By LARA RIZZUTI
By LARA RIZZUTI
Only four months after its grand reopening in November 2013, the Hatteras Village Medical Center closed its doors once again.
This time, however, it is only temporary.
Services were suspended for the first week of April to accommodate the center’s transition between primary care providers and will resume on Monday, April 7, under the direction of Gail Covington, a nurse practitioner from Ocracoke.
Covington will be taking over for Margaret Jazayeri, the physician’s assistant from Grifton, N.C., who began as the facility’s primary care provider when it reopened.
Jazayeri relocated to the area with her family last year in order to fill the position, but eventually decided that Hatteras Island was not the best fit for her family.
Shortly after Jazayeri submitted her 60-day notice to the Board of Directors, Dennis Robinson, a member of the center’s board and president of the Hatteras Village Civic Association, spearheaded the search for her replacement.
And, it seems that he struck gold in his pursuit.
“Covington is no stranger to the Outer Banks,” explained Robinson. “She has worked and lived in the area, and other remote locations, for years and is an ideal candidate for the position.”
Her extensive history with the Outer Banks began over 30 years ago and has followed quite a circuitous path.
The New Jersey-born nurse practitioner first developed a penchant for the small-town, North Carolina lifestyle while obtaining a bachelor of science in nursing from East Carolina University.
After working as a nurse for five years, Covington then went on to earn a master’s degree in nursing, specializing in obstetrics and pediatrics, from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1977.
She remained in the state, working as a staff nurse, teaching nursing as a UNC faculty member, and eventually delving into the administrative side of the profession.
While in hospital administration, Covington wore numerous hats — developing and overseeing education departments, nurse practitioner programs, and numerous urgent care centers – though, caregiver was not amongst those in rotation.
“I wanted to be one-on-one with patients again,” reveals Covington regarding her decision to further her education. “I really missed the hands-on work so I decided to get out of administration.”
In 1992, she returned to UNC to become a nurse practitioner and obtained her Post Master’s Certificate.
And, although she started visiting Ocracoke in 1980, it was through this program that she first began working in the Outer Banks.
During nurse practitioner school, Covington completed the majority of her clinical rotations at the medical clinics in Hatteras and Buxton.
Her dedication to the health care of the island communities became increasingly evident as she continued to work as a weekend call nurse for Hatteras and Ocracoke while finishing her education and maintaining a full-time job on the mainland.
After completing her education, Covington continued to work full-time off the island, yet maintained a presence locally.
Her experience as a nurse practitioner includes five years at the Minute Clinic in Raleigh, Durham, Greensboro, and Winston-Salem where she provided primary care and set up and opened seven new clinics; seven years at a gynecologic, obstetrical, and primary care provider at the Wendover ob/gyn and infertility clinic in Greensboro; five years at First Health of the Carolinas Montgomery Women’s Health Service in Troy, N.C., where she set up the clinic and provided care at a remote rural location, and six years at Hampton and Lewis ob/gyn and infertility clinic in Oxford, N.C.
Finally, in 2009, Covington decided to settle permanently in Ocracoke and began working at the Ocracoke Health Center, providing regular clinic hours and urgent care for the small island community.
On Monday, she will return to the same building where she performed her first rotations on Hatteras Island, more than 20 years ago, and begin work as the primary care provider for the Hatteras clinic.
“I’m looking forward to the job,” said Covington. “I think it’s a great challenge.”
The challenge will be re-establishing the practice to the booming business and care center that it was when she first worked at the clinic.
Explaining her plan to accomplish this, she said, “We need to get people in the door, we need to be open, and we need provide good service for the community.”
Her dedication to the community, familiarity with the local lifestyle, and vast experience in the medical field will all prove to be invaluable in this pursuit.
Covington feels confident in the medical center’s future success and remained optimistic even when discussing her daily ferry commute.
“I am excited to have the opportunity to visit friends on Hatteras Island, try out some local restaurants, and have some downtime while riding the ferry,” said Covington.
Equipped with a Kindle and her quilting supplies, she will use the time to indulge in a few of her hobbies during the trips between work and her home.
It is clear that Covington is here to stay and is eager to begin the next chapter in her own life.
“I intend to be here Monday through Friday because I think there is a need here in Hatteras village,” stated Covington. “And I hope to be able to meet the community’s needs, from chronic illness management to family practice and even urgent care during office hours.”
The Hatteras Village Medical Center will be open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. until noon and from 1 until 5 p.m. It will be closed on holidays, including Thanksgiving and the day after.
The phone number is 252-986-2756, which is the same one the medical center had in its former life.