adults in trauma. Sometimes she refers a clinic patient to the hospital only to tend to him or her during the ambulance ride. She also is a part-time registered nurse in the ER at the Merle West Medical Center in Klamath Falls, where the staff values her “smiles, laughter and warmth” in anxious situations.
“My motto is ‘carpe diem’ – seize the day,” Matuk explained. “I love to be able to make someone feel better physically, emotionally or spiritually each day. The return of a smile from an anguished adult, a twinkle in a child’s eye which says ‘that was not so bad after all,’ or the opportunity to give a hug to someone who really needs it inspires me to keep going and keep giving every day.”
At the clinic, Matuk is known for thinking ahead and going the extra mile. In 2004, hearing rumors of an influenza vaccine shortage, she meticulously examined the clinic’s charts to ensure that those patients at highest risk received the vaccine. She visited distant shut-ins in their homes to administer the vaccine and made certain that her ambulance colleagues, as front-line responders, received the vaccine.
Her dedication also encompasses comforting people in their most vulnerable moments. Remembering a terminally ill patient who asked Matuk to sit with him during his final days, she remarked, “Although that was a very sad situation, it means a lot to me that even though I was not family, just an acquaintance, that he viewed me as someone who would bring him comfort during that very emotional period. I’m honored to be allowed into people’s lives on such an intimate level … to be trusted with their fears, hopes and needs.”
Matuk’s healthcare career began in San Francisco, where she cared for the elderly, inmates and low-income people, first as a nursing aide, then licensed vocational nurse and then as a registered nurse – a program she completed while raising a family. She currently is pursuing Family Nurse Practitioner certification, which will enable her to prescribe medications and deliver the same level of care that her mother, who will retire soon, provides to the clinic’s patients.
In addition, Matuk and her mother have established the Chiloquin Rural Health Project, Inc., to raise funds to bring a dentist to the region. They also have partnered with elementary schools to provide dental care education and free fluoride treatments to children. “This is a profession that I will never grow tired of because every day is new and different,” Matuk said, “and every day is a new opportunity to make someone feel better. I just try to do what I think is right.”
Since the Cherokee Inspired Comfort Award was established in 2003, more than 3,400healthcare 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 and grants the awards.
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 in 2005.