Nurse of Excellence: Nancy Oligmueller

Nancy Oligmueller
RN, Black Hills Surgical Hospital

Tell me about yourself.

I’ve been married almost 30 years to my best friend and soulmate, Brad. Our daughter Taylor is 27 and lives in Tennessee; she’s a mom to my granddaughter Eleanor, two, and Emilia is on the way. Our other daughter, Makayla, is 24 and followed in mama’s footsteps by becoming a nurse herself.  

Why did you choose a career in nursing?

I wanted to be a physical therapist but couldn’t get in because it was very competitive. Paging through the college handbook I landed on nursing and saw that clinicals were available for on-the-job training. I figured if I could learn while doing the work, I wouldn’t get bored. It turned out to be a great calling; I’ve loved everything I have done. 

How long have you been a nurse?

I’ve been a nurse for 37 years. The last 19 have been at the pain clinic, but I’m about to start a new opportunity across the street where I’ll be learning some new things that I can take on the road in a few years so I can travel and see my grandchildren. When I started my career there was no shortage of nurses, so you had to know somebody in order to work where you wanted. I spent the first three years of my career in Deadwood, and they were the best years of my life. I worked in the ER, ICU, and OB/GYN and ended up delivering 70 babies on my own or with assistance. 

What is most rewarding about your job?

Being there and making someone feel better or putting them at ease. One patient was suffering from depression and I encouraged her to try medications to help her feel better. She came in later and said I saved her life. 

What do you find most challenging?

I think a lot of things get lost in nursing because of technology. You’re more engrossed in your computer clicking boxes instead of getting information and charting it or writing it all down as you go. COVID has been another huge challenge and something I never thought I’d see in my life. When making big decisions you’re darned if you do, darned if you don’t. 

What skills make a nurse exceptional?

You have to look at the whole picture of the patient, from their mental health all the way to their family dynamics. You can help the patient get better, but if their mental health isn’t in the right mode or their family situation isn’t conducive to what they need to get better, you need to tweak what they’ll have to do at home to ensure the best outcome. You need to be a good listener and care from your heart. 

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

Don’t become a nurse unless you have your heart in it. Don’t be afraid to speak up; doctors can be intimidating, but it’s important to go with your gut feeling—it will never steer you wrong. If you don’t feel like something is going right with a patient, 98 percent of the time your gut feeling will steer you in the right direction. When you’re a nurse, the people you take care of become family. You have to be a patient advocate. 

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

I probably would have ended up in a healthcare field of some sort. I’ve always been a people person, so if I had to start fresh today, I’d do something that involved visiting with people and getting to know them. I think working in a grocery store would be perfect because you interact with customers and really get to know them.