Choctaw Nation Member Named Top Psychiatric Nurse in Oklahoma

Amanda Harrell poses with her Recognizing Nurses award for Top Psychiatric Nurse. Harrell is a member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. (Courtesy Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma)

Amanda Harrell, a member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, grew up not knowing what kind of education would be available to her or what her family could afford, to being named Top Psychiatric Nurse of the Year for Oklahoma.

Thanks to financial assistance from the Choctaw Nation Career Development Program, she graduated from nursing school, almost debt-free. She completed her nursing clinicals at Carl Albert Community Mental Health Hospital, where she embraced the healing trifecta of 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.” 

Her clinicals coupled with helping elders in her family led her to a specialty in geriatric care. Bringing her trifecta approach to geriatric care made her stand apart from her peers, she says. It become her “mission to love (the elderly) and give them peace.” She takes them outside to exercise regularly in addition to her nursing duties.

Through local media and the Oklahoma Nurses Association (ONA), the general public cast 84,000 votes in favor of Harrell as the Top Psychiatric Nurse.

“I’m so humbled…so surprised…and so very thankful,” says Harrell of receiving the top award. Nursing is a broad-spectrum career, from birth to last breath, and Harrell encourages aspiring nurses to pursue the path that speaks to them. “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. The annual gala takes place during Nurses’ Week, celebrating the birthday of Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing.