Newnan's Jean Thomas still nursing after half a century


Jean Thomas holds her diploma from nursing school. She is still working after 50 years in her profession. 

Imagine rising early in the morning and making rounds at a hospital. Imagine going for 10 hours checking on patients, moving people in and out of surgery, giving out medications where needed, and on top of all of that, being called into surgery at any time of night. Now imagine doing this job for 50 years! That is what one nurse, Jean Thomas at Piedmont Newnan Hospital, lives for.

After moving to the Newnan area in 1962, Thomas got a job with the county’s hospital. Back then the hospital was called Coweta General, and Thomas has been working at the same place as a nurse since 1963.

There have been big changes in medical science since Thomas graduated from Georgia Baptist Hospital and started working, but she stays on top of it. “The biggest changes since I started working are computers,” said Thomas. “Computers have made patient charts near paperless,” she explained.

Reflecting on why she became a nurse, Thomas talked about her father, Paul Shoffeitt. “I think it came from him,” she said.

Thomas explained that her father had gotten his PhD and was a criminal investigator. All he ever wanted, however, was to be a medical doctor. Thomas recounted a conversation with her father where he explained the pitfalls of his job, “What I do for a person, well I can’t help them… I would have rather helped them [the victims of crimes] when they were alive.” Shoffeitt never got to be the doctor he wanted to be, but his dream lives on in his daughter and grandchildren.

Now that Thomas has reached her 50-year mark with the hospital, now known as Piedmont Newnan Hospital since opening in its new location a year ago, she takes it a little easier at work. Only working eight hours a day instead of the intensive 10, Thomas takes advantage of having quiet nights at home with her husband, John Thomas. 

 “That 50-year goal that was a personal goal for me… At 48 I was thinking 50 was coming up… But before I knew it 50 was there.”

Thomas can now be seen around the hospital helping out post-operative patients and younger nurses just entering the field. Thomas gives out helpful advice when asked and provides a helpful hand. But she isn’t the only family member in the medical field: John and Jean’s daughter, Carol Cantrell, also works at Piedmont. 

Though they don’t work side by side, mother and daughter can see each other between working with their respective patients. When asked what has kept her in the field this long, Thomas said, “There are never any dull days. Every day’s an adventure.”

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