Nurse of Excellence: Alison Thompson

Alison Thompson
RN/BSN, Rapid City OB/GYN

Tell me about yourself.

I’m the mom of two boys: Brock is 14 and just started his freshman year of high school and Derek is 12. We like to spend time at Center Lake in Custer State Park, and both kids are into sports and other extracurricular activities.  

Why did you choose a career in nursing?

My mother was a community health nurse all my life; she just retired last year but is still getting called in to help. She’s always been the hardest worker I’ve ever known and an awesome role model. 

How long have you been a nurse?

I’ve been a nurse for 16 years. I started out as a “volunteen” my senior year and got a job as an admissions associate on the clerical and business end right out of high school, working with pre-op, preadmissions, and post-op. A big chunk of my early career was spent as an RN on the cardio-thoracic team in the OR. I completely switched gears and moved to OB/GYN even though I didn’t know anything about it other than the fact that I’m a woman and I have kids. I’ve been there three years now and love it.  

What is most rewarding about your job?

I enjoy hearing peoples’ stories. Every patient is different—they all have unique needs, and I like to gear my nursing skills toward what they need. I love learning from seasoned nurses; some have taught me things that I’ve learned I don’t want to do, but most of them teach me how I can improve. I also love the diversity of nursing; there’s a huge range of what you can do. If you’re feeling stuck in one area, there are so many opportunities to do different things. 

What do you find most challenging?

Learning to give myself some slack and not bringing those really hard days home with me. Nursing is very rewarding and you do awesome things, but there are hard days, too. Remembering to take care of myself and learning to forgive myself is huge. It’s important to have balance, and that can get skewed if you aren’t careful. 

What skills make a nurse exceptional?

There’s no perfect nurse, but the best ones allow themselves to be humbled. Be teachable because it’s always changing. Be innovative—try to figure out what you’re going to do that will benefit your patients the most. Be consistent. Everybody has good and bad days, but when you walk in the door, leave home at home. Consistency lets patients know you’re there for them.

What advice would you give others thinking about becoming a nurse?

Always put the patient first. This won’t always make you the most popular in the room; everybody has a boss, and a lot of them have to answer to insurance companies. You have to fight for them and be a patient advocate. They need someone to help them maneuver through the healthcare system. Go above and beyond for every patient and do more than what’s expected. 

If you hadn’t gone into nursing, what do you think you’d be doing?

I love gardening and cooking, so I’d probably choose something in horticulture. My parents are in the tourism industry and I grew up with that, so I’ve always thought it would be great to have a little motel or something touristy.