Donna Nelson
January 2020
Acute Psychiatric Services
Hennepin Healthcare
United States




Donna has been a nurse for over 22 years. She was first drawn to becoming a nurse as she desired to work in a helping profession. The entirety of her nursing career has been in the mental health field. While a nursing student, Donna had a clinical rotation on B5 inpatient psychiatry unit at HCMC and felt that the mental health setting "just clicked" with her. Since that "clicking" moment 22+ years ago, she has devoted her career to caring for our psychiatric patients here at HCMC both on the inpatient units and in Acute Psychiatric Services.
When I first met Donna, my first thought was, "I want to be like Donna!" Nurses, mental health workers, social workers, providers, and leaders in APS have mentioned having the same thought. She is a role model and mentor to us all. Donna is confident, knowledgeable, and compassionate. She is dependable, loyal, and strong. She is professional, kind, and down to earth. She, more than anybody, knows how to meet patients and families where they are at. With Donna, there is no cookie-cutter care for patients. She does not wonder what SOME patient in a SIMILAR situation MIGHT need. She KNOWS what THIS patient right HERE, and right NOW, NEEDS, in THIS situation.
Never has anyone ever said "Donna, I need help with this" because Donna helps before anyone ever has to ask. She has an incredible knack for anticipating needs and knowing where and when to be, and what to do. She consistently goes above and beyond to help and support patients, families, and coworkers. She does this without any expectation of recognition or praise. She does this because this is who she is and she humbly lives out a life of service to others.
Donna was recently asked if there were any words of wisdom she would pass on to someone working in the mental health field. Her response was "to remember, that it really is a privilege to be a witness to the kind of suffering we see..." Donna has been an absolute treasure to APS. She is an exemplary nurse and will leave us with a legacy of excellence as we pause to ask ourselves, "what would Donna do?"