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When she was 12 years old, Michele McKee recalls, her then-2-year-old sister suffered third-degree burns on her arm from a cup of spilled hot tea. Her mother and Michele developed a routine for handling the painful daily dressing changes that followed: Michele would distract her younger sister with toys and hand her mother the needed supplies.

It was McKee’s first recollection of showing an interest in caring for others and also left her fascinated by how quickly the body can heal.

A half dozen years later, in 1980, she started attending nursing school right out of high school.

“From the moment I walked onto the clinical areas I knew this was where I wanted to spend my entire career,” she recalled “The culture of caring is palpable and I knew even at that young age that was definitely something special.”

Today, 40 years into her nursing career, McKee still treasures that caring atmosphere. She also treasures the opportunity to train and help young nurses.

“My most rewarding and proudest moments have been mentoring and developing new staff,” she said. “When I have been able to connect with staff that wants to get into nursing, to be able to guide them on a path and watch them flourish is extremely rewarding.”

She is also a firm believer in the tenets at the University of Maryland St. Joseph Medical Center, where she serves as director of quality and patient safety. “The patient comes first,” she said, “through a preoccupation with the quality and safety of care we provide, and continuing the mantra of ‘Better Never Stops.’ ”

This is a winner profile from The Daily Record's Health Care Heroes awards. Information for this profile was sourced from the honoree's application for the award.