The Department of Health Services mourns the tragic loss of LA General Medical Center nurse, Sandra Shells. Ms. Shells dedicated 38 years of her career to caring for our patients through her unrelenting dedication, compassion, and kindness. Ms. Shells died on January 13, 2022 following a senseless assault during her commute. Staff across Health Services are grieving the loss of one of ours.
Ms. Shells started her nursing career on November 7, 1977 as a registered nurse on the Diagnosis & Evaluation Unit in the General Hospital at LA General Medical Center. She then worked in the Medical Admitting and “Red Blanket” Units before joining the Department of Emergency Medicine as a Relief Nurse in 1990. The “red blanket” unit was where critical cases were moved after being stabilized in the emergency room. There, doctors vetted the patients to determine on which ward the patients belonged. Ms. Shells primarily worked in the ER Walk-In unit and the Minor Trauma unit in General Hospital, and Emergency Department West in the new hospital in 2008. This is a very busy section of the Emergency Room, and the nurses there require stamina, experience and the ability to be a team player. Ms. Shells had all those characteristics, and she was also kind, capable of connecting with people in a genuine way.
Ms. Shells, Sandy, as she was called by her friends, loved being a nurse and knew that it was her purpose in life. Her colleagues affirmed that she led with love, kindness and compassion. She trained many nurses over the years and modeled how to treat patients with dignity, respect and compassion. These traits were invaluable in working with vulnerable populations with complex life situations.
Although she had a car and could drive, Ms. Shells preferred to ride the bus to work from her home in Los Angeles. She enjoyed arriving to work very early, a full hour and half before her shift began and would sit in the locker room to read her Bible before beginning her shift. She was known to carry extra clothes in her bag to give to homeless patients.
Her colleagues noted that Ms. Shells knew everyone’s name and something about their families. She was an energetic team player, often pitching in wherever she was needed. Her colleagues observed that Ms. Shells loved Star Wars and wore her hair like Princess Leia. She found a Star Wars connection and bond with many team members, who often referred to her as the Jedi Master.
LA Health Services stands in solidarity, sharing in the pain and grief of the family, friends and colleagues who knew and loved Nurse Shells. In her honor, the LA General Medical Center Foundation has established the Sandra Shells Memorial Fund | LA General Foundation to help her family during this difficult time, and to assist other families who have been affected by, or have fallen victim to violence. LA General Medical Center also shared this Memorial Video.