Wanda Peebles, Executive VP Acute Care and Chief Nursing Officer at JPS Health Network, is no stranger to helping lead people through tough situations.
During her 44-year career in the healthcare industry – the last nine of those years at JPS – she’s been called on to work through challenges both natural and manmade.
“I previously worked in Florida and was part of several disaster recoveries including multiple hurricanes, a plane crash in the Gulf of Mexico, and a train derailment which leaked ammonia gas into residential neighborhoods,” Peebles said. “The most challenging was Hurricane Ivan, a Category 5 storm that happened in 2004.”
The healthcare workers she led had little to work with, still they banded together and fought to rebuild lives.
“During that disaster the entire town was impacted,” Peebles said. “All the hospitals in the area were damaged, the schools and the airport were closed for four weeks. No drinking water was available for 10 days, roads were impassable and all bridges had major damage. About 95 percent of the town was without power and the sewage plant shut down completely.”
To make matters worse, many of the employees Peebles was leading in the recovery effort were victims themselves. The employees lost everything when their houses were destroyed, but put their personal struggles aside to help others. It was one of the toughest – but most inspiring moments of Peebles’ career.
“The thing I learned from all of those events and the challenges we are facing now is how resilient people are, especially people in healthcare,” Peebles said. “Despite the challenges they may be facing personally or professionally, they never lose sight of our why we are here, and that is for our patients.”