Rita Karnes, Johnson University Tennessee campuses school nurse, has been working for JUTN for 18 years. While following the footsteps of those around her, including her sister and aunt, she became a registered nurse in 1979 and began working for different in-home healthcare companies before being led back to JUTN.
Karnes said that she followed her husband back to JUTN. Both her and her husband graduated from JUTN and felt called to eventually come back to campus to work. Her husband began working as a coach and the Athletic Director, while she picked up secretarial jobs around campus.
“I got out of college after two years, got married, and had kids,” Karnes said. “I wanted a more secure income for my kids, and my sister was a nurse so that really influenced me.
“I worked here [at JUTN] at different jobs for some time, mostly secretarial work, and the pay just wasn’t what I needed in order to do the things I wanted with my kids,” she said.
She said that before she came back to Johnson, she ;had done different home healthcare and was on the road constantly.
“Some days I would drive nearly 200 miles to different patients. I think just being here was low-stress for me because I lived on campus when i took the job in 2000,” said Karnes.
Karnes mentioned that the main reason she took the job 18 years ago and why she has stayed here for so long is how rewarding the nature of the job is, as well as the community of JUTN.
“You’re here, you’re meeting kindred spirits as far as your faith. The camradery and family you build here and the feeling of closeness and low-stress has been why i have kept this job for as long as I have,” said Karnes.
“With other jobs I have had in in the past I might see someone once a week for a long time and then never see them again and never know what happens to them. Being here is so different from that. Being here has been nice because I get to see people grow and move out of this season, and know how they are doing,” Karnes added. “The low-stress and the low hours of this job have made me love working here, but also this is just a happy place to be.”
Karnes mentioned that she began this job for the low-stress enviroment and because she didn’t need a full-time job because her children were out of the house and she was no longer supporing them as much, and because she still wanted to work just not in a stressful and busy enviroment. She has largely stayed because of the relationships she has built with not only students, but also the staff of JUTN.
According to Karnes, even though she mainly sees students when something is wrong, she enjoys seeing them, even if they are sick, and getting to catch up with them from the last time they spoke.
“This job is honestly just really fun. Part of what is so fun is how rewarding it is. You get to see students come in as little freshmen and then you may not see them for a year or so and then they pop back in here. Usually I only see them when something is wrong, but getting to follow them throughout the four years they are here and watching them grow is so fun. It’s just a very rewarding career all around,” Karnes said.
According to Karnes, although she has enjoyed being here for the last 18 years and getting to know everyone here throughout that time, she is planning to retire December 31, 2018.
“I’m looking at my retirement as the second part of my life,” said Karnes.
According to Karnes, she doesn’t currently have any set plans for after she is finished working at JUTN, and mentions that she will sincerly miss the campus and being here, as well as getting to know the students and watching them grow throughout their time here.
“Retirement for me is all about relinquishing your life. At some point you have to do that. Some do it when they are young, some do it when you are older. I am just to the point where I’m relinquishing to the Lord saying whatever happens to me, I’m depending on You to direct me,” Karnes said.
Currently, Karnes is working with an organization focused on taking animals out of kill shelters and placing them in good foster homes.
“I’m looking forward to having more time to do different things. When I go on trips with the dogs, sometimes I get to take my grandkids with me. With more time I might even get new routes for the trips and meet new people out of that. I’m just excited to see where this new time takes me,” Karnes said.
Karnes mentioned that chosing to retire was easy for her to do. She no longer needs a job like this and is looking forward to starting a new season of life in this context, but thinking about leaving JUTN was a hard thing to think about, even though she says she will not be totally gone once she retires.
“It really is true when people say that if you love your job, you will never work a day in your life. I don’t even feel like I am working, I am just here to help and meet people that share similar interests as me, including the love of God. Being in such a rewarding enviroment has made me so happy… rewarding careers really do lead to happier lives,” Karnes said.
With 18 and a half years working at Johnson, and getting to know so many throughout that time, Karnes says that she is really going to miss being here a few days a week, and that it really wil take some time for her to adjudst to this new season, but she is excited to see where it goes.