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CCH Legend strives to bring joy to her patients

CCH Legend strives to bring joy to her patients

When Delora Schmidt was in the sixth grade, she participated in a lesson at school that had students “adopt a grandparent”. Essentially, these 11-12 year olds would visit their adopted grandparent once a week and ask them about life, play games and go for walks. Delora’s grandparent was Theresa, and she left quite an impression on a young Delora.

Now a nurse (for the past 18 years), Delora says she loves being there for people—patients, visitors, and staff alike.

“I want to make patients comfortable when they are here,” she says. “People want to be listened to and validated. We need to remember that our patient’s feel vulnerable when they are here. They have lost some control, depending on what their illness is, and they can be in a great deal of pain—they can also be feeling scared and lonely.”

Delora’s favorite patients are often the ones who come across as crabby or difficult, or just have a harsher personality. “They have a story, too—they have fears and feelings like everyone else. They just show it differently and often protect themselves in this manner. I like to try to get through their protective shell and make them smile or laugh. Laughter is healing.”

It’s this caring approach to patients and work ethic that has earned Delora a Legend Award. For those who don't know, CCH defines a Legend as, “those people who have left a permanent impression on our minds because of their deeds and actions. Ongoing demonstration of hard work, compassion, and a reputation for greatness make someone a legend.”

Delora, RN, BSN, grew up in Beulah, ND and became as a nursing aide at a Certified Nurse’s Assistant (CNA) at the age of 15. She attended college at the Medcenter One College of Nursing in Bismarck, ND. During her three years of college, she worked as a CNA on a Medical/Surgical Unit. Some nine years ago, her family moved to Gillette where she took a job working in Maternal Child (Labor and Delivery) at Campbell County Health and moved throughout the organization, working in the Emergency Department (ED), and the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). Today, Delora works as a House Supervisor, and will often pick up shifts throughout the hospital when needed, which helps keep her “humble and grounded” as a nurse, she says.

For those who don’t know, House Supervisors are go-to managers who have a bird’s-eye view of the hospital—they essentially know what’s happening throughout the organization at all times, and know who to contact or follow up with to make sure everything is working smoothly. Because Delora has worked all over in CCMH (and at her previous jobs) she has developed strong leadership skills. “With her knowledge base, she is a valuable resource to staff,” says Anne Raga, CCH Director of Nursing. “Delora is often the first person who comes to mind when someone needs advice. People know that she will be level-headed yet compassionate, and help identify the best course of action.”

“That’s the great thing about nursing; you can experience so many different ways to practice this career by working in different areas. My father always told me not to get stuck in one spot and I think this experience makes me a well-rounded nurse,” she says. And, she has some advice for new nurses: “Think like a buffalo as a new nurse—take things head on. Take the hardest patients, dive into the most difficult situations because that’s what makes you learn and grow. Get uncomfortable. Be compassionate and treat every patient like they are your family.”

Delora is the true definition of a light in this world. When she walks into the room, it’s obvious because if you look around, you’ll see several people’s faces light up. “She brings joy with her,” says Sherry Bailey, ICU Manager. “Her humor and zest for life are unmatchable. I appreciate her ability to communicate with everyone, especially in stressful or difficult situations.”

Joy is a big word in Delora’s life. “I’ve been through a life-threatening surgery—I’ve experienced pain and uncertainty. I understand what it’s like to be on that side—a patient—and it teaches you compassion,” Delora says of her experience with brain surgery. “I’ve learned that the little things in life, really need to be the little things. Life is too short. These are my goals: don’t take people for granted, be thankful and don’t complain; see something positive even in bad situations and keep life priorities in check; and, of course, be joyful.”

Katie Golinvaux in Patient and Resident Experience recalls a time when Delora called her after a shift to talk about a mother of a young, critically ill patient in the ICU who Delora was worried about. Delora knew that the child was being cared for by an excellent team, but she also wanted to make sure that the mother was being supported by CCH staff while her child was ill. “To Delora, nursing is not just a job; it’s a calling. She serves with her whole heart,” Katie says.

A devout Catholic, Delora says her faith is very important to her. She attends St. Matthews Catholic Church in Gillette, and participates as a Youth Group Leader to high-school aged youth and is a Eucharistic Minister and lector for Mass. She also signed up to chaperone a group of teens on a spiritual pilgrimage to Poland for World Youth Day in July with Pope Francis. As a teen, Delora traveled to Denver to see John Paul II for World Youth Day. “When I come to work I pray that God places me where He needs me. I might be put with a difficult patient, and I know that there is a purpose in that. It just means that there was something He wanted me to do. It may be as simple as providing a listening ear, a smile or encouragement.”

Delora has also volunteered with Campbell County 4-H as a Club Leader, been a camp nurse, and assisted with numerous other activities. “I believe that 4-H teaches kids’ work ethic, public speaking, education, research and other life-skills that they can take with them throughout life. I liked helping them find something to be proud of,” she says.

Delora is married to Brian, who has been with her since she was 15 years old—they’ve been married for 19 years. They have three children: Natalia, 16; Jazlyn, 14; and Levi, 10. “I have a pretty cool family. We’re always having fun and pranking one another. I’m thankful and proud of my husband and children.” Her family enjoys spending time together. Their favorite activities are participating in rodeos, riding horses in the mountains, camping and having any kind of fun in the outdoors.

Thank you, Delora for your contagious laugh and your uniquely compassionate approach to caring for our patients. You have left a permanent impression in this organization and in our community. Congratulations.