SOMERS POINT – Barbara Estabrook is finally ready to trade in her stethoscope and scrubs for retirement and a well-deserved chance to be more involved in her young grandchildren’s lives. She worked her last shift on Thursday at Shore Medical Center’s emergency room, where she has bravely served as a nurse for the last nine years, closing out her 52-year career in nursing.
Estabrook grew up in North Jersey and attended the Bellevue School of Nursing in Manhattan, graduating in 1969. She worked in the city for quite a few years, and then went on to Florida, Long Island, and then to the Pocono Medical Center in Pennsylvania where she worked the bulk of her long career while raising her family. She worked in home care, a surgery center, the intensive care unit and the ER – pretty much in every area of nursing except the in-hospital operating room and maternity.
Estabrook and her family spent a great deal of time at the Jersey shore over the years, so when she was ready for a change in 2007, she headed to Galloway Township in Atlantic County. She got a job working at another local hospital, but later wanted to cut back on her hours. She “retired” but she missed working, so she got a job working “pool” shifts at Shore, where she has been covering two to three ER shifts a week ever since.
Of all the nursing paths Estabrook has experienced, the ER is her favorite, and she’s especially fond of her ER experience at Shore.
“What I like about the ER is that we’re seeing something different all the time. We’re constantly learning,” Estabrook said.
Of course, having great coworkers makes all the difference, too.
“It was really nice coming to Shore. It’s a great place to work, the people are great to work with, and the doctors are all approachable,” she said.
As for her colleagues, the admiration is more than mutual. Director of Emergency Medicine Sherri Richmond said while they are happy for her to have this chance to retire and enjoy her family, it is a huge loss for the team.
“You don’t meet people like Barbara in your career very often,” Richmond said. “Barbara is a role model for all of us. She has precepted countless new nurses. She is patient, she is clinically brilliant. She’s probably one of the best nurses and clinicians I’ve ever had the privilege of working with. She is our go-to and makes herself available to all of our nurses when they have questions, even if she isn’t at work. They’ll reach out to her to just to see what she thinks about how they are handling an issue. We know she deserves this retirement, but boy are we sad to see her go.”
One of Estabrook’s favorite memories of her time at Shore was when her colleagues threw her a party at Gregory’s restaurant two years ago to celebrate her 50th year working as a nurse.
“So many people were there – doctors, our nurse manager, colleagues – even my children came from several hours away. It was really heartwarming,” she said.
The pandemic has admittedly been challenging for many healthcare heroes. At the beginning, she took a three-month break at the recommendation of her physician colleagues. COVID-19 was hitting older populations harder, and Estabrook’s colleagues wanted to protect her from serious illness while they learned more about the virus. She was grateful, but equally glad to come back in June 2020. She felt very secure in the procedures put in place, with N95 masks, shields, etc.
Estabrook said she will miss her colleagues, but she’s very much looking forward to moving back to the Poconos to spend time with her grandchildren, who are ages 8, 6 and 1.
“They’re involved in a lot of activities. I’m really looking forward to going to their events and watching them grow up,” she said.
Once COVID is less of an issue, she also looks forward to traveling, including to Queens, Santa Fe and Boston where her other children live. She’s also planning to get more involved in kayaking.
Reflecting on the last nine years, Barbara feels she’s ending her career on a good note, although she hasn’t totally given up on the idea of dabbling in nursing in some capacity in the Poconos.
When asked to share a message to her Shore friends, she said, “Thank you all very much for the camaraderie and the support. It’s been a pleasant experience being here.”