Registered Nurse Donna Spencer is truly a natural in the field of nursing. Working on a 21-bed general medical and palliative unit at Campbell River Hospital (CRH), this relatively new health professional stands out for her keen focus on patient needs and her high standards of nursing practice.
“I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Donna for over six years, first as a student nurse and then as a front-line registered nurse and have been consistently impressed with her passion and abilities,” says CRH Clinical Coordinator Susan McCormac. “I have seldom worked with such a young nurse who has done so much in so little time. She sets the bar high for herself and models professional practice for others to follow.”
Donna graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree with Distinction in 2008 and has since upgraded her skills related to palliative care, stroke care, and eye donation, becoming an expert in these areas. These kinds of specialized knowledge come in very handy on a busy rural ward where nurses must adapt quickly to high-pressure situations.
“In the fall of 2013, a 60-year-old palliative patient was admitted with extreme pain and restlessness,” McCormac recalls. “A family GP was uncomfortable with some of the more advanced palliative measures, but Donna recognized the patient needed advanced intervention. She took the initiative to consult the palliative doctor before assisting the family GP to implement pharmacological interventions to help the patient. This is just one example of how her confidence and clinical skills help to make a difference in patients’ lives. Certainly, the family GP was extremely grateful for Donna’s assistance.”
CRH is well-recognized for its eye donation program, which requires trained nurses to harvest eyes at any time of day or evening; in 2012, the BC eye donation program needed more staff trained and Donna recognized the importance of the program. Volunteering right away to get the training, she had to leave her young family to travel to Vancouver for week-long classes and significant training that had to be done on her own time. Today, she is one of only three staff members to liaise with the BC Eye Bank for Campbell River Hospital.
That expertise is essential to continuing the program’s effectiveness. “A recent new nurse had a client pass away and she needed guidance about approaching the family about eye donation and how to care for the eyes before enucleation,” recalls colleague Linda Walters. “Donna helped the nurse with the process of identifying whether the client was a potential donor, educated the family about the importance of the ‘gift of eyes’ from their loved one and obtained consent to make it possible.”
Compassion is part of the job of nursing, but this is another way that Donna stands out among her peers, spending an extraordinary amount of time at bedside with her clients and their families as they approach the end stage of life, Walters says. For going above and beyond in this way, she received a Caring Spirit Award in 2011.
In addition to her professional duties, Donna continues to advocate for Campbell River to have a community hospice centre, creating awareness and community spirit. Her patients and fellow nurses appreciate that commitment, as in many ways, she is helping build a brighter future for Campbell River.