Donanne Blankenship was a registered nurse for 37 years, and it was all she had ever done or wanted to do. But in 2012, when the hospital where she was employed suddenly shut down, she wasn’t sure what to do anymore. She says she became severely depressed, some days unable to get out of bed.
“It was like I lost all of my purpose. I’d always been a nurse,” Blankenship said.
Her husband, becoming increasingly worried. He made an appointment for her to see a psychiatrist, which helped start her on a road to recovery, but they didn’t stop there.
Mr. Blankenship had worked at a Psychosocial Rehabilitation Center (PSR) in Wake County for many years, now Monarch’s Club Horizon. He knew the staff needed extra help and asked Donanne if she would volunteer there.
She agreed and started by helping to organize their medical records system and kept track of paperwork. She quickly identified other ways she could provide her expertise and redesigned a form known as a face sheet that contains the supported person’s information. She was able to make the form more useful based on her knowledge from working in an Emergency Department (ED) and what information they would ask patients.
Blankenship also updated Club Horizon’s consent forms, took over helping the social workers do paper work for discharge charts, and then moved on to what she does now—helping to create personal outcomes paperwork.
“They valued the work that I was doing and told me that I was catching important things and making improvements. It made me feel useful, like I was doing something that benefitted the clubhouse,” Blankenship explained.
She also began to realize over time that not only was she helping the staff, she was also forming meaningful relationships with the Club Horizon members?. They began to come and talk to her about the things they were going through themselves.
“After I lost my job I went through a deep depression. I got a feeling of what it’s like to feel lost and I can really associate with the members when they talk about personal matters to me,” she explained. “A lot of people discount what they [the members] have to say because they have a mental health diagnosis. But being able to say ‘I’ve been there and I know what you’re talking about,’ it helps me be empathetic. I don’t offer solutions, I’m just someone to talk to.”
For Blankenship, the members are the best part about volunteering. When she sees someone change for the better after getting their GED, taking college courses or after they have gotten on the right medication and gained employment, it is an incredible feeling for her. “I always tell people, this is the best job I never had,” she jokes. “It’s really the truth. I should have been doing this for the past 50 years. That’s how passionate I am.”