Nurse of Year known for her compassion

Barbara Brown-Johnson (right) congratulates Nurse of the Year, Patricia Webb of The Child Advocacy Center, at the fourth annual Salute to Nurses on Tuesday . / Valerie Mosley/News-Leader

( Patricia Webb, whose childhood was dominated by years of abuse, was so shy in college that she wouldn’t raise her hand to ask a question.

She overcame those feelings of worthlessness and shame, earning a master’s degree and moving on to teach nursing classes at Missouri State University. Webb now works at the Child Advocacy Center in Springfield. She does exams of children who may have been sexually or physically attacked to document their abuse for possible criminal prosecution.

On Tuesday, Webb was honored as the nurse of the year in the fourth annual Salute to Nurses, sponsored by the News-Leader. She and the other nurses who were honored received gifts that included jewelry, candy and flowers.

“I’m not used to all this attention,” she said.

Webb, 58, a pediatric nurse practitioner, was selected from more than 130 nurses in Southwest Missouri who were nominated.

Barbara Brown-Johnson, the executive director of the Child Advocacy Center, said medical providers at the center perform more exams than any other such center in Missouri.

“There are two common emotions we see when they (children) walk through our door,” Brown-Johnson said. “The first is fear. The second is shame. She understands these dynamics very, very well.”

Webb said she tries to make the children feel like they are in charge during her time with them. They play games. She makes eye contact. She is kind.

“I do things in a very compassionate way,” Webb said. “I take time to talk to the children and connect to them. I make positive statements. ‘Oh, you have beautiful eyes.’ Or, ‘You’re really smart.’”

Sometimes the children don’t want to leave.

“We value them,” she said.

Webb grew up in Lawson, not far from Kansas City, where she said she was physically and sexually abused.

One relative told her she wouldn’t amount to anything. Another told her she would be a prostitute.

“You just feel so abandoned all the time,” Webb said. “No one worries about you. I felt defective. I felt there must be something wrong with me to cause all these things to happen to me.”

But Webb was the valedictorian of Lawson High School, the first in her family to graduate from high school. She went to William Jewell College in Liberty where she graduated magna cum laude. She sought comfort in her faith.

One day when she was 23, Webb was praying in her room.

“I said, I am so ugly even my parents wouldn’t love me,” Webb said. “I said, ‘God do you love me?’ I felt these waves of love pouring over me as I was praying. That was a huge change. That was the first love I experienced.”

Her world shifted. She no longer looked at the ground everywhere she walked. She said God brought people into her life to replace some of the losses she had during childhood. Two women from church became her spiritual mothers.

“I always felt the loss of a mother even though I grew up with a mother,” Webb said.

She met her husband through church as well. Mark Webb was a computer programmer but switched careers, becoming a nurse. He works at Ozarks Dialysis. They have been married almost 20 years and adopted a daughter, now 19, who was in foster care. They also adopted a son.

“They said they had a real God calling to have me come with with them,” said their daughter, Kristenna.

Webb said she never went to the police about her abuse, or even thought about doing that.

“When I was a child, there weren’t child abuse hotlines,” Webb said. “There wasn’t the focus on child abuse that there is now.”

She doesn’t view herself as a survivor but as an overcomer.

“I am so over it,” Webb said. “It’s like I read about it in a book. It doesn’t have any emotional hold on me anymore.”