Profile: Amanda Kistler

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Amanda Kistler
Amanda Kistler

Amanda Kistler is embarrassed to admit what first spiked her interest in nursing, but it's a story as charming as she is.

“If I had to tell the truth, the lady that kept me loved ‘General Hospital,'” she says in a deep North Carolina drawl. “I thought, ‘That's what I want to do. I remember watching that as a child and thinking, ‘That is so cool.'” Plus, she laughs, “I thought I might marry me a doctor.”

The Winston-Salem native, who is the current president of the National Association Director of Nursing Administration/LTC and the director of nursing at Salemtowne Retirement Community, has reached the top of her profession after a share of obstacles.

The oldest of three girls, a drunk driver killed their father, an airline employee, when she was 10. She became close to her stepfather, who has since also passed away, remembering how he took her to turkey shoots.

“The first time I shot a shotgun, he said, ‘It has some kick to it.' I pulled the trigger and, honey, it laid me backwards on the ground!”

Since her stepfather was a sheriff and her mother was a police officer, Kistler, 56, first pursued a career in law enforcement. She had worked as a certified nurse aide in high school, however, and soon realized she wanted to be a nurse.

She went to nursing school and worked in a hospital for a decade, marrying and having two children. Then a former colleague asked her to come work at a nursing home.

“I thought, ‘That's where all the flunkies work,'” she says. “My, how times have changed. But as hospital nurses, that's how we felt about nursing homes.” 

She worked at various places around North Carolina, moving back to her hometown in 2008. Her stepfather was terminally ill, she had gotten divorced and her mother needed help.

Kistler said she stepped up as president of NADONA in early 2017 partly because of how much the organization means to her.

“I can't tell you the number of friends and colleagues that I have made through NADONA,” she says.

Kistler “loves mentoring other DONS,” confirms Sherrie Dornberger, NADONA's executive director. She describes Kistler as a GRITS —  Girl Raised in the South — with a “heart as big as a bucket” to GRIN — Girl Raised in the North.

“We've had our eye on her since she was president of North Carolina [NADONA],” Dornberger says. “She's so good at getting the people around her to believe in what she's doing. She never has an unkind word about anyone.”

In her downtime, Kistler enjoys making jewelry and spending time with her children, Mallory, 31, and Caleb, 27.  Kistler describes Mallory, a pharmacy technician, as “what kept me grounded and kept me going. We are truly best friends.” Her son, a high school coach and PE teacher, and his wife are expecting their first child in September. 

She says she relaxes by “sitting on my rocking chair on my back porch when it's not so hot and hearing my wind chimes. That's my let it-all-out time. It's just me and the birds and the wind.” Her companion is often her 13-pound Pomeranian, Gizmo.

As for the future, Kistler is excited about being involved in the new Salemtowne building, slated to open in mid-June.

“If I don't have some challenge, I won't stay, and building a new building has been one of the biggest life challenges I have ever had,” she says. “It's phenomenal.”