By Bobbie Poynter
Susan Liford began and completed her nursing career right here in Knox County.
As a child, she always knew that she wanted to be a nurse, and she believes her parents gave her the encouragement and just the right words of wisdom she needed to accomplish just that.
“In order to make it as a nurse, you have to have the milk of human kindness in your blood,” Liford’s mother, a nurse herself, told her daughter.
“And if you have to be there at 8 a.m., you be there at a quarter-to and give a full eight hour day,” her father told her.
Liford received her Associates Degree in Nursing in 1975 from Cumberland College School of Nursing followed by her ICU certification at East Tennessee Baptist Hospital in Knoxville.
She began her career in 1975 as a floor nurse on the night shift at the Knox County Hospital. She worked her way up through the ranks and became assistant director of nursing and ICU supervisor in 1982.
In 1992, Liford joined the staff at the Knox County Home Health Agency as a visiting nurse.
She was appointed Supervisor of Public Health in 1998, where she organized off-site clinics, school nursing programs, flu clinics and community activities to improve the health status of Knox County.
In 2009, she was appointed Director of the Knox County Health Department.
Since taking the reins at the Health Department, Liford has overseen the institution of food safety classes whereby all food handlers in Knox County are now required to take the classes.
Liford and her department were instrumental in convincing 14 restaurants in Knox County to go smoke free.
“One of my greatest regrets,” she said, “is not being able to get Knox County completely smoke free.”
Liford helped form the Knox County Health Coalition, a group of business and organization leaders dedicated to promoting physical activity throughout the county, making the people of Knox County aware of the little things they could do to improve their health.
Susan Liford retired from the Knox County Health Department on Oct. 31, 2014.
“To fill the role I just completed at the Knox County Health Department is a Godsend,” said Liford. I just wanted us to make a difference in Knox County, help improve the county’s health status and teach everyone how to live a healthy life. And I believe we’ve accomplished that.”
Liford’s only regret is losing the Health Department’s school nursing program through the managed care company.
“That cost us not to be able to keep nurses in the school systems,” she said. “After we lost the program, the schools had to go out and contract with a private agency.”
Liford credits her staff for the significant accomplishments of the Knox County Health Department over the years.
“I’ve always been surrounded by good staff that wanted and believed like I did, that the patients were important,” said Liford. “I just sort of did what was in front of me to do. And I would never ask anybody to do something that I wouldn’t be willing to do myself,” said Liford.
“I would to thank Beulah Penn, who was Director of Nurses at the Knox County Hospital when I was a nurse in ICU. She was an ideal nurse. She was the type of person you wanted to wake up and see standing over you. And finally, Belinda Pritchard and I had the same goals and values, and we both wanted to improve the health status of the people in Knox County.
Liford says she will miss nursing, but she feels that it is time to let somebody new on the horizon take the mantle.
“I thank the board for allowing me to serve,” she said. “I’ve developed such close relationships and friendships with people, whether in their homes or in the hospital. I would not have gotten to meet them had I not been in the nursing field.”
For the immediate future, Susan Liford says she is ready to rest, relax and look forward to a new grandbaby coming in January, then sit back and see if God opens any doors.
“I have never even taken a two-week vacation in my life,” said Liford. “I took an entire year of sick days with me when I left. So this is a new experience for me, with nothing on my agenda to do today.”
Susan Liford, born in Pineville and raised in Barbourville, married husband Vernon (a retired truck driver) in 1982 at Scalf Chapel Church in Bimble. They were blessed with three children. Their eldest, Ben Liford, 32, of Corbin works for RECC. He and his wife Rebekah are expecting their first child in January. Nicholas Liford, 26, of Bimble, graduated from EKU with a degree in criminal justice. Verno Liford, 48, of Bimble, is a truck driver, while his wife Sherry works at the Knox County Health Department.
Susan and Vernon have two grandchildren. Jesse, 20, is a student at Southeast College in Middlesboro, and Wade, 16, is a sophomore at Barbourville City School.