Choctaw Tribal Member Named Top Psychiatric Nurse in Oklahoma
Wednesday, November 4, 2020
Source: Choctaw Nation

DURANT, Oklahoma (November 4, 2020) — When Amanda Harrell was growing up in McAlester, Oklahoma, she was unsure what type of education would be available to her or what her family could afford. That humble upbringing started her on a path that led to her being named 2019-2020 Top Psychiatric Nurse of the Year for Oklahoma.

With four other siblings, she knew she would need help in achieving her dreams of attending college. Thankfully, Mr. Larry Amos visited the schools to educate the senior class on what services and aid the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma (CNO) provided. Harrell pulled him aside, told him about her dreams, and asked for help. He put her in contact with the Choctaw Nation Career Development Program, which was able to help her graduate from nursing school, almost debt-free.

Harrell was blessed to complete her nursing clinicals at Carl Albert Community Mental Health Hospital. It was there she realized that the path to ultimate health was actually a trifecta, encompassing mind, body, and spirit. “The triangle is the strongest structure,” she explains, “and by getting all three parts of ourselves in alignment, we can heal and grow.” The realization helped her conquer her own depression and anxiety, taking her to a place where she became more calm, caring, and empathetic.

Amanda Harrell. Courtesy photo

The experience of her clinicals, combined with her personal experiences of helping elderly family members and friends, led her down a path to geriatric care. The approach to geriatric care as this trifecta made her stand apart from her peers. She believes and states that it has become her “mission to love on {the elderly} and give them peace.” She takes them outside to exercise regularly in addition to her nursing duties.

When the Oklahoman Newspaper, in conjunction with the Oklahoma Nurses Association (ONA), put out a public call for nominations, patients’ family members knew they wanted to nominate her. As part of an anonymous nomination, the family wrote how Harrell “was able to turn mom’s life around and give us back a part of our mom we thought was lost.” After the committee paired the nominations down to the top three nurses in each of the eighteen categories, the general public voted. Over 84,000 votes were cast and selected Amanda Harrell as the Top Psychiatric Nurse.

“The nominations and awards gala are testaments to the appreciation Oklahoma residents have for those in the nursing profession,” said Jane Nelson, chief executive officer at the Oklahoma Nurses Association. “Nurses are the backbone of patient care — they’re ordinary people doing the extraordinary,” Nelson said. “Sometimes they don’t realize the work that they do 24/7 is truly going above and beyond. Being nominated and recognized by their peers for an accolade like this is an affirmation that what they’re doing makes a difference.”

“I’m so humbled…so surprised…and so very thankful,” says Harrell of receiving the top award. Nursing is such a broad-spectrum career. Nurses are there when a newborn baby takes its first breath, and when a loved one takes their last breath. She encourages new nurses to look from different angles and decide what area makes you happy or interests you. “Then go for it – make it your focus,” she says. “Then you go to work and do what you love, you will never work a day in your life.”

Harrell and the top three nominees from each category were celebrated in a virtual gala on October 4, 2020. Annually, this gala has celebrated the top nurses from across the state during Nurses’ Week, celebrating the birthday of Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing.

Harrell happily helped her cousin, a single mom of three, get in touch with the Choctaw Nation Career Development Program and start her nursing career. She loves that the program plants a seed early and watches it grow.

As life comes full circle, Harrell was able to help Larry Amos’s mother at the end of her life in the intensive care unit (ICU) eleven years after he helped her start her career path. Harrell has found her true calling and, after seven years, has no plans for stopping. She currently works at Lifebridge Geri Psych of McAlester Regional Health Center and plans on continuing her education to learn and grow in her profession.

The Choctaw Nation is the third-largest Indian Nation in the United States with nearly 200,000 tribal members and more than 10,000 employees. The first tribe over the Trail of Tears, the historic boundaries are in the southeast corner of Oklahoma. The Choctaw Nation’s vision, “Living out the Chahta Spirit of faith, family and culture,” is evident as it continues to focus on providing opportunities for growth and prosperity. For more information about the Choctaw Nation, its culture, heritage and traditions, please go to