42 years of incredible care
Donna Atkinson, the clinical nurse coordinator for the Chieng Family Medical Day Unit at BC Children’s Hospital, is hanging up her stethoscope and retiring after a 42-year career.
Her love of helping kids began when she was just seven years old. It was at that tender age that she decided she wanted to become a nurse, a goal that would drive her through school. She attended Vancouver General Hospital School of Nursing and began working at the Pediatric Centre at Vancouver General Hospital in September 1972.
When BC Children’s was established in its current location in 1982, Donna moved over, launching the Medical Day Unit in 1996 as its only nurse. Eight months later, some nurses were added to help Donna with her work, and in 1999, a $2-million donation from the Chieng family transformed the unit into what it is today.
“We went from a three-bedroom facility, with nurses stationed in the rooms, to a 12-bedroom, more functional facility. I have been able to see the impact that a donation has on the care we are able to give,” says Donna.
Donna works with children with chronic health issues, who have always inspired her with their positive attitudes.
“Children are just so honest and when they feel good, they’re happy; they don’t have to worry about tomorrow, or worry about their disease process. If they feel good, they’re happy and that makes their parents happy.”
Over the years as Donna has seen the hospital grow, she’s helped many children through their illnesses, but there is the memory of one moment some five years ago that still brings her to tears.
Donna met a patient who had brittle bone disease. When the little girl first came into the hospital, her hand couldn’t even be held because her bones hurt too much. The young girl had since grown and is now enrolled in an adult program. The memory of the moment when the girl’s father walked into Children’s five years ago, will stay in her mind forever.
“He walked in and said ‘I had to come back and tell you that you changed my life. The only thing I wanted was to dance with my daughter at her graduation and I did.’”
It was this moment, as well as many others, that make leaving her job at the hospital so difficult for her, she says.
“My last day was New Year’s Day, but I will be coming in as a casual whenever they need me,” says Donna with a smile. She leaves a wish for the children and many staff she sees as friends at BC Children’s Hospital: “Keep on being positive and keep on moving forward no matter what.”