By Sarah Wengert
At the age of 17, Kim Clouatre received two important blessings that changed her life forever. While in her hometown hospital giving birth to her first son, Andrew, she also gained a massive respect for nurses which led to a passionate career in healthcare.
“The staff and the nurses that took care of me there were absolutely incredible,” said Clouatre, of the Perkins County Hospital’s team. “That was really what got me thinking about being a nurse. I’d originally planned to be an attorney.”
Patients and facilities nationwide are themselves quite blessed that Clouatre, now a DAISY Award-winning travel nurse with Medical Solutions, changed paths. As a new mother, this healthcare dynamo began working as a nurse aide then attended nursing school at Mary Lanning School of Nursing in Hastings, Nebraska.
“I just fell in love with it,” said Clouatre. “I was president of my freshman class and made lifelong friends in nursing school. I’m still in touch with my best friend from nursing school.”
Next, she returned to Grant for work, where she was the only RN on the night shift fresh out of school.
“Luckily, I had a nurse aide and LPN who knew what the heck they were doing, because I did not yet, and people were just wonderful to help and teach me. I’ve never looked back since,” she said.
Throughout her career, Clouatre’s surely paid it forward, helping out many a student, newbie, and veteran nurse — plus scores of patients. She’s worked in critical access, ER, OB, NICU, hemodialysis, LDRP, and med surg, also serving as a house supervisor, director of a skilled nursing facility, director of home health and hospice, an adjunct LPN instructor, and continues to teach neonatal resuscitation (NRP), advanced life support (ALS) in obstetrics, basic life support (BLS), and stop the bleed.
“I really like to do a little bit of everything,” Clouatre said. “I like variety mainly.”
In a fun twist of fate and timing, 20 years after becoming an RN, Clouatre graduated with her BSN from Creighton University — the same year her son Andrew earned his bachelor’s degree.
In early 2022, Clouatre brought her skills to CHI Health Midlands, in Papillion, Nebraska, as a travel nurse with Medical Solutions and recruiter Branden Thomas. She ultimately worked there for nearly a year, serving as a charge nurse in ER and med surg, before completing her most recent assignment there in January 2023. During her time there, Clouatre was a true team player — even selflessly agreeing to work nights, despite being contracted to work days, due to the hospital’s staffing needs.
While at CHI Health Midlands, she was nominated for and won the prestigious DAISY Award. In another fun twist of fate and timing, she was nominated by another Medical Solutions recruiter, Emily Johnson, who’d already made up her mind to nominate Clouatre before realizing she was a Medical Solutions traveler, due to the excellent care she provided to Johnson’s husband when he was suffering from a kidney stone.
“Kimberly was incredibly professional and super kind, and she really made us feel like a priority and the only ones there,” said Johnson. “My husband and I were both scared since this was our first experience with a kidney stone and the pain was just unbearable, but Kimberly remained calm without sugarcoating anything, which I appreciated. She exemplified everything I could have possibly wanted in the care of my husband. I wish there were thousands more like her.”
Upon learning of her DAISY nomination and eventual award, Clouatre was happy and humbled.
“I was blown away, and so honored,” she said. “I’ve worked with incredible nurses over the years — absolutely incredible nurses — and I can’t even tell you what [the award] means to me. It’s just so fulfilling to know that I make a difference. That’s really all I want.”
Clouatre also said she remembers caring for Johnson’s husband.
“I remember that incident so well. They made a big impression on me, too. But I was shocked by [the nomination],” she said.
After previously working as a travel nurse, Clouatre returned to it as a way to see family more often. In addition to her first son Andrew, she has sons Joel and Max, and six grandchildren. Being a travel nurse is a wonderful way to connect with everyone, and to have the flexibility to work when and where she wants.
“My boys all live in different locations, and I just don’t want to be without them anymore,” Clouatre said. “We’ve got grandchildren, and I just have to be close. Traveling has given me a really wonderful opportunity to do that. I’ve been really impressed with Medical Solutions.”
Next, Clouatre plans to visit her son and grandkids in California. She’s obtained her California license and may seek her next contract in The Golden State. Her husband, Steve, is based in North Platte, Nebraska, which Clouatre also calls her homebase. The pair visit each other whenever possible, and he plans to join her periodically in California.
Now more than ever, Clouatre takes her career seriously and seriously to heart — and that’s just the type of attitude that warrants a DAISY Award.
“Nursing has changed a lot since I first started,” she said. “As nurses, we’re so much more hands-on in giving care than anyone else. That’s why I feel it’s so important to do my job to the best of my ability. I’m incredibly grateful I’m in the position I’m in, and incredibly grateful for how my life happened, even though I’ve had a lot of bumps in the road and it’s the hardest job I’ve ever done. COVID made it so much more difficult, and honestly, I thought about retiring after those first two years because it was horribly hard. I’ve known many fabulous nurses who’ve left, which makes me sad, but I understand. I’ve had three back surgeries in the last eight years because we do so much lifting and [physical work] but there’s just no way around it. It’s really, really hard but it’s the most rewarding thing I can imagine doing — besides having my sons and my grandchildren.”
Sarah Wengert is a senior content specialist for Medical Solutions.