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UPDATE: Carla Kirkland was announced March 30 as the Mid-South’s Remarkable Woman for 2022

Carla Kirkland is a Memphis healthcare hero who’s also a wife, a mom and a Remarkable Woman.

Inside Saint Francis Hospital’s Emergency Department, and like so many others across country, two years of soldiering through the COVID-19 pandemic has almost pushed shorthanded nurses and doctors to the breaking point.
“The pandemic has certainly turned all of us on our heels,” said Dr. Michael Washington, the Saint Francis Emergency Department Director.  “Despite the demands and duress they’re under, they meet the challenge every day, come in and do their jobs despite the challenges that we face.”

One nurse practitioner facing and meeting the challenges is Memphian Carla Kirkland.

Julie Hamm, the Tennessee Nurses Association president, says Carla always races in to care for patients.

“It’s kind of like firefighters run towards the fire and everybody else is just running away, and nurses do the same thing. We run towards a pandemic,” Hamm said.

For almost 40 years, Carla has never shied away from going the last mile for patients even during a pandemic.

“Nurses are healthcare heroes. Nurses will go the last mile for our patients,” Carla said. “Probably the scariest time was when it first started. Patients were coming in and we don’t know a lot about COVID.”

Her nursing experience and professionalism would be needed.

“Patients couldn’t have visitors, of course, the nurses were the ones to hold their hands when they died and get the families on the phone to say their goodbyes,” she said.

Sometimes those goodbyes were to fellow nurses.

“The nurses, it’s been pretty traumatic for them, and nurses died after taking care of COVID patients. They’ve caught COVID and died,” Carla said.

Because of what they deal with every day, Carla has become a passionate voice for nurses appearing before the Tennessee General Assembly in Nashville.

“Nurses have really taken a beating the last couple of years. People need to speak up for our nurses,” she said.

She’s spoken up, serving as Region 1 president of the Tennessee Nurses Association and as state president of the Tennessee Nurses Association.

“Nurses are an investment. They drive quality. They drive outcome. They drive value. They drive revenue. Healthcare just can’t exist without nurses,” she said.

Carla won the state’s national award for being the advocate for nurse’s rights in 2018. She also serves on the Shelby County Board of Health and works with groups dealing with women’s voting issues.

“Another thing I try to encourage people to do is to be a registered voter, to be an informed voter,” she said.

She’s also a wife and a mother of four advocating for adoption and foster parenting.

“We did foster care for several years and adopted two children,” Carla said. “So, there are a lot of children in the foster care system who need permanent homes. I guess we fostered seven children in all.”

That’s why Carla Kirkland, a wife, mother, nurse practitioner, and a healthcare hero, has been selected as a Remarkable Woman.

“With Carla’s heart and mentorship, her leadership, her servant heart that she has, it doesn’t surprise me at all. She’s remarkable,” Hamm said.

“She’s just a motivating person. She’s just great at what she does. She’s on the frontline,’ Washington said.

Remarkable Women is part of a nationwide Nexstar media initiative, our parent company, honoring the influence that women have on public policy, social progress and quality of life.