2020 has been an incredibly challenging year, especially for frontline healthcare workers. In October, as COVID-19 cases were on the rise and Minnesota prepared for a long and unpredictable winter, the Minnesota March of Dimes Nurse of the Year Awards event was a welcome moment of levity, even if it was hosted virtually. The event “provides a way to recognize local nurses who, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, are on the frontlines caring for families,” says the March of Dimes website. Each year, co-workers, patients, and community members nominate outstanding nurses in 18 categories. The finalists and winners are then selected by a review board. The event raises thousands of dollars for neonatal intensive care units (NICUs) across the state.
Out of more than a thousand eligible nurses across the state, St. Catherine University undergraduate nursing program alumna Danyel Downs ’19, RN, CCRN, PHN, won the “Rising Star” award. This award is presented to a nurse with less than three years of experience who demonstrates excellent work and compassionate care. Downs currently works in the Medical Intensive Care unit at the University of Minnesota Medical Center. She voluntarily redeployed to the COVID ICU at Bethesda Hospital in St. Paul when the COVID-19 pandemic began, in a response to the shortage of ICU nurses for the new facility.
“I have been in practice as a nurse for a little over one and a half years and have dedicated myself to the service of others. It is a huge honor to be recognized for my practice and making an impact on patients. I am happy to know that I have made a difference,” says Downs.
Down’s St. Kate’s Journey
Downs initially considered attending St. Kate’s because her mother graduated St. Kate’s with a nursing degree. “Once I toured the campus, met the faculty from the nursing program, and learned about the school’s mission, I knew it was the place for me,” Downs said. The St. Kate’s Henrietta Schmoll School of Health, including eight nursing programs from undergraduate to doctorate degree levels, prepares graduates to lead and influence in their healthcare professions through academic excellence, interprofessional education, and cultural fluency.
After graduating from St. Kate’s, Downs says she is proud to be a Katie and a nurse, “because I know that a huge reason I am able to practice at such a high level in my profession is due to my education from St. Catherine University.
“My confidence to try new things and take on new challenges was cultivated during my time as a student. I carry that confident approach to everything I do in my career. I also learned how to create a seat at the table where there isn’t one. I am grateful for the skills I learned, specifically in terms of how to navigate the professional world,” Downs reflects.