Madison’s Favorite Nurses 2012

Meet seven local health care pros who go beyond the call of duty

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Terri Pellino

Clinical Professor, UW–Madison School of Nursing

How has nursing changed over the years?
Nursing has become more varied and focuses more on health promotion. Nurses have become more involved in decision-making about care. Care has become more complex, and nurses need to use multiple sources of information. 

How do you decompress from a hard day’s work?
Getting together with colleagues is the best way to decompress. You can empathize with each other about the challenges of your job. Everyone understands the frustrations you’ve had that day.

Give us a feel for an “average” day on the job.
Much of my work is now done on a computer. It might include preparing a lecture, finding readings for students, putting together or grading exam items. Probably the largest part of my day is communicating with students and other faculty through email. There is face-to-face time during classes a few hours per week.

What I love most about my job …
When I see students being able to connect what they have learned in class to actually taking care of patients. I also love seeing the huge change in knowledge and confidence of students that I see over the two years they are in the program.

What kind of people do you look up to at work? Who are your mentors?
People who can deal with problems and see the big picture. My mentors have been nurses who can take a situation, analyze it objectively, and act upon and lead others to apply solutions. They are confident, assertive and have a strong voice for patients.

Would you recommend a career in nursing to others?
Absolutely. There is such a variety of roles and jobs you can do as a nurse. It is constantly changing and there is always something new to learn.

What advice do you have for young people who might be interested in a career in nursing?
Try to explore different roles and settings. Shadow a few nurses. Take a nursing assistant class and work as a nurse’s aide to get some experience in working with patients and skills.

What kind of professional development have you had through the years that’s had a significant impact on your work and career?
I have my master’s and Ph.D. degrees in nursing. Both of these programs prepared me for a leadership role. The doctorate degree gave me skills for doing research.
I feel I have been able to become more like my mentors and have been a mentor to others.

Why Terri?

"Terri is a great professor, loved by her students for her background in both clinical and research nursing. This year, Terri was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. She endured months of intense chemotherapy and radiotherapy and underwent an extensive surgical procedure. She continued to teach throughout her treatments, and missed only one class. Her students have acknowledged her courage through this process as a model of nursing.”


Anna Marie Hoffmann

Campus Health Educator, Madison College

Briefly describe your path to nursing.
I believe that my interest in nursing likely started as a young child.  My mother went to nursing school right after high school many years ago, although she didn’t complete her diploma program because she eloped and married my father, which was not allowed back then. When it was discovered, she was kicked out of nursing school. She later went on to become a nurse’s aide and worked with people with profound physical and developmental challenges for nearly thirty years. I saw the incredible impact she had on them.
When my brother was twelve, he was in a terrible motor vehicle accident. I can remember being in awe of the nurses and how they cared for my brother like he was their own brother. I watched carefully and observed everything they did. My brother’s recovery was long and challenging.
Shortly after, my father had a massive heart attack and was placed in an intensive care unit. This year of my life had the most significant impact on my choosing nursing as a career, and having my mother be the caregiver she was certainly opened my eyes to giving compassionate care to those you serve, always.   

How has nursing changed over the years?
One big change I’ve noticed is how the field is marketed to prospective nurses—in high demand, fair wages, geographic flexibility and more. I’m concerned that we will see an influx of aspiring nurses who are motivated by a different set of factors and values. I worry that those who do not feel nursing is a calling will suffer from burnout and a lack of passion in their work and for the profession.   

People would be surprised to know this about my job:
The job description is endless. I once taught a student how to use a tampon prior to a swim class. I’ve used a plastic model to demonstrate how to use a condom. I’ve helped fix a leaking colostomy bag. I have role-played with students who have autism on scenarios such as how to ask a girl out for a date and how to stand up to a bully. I think some people think of nurses as those who deliver care, but we really wear many hats—social worker, life coach, financial planner, nutritionist and even home repair specialist.

How do you decompress?
I am blessed with four spirited boys who recharge my batteries more often than drain them. I absolutely love to just spend time with them (we actually still play board games together), and we love traveling as a family, both near and far.

I am proud of the fact that we as a family are able to find joy in just time together, and we don’t always have to be going and doing. We have some of our best times just hanging out at home.
When I need a good therapist, I turn to plants and flowers. I love doing flowers for weddings, events, gifts and, with four boys, corsages for maybe a prom date! I really enjoy working with my hands in a creative manner, and it gives me time to really think deeply about what matters most in life.

Why Anna?

“Anna goes above and beyond expectations. Not only does she take time to see students individually, she educates classes about a wide variety of health-related topics and advises the Recreational Autism Group, which gives extra support and guidance to students with autism. Anna’s capacity for kindness surpasses that of any other nurse I have ever known.” 


Sara Downie

Prenatal Manager, Access Community Health Centers

Give us a feel for an “average” day on the job.
There really is no average day. I love a challenge, and one of the things I’ve always loved about where I work is that no two days are ever the same. As a federally funded, nonprofit clinic, Access Community Health Centers see many individuals with inadequate resources for health care. More than half of the pregnant women we serve are Spanish-speaking, and many women in our program have complex social needs. I am always thinking of what would be the best way to meet the needs of our patients and to provide the best quality of care. 

What I love most about my job … 
I love to hear that our patients have had a positive birth experience by using methods we have taught in class, or have developed long-lasting and supportive friendships with other mothers from our prenatal groups. When moms do well, their children have a better chance at doing well, too. Community health starts with one individual patient or one individual family at a time.   

What kind of people do you look up to at work? Who are your mentors?
The people I look up to most at work are the ones able to see the strengths in others, encourage the best from them and create a supportive work environment in which people can thrive. They see the bigger picture. One of the great things about Access Community Health Centers is that we have some truly compassionate and visionary leaders who are also grounded in the realities of what our patient population needs to achieve optimum health. 

Would you recommend a career in nursing to others? 
Absolutely! There are so many opportunities in the field of nursing that you are really only limited by your imagination. I know nurses who work in patient advocacy, end-of-life care, high-tech intensive care, birth, anesthesia, teaching and research, public health, travel and the list goes on.

Why Sara?

“Access Community Health Centers is at the forefront of prenatal care in Dane County, helping to increase a child’s healthy development and ability to thrive due to the dedication and commitment of Sara Downie.” 

Brennan Nardi is editor of Madison Magazine

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