No Place Like Home

In July, Hillsborough resident Jim Fuller, a nurse in the Emergency Department at UNC Hospitals for more than two decades, transitions to UNC Health Care Hillsborough Campus, where he will provide personal care for the people he knows.

No Place Like Home click to enlarge Jim Fuller, RN, shopping in Dual Supply Co., downtown Hillsborough's longtime hardware story and a fixture in the community.

by Zach Read - zachary.read@unchealth.unc.edu

On weekend mornings, after completing his overnight shift in the Emergency Department (ED) at UNC Hospitals, Jim Fuller heads to his favorite Hillsborough hangout: Cup-A-Joe, located downtown, on West King Street. It’s a ritual for Jim, done after every shift. Sometimes he arrives at the coffee shop wearing scrubs, other times he changes into regular clothes, but he’s always eager to participate in the friendly and lively conversations that occur whenever he’s there.

“The shop is a magic little place for me,” says Jim, who has been part of the Hillsborough community since he and his family moved to North Carolina in 1993. “People gather here, and if someone at the table has a problem or an idea, then someone listening can solve it, knows someone who can solve it, or can be a resource to talk about it. It’s a nice release when I’m done with a shift in the ED.”

For Jim, living in Hillsborough has provided the perfect balance for his career in health care, which spans thirty years, including more than two decades in Chapel Hill – first at the ED at North Carolina Memorial Hospital, when it was located where Pre-Care is today, and now in the ED at UNC Hospitals.

The elements of small-town life – and of becoming part of a community and getting to know its residents – have helped him navigate the challenges that come with working in emergency medicine, an area he’s been drawn to since launching a career in nursing at the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at Orlando Regional Medical Center in Orlando, Florida.

“Emergency medicine can be hard, but I enjoy it because every day is different,” he says. “You’re confronted with all kinds of situations and you get to know people from all walks of life who are in bad shape and need great care, and that’s interesting to me. It’s exciting.”

Adding to the excitement of emergency medicine for Jim has been working evenings, which he’s done his entire career and which he considers a test of his skills and knowledge.

“You don’t have as much support from ancillary staff at night,” he explains, “so you have to be able to make quick, confident decisions. You exercise your problem-solving skills more and have to be a calm force in the emergency room.”

Home Work

In July, Jim will apply a calming force and clinical expertise to a new role at UNC Health Care as part of the ED team at the UNC Health Care Hillsborough Campus, located a mile from where he lives with Terry, his wife, who works in registration in the ED at UNC Hospitals and who recently celebrated ten years of service to UNC Health Care.

He couldn’t be happier to share his health-care skills with the community he loves and to contribute to building the identity of Hillsborough’s ED.

“Those of us who are transitioning to Hillsborough have an exciting opportunity to be part of the development of the ED there,” he says. “We’ll be able to play a key role in shaping it.”

Jim will be one of the anchors of the Hillsborough ED. His thirty years of experience working in a busy ED and Trauma Center will be a great clinical advantage, which is not easily duplicated. --Jeff Strickler, DHA, RN, associate vice president of the Hillsborough Campus

Sandy Pabers, Jim’s nurse manager since he arrived in Chapel Hill in 1993, believes Jim is the perfect fit for the Hillsborough facility.

“As a nurse, he’s very good and has a wealth of knowledge to share with his colleagues,” Pabers says. “He is incredibly reliable and dedicated – I don’t think he has ever called in sick. But on top of the level of care he gives, he also loves the community of Hillsborough. He always shares highlights about Hillsborough, including his times at Cup-A-Joe, and that’s going to be special for him, for UNC, and for Hillsborough. Hillsborough will be getting personal care from Jim.”

When Jim makes his transition in July, the hospital will be under the direction of Jeff Strickler, DHA, RN, associate vice president of the Hillsborough Campus. Strickler has worked closely with Jim as long as the two have been at UNC.

“Jim will be one of the anchors of the Hillsborough ED,” Strickler says. “His thirty years of experience working in a busy ED and Trauma Center will be a great clinical advantage, which is not easily duplicated. This clinical expertise will be complemented by his intimate knowledge of Hillsborough and its residents, allowing UNC to more seamlessly integrate and serve this community.”

Jim recognizes that providing care to members of his own community will be a new experience for him.

“It will tug at my heart a bit because I’m home, helping my town and our people, but hopefully it will lend a friendly, homey touch,” he says. “Our friends in Hillsborough have told me that they love knowing I’ll be nearby.”

That Mayberry Feel

In May, on a beautiful Saturday morning, Jim sits on a bench a few doors down from Cup-A-Joe to talk about his relationship to UNC Health Care and Hillsborough. He has to speak loudly to be heard over the sound of bluegrass musicians playing across the street. He explains that his family has a combined forty years of service to UNC Health Care – in addition to Jim and Terry, their older daughter, Alison, works in the ED at UNC Hospitals as a health unit coordinator and their son, Ian, works with UNC Hospitals Police.

That’s what I love about Hillsborough. It may have changed in some ways – you get people from all over – but it’s still really homey. --Jim Fuller, RN

Each of his three children, Jim says, attended Hillsborough schools from elementary school through high school, and his two teenage grandchildren are in high school and middle school in Hillsborough today.

As he talks, several people drop by to greet him before heading inside for coffee.

“I probably know 80 percent of the people who come through on a weekend morning,” Jim says.

Just then, a thirty-something man approaches Jim and hands him a leash, with his dog on the other end of it.

“Do you mind, Jim?” he asks.

Laughing, Jim says, “Not at all.”

“He’s from Germany,” Jim says, as the man goes in to brave the long line inside the coffee shop. “He’s a sales rep for a German company that services Chicago, Atlanta, and New York, so he’s always traveling to those places. But he chose to live here out of everywhere he could have lived. That’s what I love about Hillsborough. It may have changed in some ways – you get people from all over – but it’s still really homey. It has that Mayberry-type feel – and I love Andy Griffith.”


Tom Stevens has been a resident of Hillsborough for nearly two decades. He's also the town's mayor, currently serving his fifth term. Here Mayor Stevens shares his thoughts about why UNC Health Care Hillsborough Campus will be a great asset for the Hillsborough community.

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