One of Donna (Mattson) Meador’s earliest childhood memories is of her mother, in a white nurse’s uniform, carrying her into her grandparents’ house in the wee hours of the morning. “She was working on her licensed practical nursing degree and doing clinicals,” Donna recalls. “She was my example, and I never considered any career but nursing. I wanted to care for and help others.”
Donna grew up in the south end of Louisville and attended Parkwood United Methodist Church, where she first heard about Kentucky Wesleyan College. When she found out the College had a nursing program, she knew KWC was the place for her; it was just far enough away from home, yet not too far. She reflects that KWC was a great place to be on her own, yet she was surrounded by people who wanted to provide support and guidance.
She recalls nursing instructors Rose Clark and Betty Connor and describes them as wonderful mentors to fledging nursing students. “I reflect from time to time on lessons they taught our very green freshman class. Those lessons remain pertinent today.” She says faculty were always accessible and that the teaching was excellent. “Wesleyan was the right place for me.”
Donna was attracted to the high energy critical areas of nursing such as intensive care and the emergency department, and within three years of graduating from KWC, she was a flight nurse on the SkyCARE helicopter in Louisville. Her first flight was to Owensboro to pick up a patient in the ICU where she had previously worked. Several years later, she became the chief flight nurse, and this whetted her appetite for responsibilities in nursing leadership and quality improvement. She worked in hospital settings most of her career and finished the hospital portion of her career in 2012 as the chief nursing officer (CNO) for a small community hospital.
She then led the Kentucky portion of the national patient safety and quality initiative funded by the Center of Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) Partnership for Patients Initiative, part of the Affordable Care Act, the Hospital Engagement Network (HEN), later the Hospital Improvement and Innovation Network (HIIN). “I was able to visit, coach and consult with over 100 hospitals across Kentucky to help them reduce harm and improve patient safety and quality in areas such as prevention of falls, pressure ulcers, obstetrics complications, hospital-acquired infections, etc. I led a great team, and we helped hospitals achieve many great outcomes.”
The Kentucky Hospital Association HEN and HIIN teams guided the state to reduce harm in many areas including reducing early elective deliveries from 30% to less than 4% and reducing central line-associated bloodstream infections by more than 20%.
Donna is president-elect of the Kentucky Nurses Association (KNA) and will assume her new responsibilities in November. The World Health Organization declared 2020 “The Year of the Nurse and Midwife” long before COVID-19 shook the world. “Nurses have risen to the challenge, and KNA has supported nurses through distributing hand sanitizer, face shields, providing mental health resources and critical education on COVID, as well as promoting gratitude and recognition for nurses on the frontlines. It has been a privilege to be a part of this effort.”
She also volunteers with the Kentucky Organization of Nurse Leaders and works fulltime in the family packaging and manufacturing business, where she helps with human resources and as the “Chief Healthy at Work Officer.” She considers that one of the biggest challenges and successes of her nursing career has been to help and encourage health care organizations to evaluate themselves honestly and to design successful plans to make their organizations safer and better places to work. “I have found that to be very rewarding, as well as times when I advocated for patients and a plan of care to achieve the best outcome according to their wishes.”
Donna is very active in her local church, Centenary United Methodist Church in Shelbyville and she enjoys decorating, gardening and traveling with her husband, Steve. They were married in 1986 and have four children and eight grandchildren. Her 89-year-old father is nearby and her in-laws live with them part of the year. Their lives round out with a black lab, two barn cats and 15 cows, calves and steers. “Life is always an adventure.”