March Nurse of the Month: Donna Maheady, ARNP of Exceptional Nurse

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We are thrilled to welcome and congratulate Donna Maheady, ARNP and founder of Exceptional Nurse as our March Nurse of the Month.  Donna is not only a champion of nurses, but a champion of all those with autism and special circumstances to achieve their full potential.   Her story of balancing life as  nurse and raising a child with significant disabilities, while advancing and championing the cause of all to succeed with her blog Exceptional Nurse which serves as a resource for individuals with special needs to become nurses  – inspired us to have her as our March Nurse of the Month. Enjoy!

Forever nurse and autism/Mom warrior! The journey started many years ago.

I grew up in Hartford, Connecticut. Becoming a nurse was all I ever wanted to do. I have a large Irish family and many of my cousins are nurses. As a teenager, I rode a bus to get to Mount Sinai Hospital to work as a Candy Stripper. The rest as they say is history!

Donna Maheady, EdD, ARNP… 66 years young!

Currently I teach nursing online in the accelerated BSN program at Utica College. I volunteer as a nurse practitioner, write a blog http://exceptionalnurse.blogspot.com/ and maintain a website http://www.ExceptionalNurse.com.

I went to nursing school at the University of Bridgeport in Connecticut. Later, I attended one of the first pediatric nurse practitioner programs in the country at the University of Texas Medical Brach in Galveston, Texas. I later received a master’s degree in child health nursing from the State University of New York at Buffalo and a doctoral degree in Educational Leadership from Florida Atlantic University.

My first nursing position was on a pediatric unit of a large teaching hospital. (By the way, I never worked med-surg!) My passion quickly became working with children with disabilities.

Lauren, my daughter, was born in 1986 and later diagnosed with autism, OCD, epilepsy and a host of other autism related challenges. I quickly became an advocate for her and overtime expanded my advocacy efforts to include nurses and nursing students with disabilities.

Recruited to teach one pediatric clinic rotation, I was quickly “hooked” on teaching nursing. The first part-time job led to full time employment and a host of adjunct positions.

My biggest career challenge has been juggling parenting a significantly disabled child in tandem with a nursing career. I found that I could do most things, but not all at the same time. I have practiced part-time, taught clinical and didactic courses and worked in home health.  It has not always been a smooth process, but overtime I learned to find a balance. It remains a work in progress!

When considering a research topic for my doctoral dissertation, it was just “natural” to study the experiences of nursing students with disabilities. Through the research, I found that few resources existed for this group and most students struggled to become nurses and find employment. A young man was doing some work on our house. He said he created web sites “on the side”. Mind you…at that time; I was lucky if I could pick up my email!

Long story short: ExceptionalNurse.com was born in 2001!  Exceptional Nurse is a nonprofit resource network for nurses and nursing students with disabilities. The nonprofit provides information, support, mentors, employment opportunities, social media and related articles. ExceptionalNurse.com also awards scholarships to nursing students with disabilities.

Following completion of my doctoral program, I published three books and many articles about the experiences of nurses and nursing students with disabilities.

Currently, I teach nursing online, blog, write articles for publication and manage ExceptionalNurse.com. My computer has become my most useful item!

Professionally….it is impossible to pick a fondest memory…there are so many special patients and nursing students!

To my fellow nurses and nursing educators, I would stress that we can inspire the nursing profession, by recognizing that disability is part of life…for everyone! Nurses with disabilities have knowledge, experience and skills to share. They have walked the walk and gained insight into patient care. Their experiences inform and benefit their practice. Many have a passionate desire to care for others. Nurses with disabilities can be the best role models for patients. Many of our practice settings are some of the most accessible facilities in our society. We need to put these settings to work for nurses as well as patients. Where technology, equipment and reasonable accommodations are not enough, nurses need to rely on positive attitudes, teamwork and thinking outside the box. A move toward upholding more of the spirit of the ADA will benefit all of us.

 

Donna C. Maheady, ARNP, EdD

Autism, BLOG & RESOURCES, Developmental Disabilities, HireNurses.com Topics, Insights, Opinions & Conversations, NURSE OF THE MONTH