Paper names Rachelle Allmaras Donaldson, R.N., one of Wyoming’s top nurses
By Kristy Bleizeffer May 10, 2017
There are times on the night shift when the call lights flicker less often and the drone of the busy hospital floor fades. Occasionally, in the temporary lull, Rachelle Allmaras Donaldson has time to visit with her patients. Or to listen to them. Or to simply stay as they transition to whatever comes next.
Those small connections are the things she takes home with her and the things she remembers long after the patients has left.
"Rachelle is that nurse that you always hope to have. She has a quiet confidence, gentle touch and witty sense of humor,” wrote coworker, Rachel Tuttle, R.N., who works alongside Donaldson on our medical unit. Tuttle nominated her as one of Wyoming’s top nurses for a special publication by the Casper Star-Tribune.
“Rachelle strives to care for her patients as if she is caring for her own family,” Tuttle wrote.
Tuttle’s nomination worked. On Sunday, the Tribune named Donaldson one of Wyoming’s top three nurses in its special section, “Celebrate Nurses.” The newspaper publishes the section each year to celebrate National Nurses Week, and it selects the finalists based on community nominations. A panel of newspaper staff and healthcare professionals pick the winners. All three of the top nurses this year are from Wyoming Medical Center. (Click here to read an interview from fellow winner Jennifer Gallagher, and look for the interview with Sarita Reeves on Friday.)
Why did you become a nurse?
I got into nursing in 2007, and it was just kind of one of those things where other doors kind of closed and the nursing door opened. I was a stay-at-home mom before, and I did medical transcription.
I graduated nursing school 30 years after I graduated from high school.
Did transcribing medical notes spark your interest then?
Partly. I thought it would be interesting. I used to transcribe at a small clinic, so there was a lot of variety of stuff to transcribe. They did some minor surgeries, and the like. It did trigger me.
How many kids do you have?
I have four. The oldest is 35 and the youngest is 22. And, I have grandkids, too, so I am old.
When did you start working at Wyoming Medical Center?
In 2008. I actually used to do transcription for the pathology department while I was in nursing school. I’ve pretty much worked on the medical unit ever since.
Do you think you made the right career move, choosing nursing after all those years?
I do. There are days where nursing is really a challenge. Sometimes you do question it. Then you think about the flexibility of the job, and you can work a 12-hour shift and have some days off. Sometimes, you have patients and you listen to their stories and you go home and think about them. You connect with them, and it is rewarding.
Do you take some of the bad stories home also?
Sometimes you have moments like that where you kind of wonder could you have done something differently. And that can be hard to deal with.
For this award, you were nominated by someone in the community. Possibly a coworker or a patient? Do you have any ideas who it might be?
No. We were talking about nominating someone for the paper, and everyone here was saying “tell me about Rachel and tell me what she has done.” So, that’s who I thought everyone was nominating. She is amazing. I was really surprised that I was in the top three!
How does it make you feel?
I sort of feel like I’m unworthy as there are so many good nurses. My daughter, Jayme Donaldson, is an ER nurse. I just look at the ER nurses, the ICU nurses, all of them, and I am in awe at what they do. I was humbled to hear about this.
Was she a nurse before you?
No, she did it later. She was moving faster though.
So you inspired her to do it?
A little I guess. She is one of those that started all kinds of different things and then ended up in nursing.
What do you like most about nursing?
When you connect with the patients and you hear their stories. When you are working with the other therapies, and it seems like there has been a good outcome – the patient goes home and they do well. I like my coworkers. We have a good manager here also, Linda Johnson.
Do you have some stories that have stuck with you through the years?
You know, there have been so many. Especially during the night shift when there seems to be a bit of a lull and you go into a room and they kind of just start sharing. I can think of a person who was dying of cancer, and he was not very old. He reminisced with me when I was in his room. He would say things like, “maybe I should not have done” this or that.
That must feel a little bit special that you were there for him.
I still remember him. There are others. We get a lot of comfort care patients on our floor. You see where they have just given up and you are there to help them go through that transition.
Do you think that takes a special kind of nurse to be able to do that? Is comfort care different?
I know it is. There are some nurses that are better doing the floor nursing, and others who thrive in the ER.
Patients on the medical floor often seem to stay longer than some other patients. Part of it is because they are not as seriously ill as to be on Neuro or the progressive care unit. Yet, they are still too ill to go home. Some of them are here for placement and just have to stay until then. Sometimes it takes a while as sometimes some of them have a guardian.
Looking around, what qualities do you see in your colleagues that make good nurses?
Just some are super-good at homing in on the patient. Good type management. Good resources and they have good answers. Some of them are so good at just jumping in and helping you. We had times where maybe we will start a shift and somebody will have to go home sick, and they are good at just jumping in and maybe taking one of their patients.
I think we make a pretty good team.