Initially considering becoming a dietician, Barbara A. Chalk, RN, found her niche in operating room nursing following her studies at the Samaritan Medical Center in Watertown, New York, where she graduated with a diploma of nursing in 1957 and worked as a staff nurse in the operating room from 1957 to 1959. Throughout this early work, she received considerable support from her mentor, Dorothy “Dot” Foley, a fellow operating room nurse at the medical center who kept her out of trouble and helped her navigate and avoid the more difficult doctors who worked at the hospital. Ms. Chalk went on to join the University of Virginia Hospital in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 1959, serving as the head nurse for the neurosurgery operating room until 1975.
Cultivating significant expertise in various types of surgery, including for brain tumors, intracranial aneurisms, and spinal problems, Ms. Chalk’s final position in the medical field was as the clinical coordinator of the neurosurgery operating room for Sentara Norfolk General Hospital from 1975 to 2000. At the height of her 43-year career, she was working with approximately 10 to 11 different doctors. One of those doctors was Dr. Ted McFadden, who recruited her to Sentara Norfolk General from the University of Virginia Hospital. In 2000, she retired from full time hospital work, but remains active as a volunteer with the Sentara Heart Hospital. Currently, Ms. Chalk — Miss Barbara to the girls she works with — works two days a week, Tuesday and Thursday, typically, and is responsible for checking patients in and ensuring they get to the correct department or clinic within the hospital.
Ms. Chalk has also been very active with the American Association of Neuroscience Nurses and served in various roles between 1973 and 1984, including as chair of the admission commission, publicity chair and president for the southeastern Virginia chapter, national treasurer for the board of directors, president-elect, and a member of the clinical core and surgical core curriculum communication sections. From 1984 to 1985, she was the vice president of the Association of University Registered Nurses. Becoming a volunteer with the Parkinson Support Group in 2000, Ms. Chalk also attained a position on the board of directors of the American Parkinson Disease Association in 2003.
With a longstanding passion for helping people, Ms. Chalk has strived to be a dependable and dedicated professional who has always strived to go the extra mile. She has contributed a number of articles to professional journals in the field of neurosurgery and was the co-editor for “Core Curriculum for Operating Room Nurses: Neurosurgery” alongside several other nurses. Furthermore, Ms. Chalk would advise young and aspiring professionals that there are a wide range of job options in the medical field and that if you want to pursue nursing, you need to have the desire to be a nurse and to help others.
Recognized early on for her achievements in nursing, Ms. Chalk was first honored with the Dr. Walter Atkinson Award upon her graduation from the nursing program at the Samaritan Medical Center in 1957. She went on to be presented with a Certificate of Merit from the Virginia chapter of the American Parkinson Disease Association in 2001. Other accolades to her name include being named a Marquis Who’s Who Top Professional and a recipient of the Marquis Who’s Who Humanitarian Award. Above everything, Ms. Chalk hopes to leave a legacy as a caring person, who enjoyed her work and always put extra effort into ensuring that her patients were recovering well following their surgeries.
Born in Watertown, New York, Ms. Chalk attributes much of her success to the support of her parents, Herbert Graham Chalk and Julia Rosemead Donaldson. Furthermore, she is grateful to the influence of her cousin, Rita, and her cousin’s mother, both of whom worked as nurses until they eventually retired. In her free time, when she isn’t volunteering, Ms. Chalk enjoys spending her time cultivating her hobbies of needlepoint and ceramics.