Nebraska long-term care nurse earns leadership award

There’s a waiting list to get into the Good Samaritan Society in rural Albion, Nebraska. The senior living campus has a reputation for providing compassionate care for residents.

A good name, in a town of more than 1,500 people, built by dedicated staff members such as clinical care leader Leanne Atwood, RN.

“I just admire Leanne so much,” Society director of nursing Shalynne Hohnholt says. “I remember coming here as a third grader 20 years ago and Leanne was here then. Just growing up in the community knowing that this was a place that was special to so many people from a young age.

“Having someone like Leanne as a pillar for that just represents our building so much.”

'Here I am 30 years later'

Leanne arrived at the Society in Albion 30 years ago after spending 15 years as a nurse in Omaha, 129 miles to the east.

“I decided I’m going to work here one year and then I was hoping to go to acute care. But here I am 30 years later,” Leanne, who works in the long-term care center, says with a smile.

“The hours for me, having a young family at that time, were very flexible. It was just a good fit for the whole family.”
It’s also a perfect fit for the kind of nurse Leanne wants to be.

“People joke a lot that she’s kind of an old school nurse,” Nicole Rutten, RN, a Society long-term care nurse says. “A lot of people nowadays learn about the residents and their care sitting at a computer. Leanne isn’t like that. She will go in; she’ll close the door and she will spend hours with them sitting down talking to them and just getting to know all the little things that make them tick.”

Society administrator Gina Rankin adds, “She truly takes care of every resident as if it’s her parent, her loved one that she’s caring for.”

Funny enough, Leanne’s parent actually lives at the nursing home, too. Her mom Rita Schrage recently moved in.

“The girls describe her as a little spicy. She’s a little outspoken,” Leanne jokes.

Growing up on a farm with seven brothers, Leanne knew she’d eventually leave to become a nurse.

“She didn’t stay on the farm because she didn’t want to milk cows,” Rita says sitting next to Leanne in a community room.

Looking at her mom, Leanne responds, “Thanks for letting me run away from the farm.”

National Ever Forward Leader Champion

Turns out Leanne made the right decision for her life and career in health care.

After decades of putting residents first, Leanne is being honored as the Good Samaritan Society’s National Ever Forward Leader Champion.

“I wanted to nominate Leanne for this award because she is one of the most kind and caring nurses that I know,” Society business office coordinator Lori Warner says. “She just makes each of (the residents) feel like she’s caring for them and them alone. She treats them each like they are her own family, which in a sense they are.”

Leanne treats her teammates in a similar fashion.

“If I could give a word or explanation beyond leader, that would be Leanne,” Shalynne says. “Not even just a leader but so much more to this facility, the community. If anyone needs an answer on something they’ll just say, ‘Well I’m sure Leanne knows.’”

Gina adds, “she’s not a nurse who’s going to go get an aide to do that (task). She’s going to do that care for the resident and go beyond that.
“I believe that God works through her for our facility.”

'She deserves every award she gets'

After COVID-19 led to serious illness, resident Kaye Koehler spent a month getting better at the Society in Albion. Between rehab and Leanne’s watchful eye, she’s healed up and heading home.

“She deserves every award she gets,” Kaye says about Leanne. “She’s always calm and cool. She knows her stuff. She’s warm and loving to everybody.

“It makes me feel secure.”

Kaye’s daughter Nicole Spann adds Leanne is “one of the best. I understand why she’s being given an award. She’s very caring and kind and just really keeps her eye on everything that’s going on with the patients.”

Over the years, Leanne has filled in as director of nursing and been a role model to her fellow nurses.

“I’ve watched her for the last ten years,” Rutten, who also nominated Leanne, says. “I think if I could learn from anybody or aspire to be like anyone, it’s definitely Leanne. She’s excellent at her job.”

'A meaningful career'

Not someone who enjoys the spotlight, Leanne being surprised with the award in front of family, residents and peers brought on a lot of emotion.

“It was a big surprise. I did start to cry,” Leanne says. “Very humbled by it. I don’t see myself in that light. I just think we all have a job here and everybody who works here and in long-term care is worthy of that nomination.

“They were happy tears. It was a good moment.”

A moment her proud mom got to witness.

“Very proud,” Rita says regarding her daughter’s honor. “She loves it here.”

Leanne’s love for the Society will make it hard to leave when her career comes to an end.

“Even now I am to that retirement age and thinking about that and it’s hard to think about leaving the residents,” Leanne says. “I want to make sure they’re OK and I want to make sure they’re safe.

“It really has been a meaningful career.”

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