CHATOM, Ala. (WKRG) – If you’ve ever visited Washington County Hospital & Nursing Home in Chatom chances are you’ve seen Teresa Grimes walking the halls interacting with staff, patients and families.

“I am the hospital and nursing home administrator,” said Grimes. “Always trying to have a vision of how we move forward and things like quality, patient experience, safety, our staff development, customer service.”

Her love for helping others turned into a lifelong career when she landed her first nursing job in 1977 at Jackson Medical Center in Clarke County.

“At an early age my father always encouraged me to do the best that I could do and encouraged me to do for others and to always look for opportunities,” she explained. “I think I always knew I wanted to be a nurse at a very early age and that’s what I did.”

But in 1996, Teresa’s career in healthcare took a new path when the hospital’s CEO retired. She unexpectedly, and at first reluctantly, took the job.

“The medical staff asked me if I would take that position,” Grimes added. “I said absolutely not. I have no interest in it. As a nurse I always wanted to take care of patients and to get into administration I felt like I could take care of the staff that were taking care of the patients so it was a win win.”

She went on to serve as the CEO at Troy Regional Medical Center before returning home to south Alabama in 2016 when she became CEO of Washington County Hospital & Nursing Home.

Her biggest accomplishment here so far? A new 7,000 sq. ft. emergency wing with multiple rooms replacing the old 1200 sq. ft. single-room ER full of outdated technology and capability. It was all completed under her leadership, opening in October 2022.

“There was actually no pipe suction, spaces were limited, the flow of the emergency room was limited,” said Grimes. “Our new emergency room provides everything we could possibly want or need.”

It hasn’t always been easy running this facility. Healthcare is already limited in rural Washington County and when COVID-19 hit it presented new challenges for the small hospital and nursing home.

“COVID hit March 13, 2020 and by April 2020 we had an outbreak in the nursing home,” she said. “It was early on and a lot of uncertainties about what to do and how to do.”

But, with the help of her team, they survived a pandemic. Now, Teresa is looking ahead striving daily to offer better healthcare and services in Chatom and surrounding communities.

“We have lots of visions,” she continued. “We have a 5-year strategic master site plan, so I’m definitely not finished yet.”

Her staff describes her as a strong, loving person who continues making a difference every day she walks through the doors.

“You always try to be honest, always try to be transparent,” said Grimes. “It’s not always easy and it’s not always comfortable. Always striving to do better and always encouraging others we work with to do better.”

And, it doesn’t sound like Teresa Grimes plans to slow down anytime soon.

“The Lord has blessed me with good health, so I’m here until He decides that it’s time for me to move on and do something different,” she explained.