A committee of three nurses selected Keeley from about 500 nominees for the honor.
“It was really a surprise for me because most nurses do not get recognized for working in the mental health field,” said Keeley, who worked as a psychiatric nurse. “There was a wonderful video, I received an award and it certainly helped me feel like I was retiring on a high note.”
Keeley said she pursued nursing in college after taking a nursing test in high school.
“When I finished college, I was offered a grant to become a psychiatric nurse, which paid my graduate school tuition and that’s how I became interested in mental health,” she said.
One of Keeley’s first nursing jobs in Georgia was in the 1970s at Clayton Mental Health Center in Clayton County.
After that, she started teaching at Piedmont Hospital when it was still known as a school of nursing and decided to move her family to the area.
“My children went to Marist and I’d always see the Brookhaven area when I drove them to school,” Keeley said. “I love living here because I have a big backyard in a nice neighborhood, but St. Joseph’s Hospital is right at my backdoor as well.”
Keeley said she has many memories of rewarding experiences that happened during her career.
“For a while when I was working at Piedmont, I was the only psychiatric nurse and many times the hospital Chaplain and I were with people to comfort them during their final moments,” she said. “I also had a great time teaching students who started my courses hating to study mental health, but came out with a better understanding and appreciation for it.”
Now that she is retired, Keeley said she would like to focus on her hobbies, including gardening and training her dog, Daisy, as well as spreading awareness about the importance recognizing and helping those with mental illness in her community.
“I’d like to get information and awareness out about mental illness because some people are afraid of it, but if we get to know our neighbors better, then our community will be a better place because we’ll recognize people that need help and get it for them,” she said.