By Jennifer Melham
As the daughter of an RN and a pharmacist , Leigh Anne Thomas grew up with care in her veins. She’s been an RN herself for 27 years and pursued this profession due to her awareness, even as a child, of how the lives of the elderly could be much better regarding the level of care they were receiving.
“My mom sent me to kindergarten with a nurse’s bag from the dollar store, complete with a stethoscope and thermometer, and my parents would take me to the nursing home on Sunday afternoons to do church services in the 70s. Let’s just say I chose nursing, and it chose me.”
An Inspirational Journey
Thomas has worked in long-term geriatric care for most of her career as an RN—over two decades! Her dedicated passion for caring for the elderly never wavered.
She’s now been a travel clinician for eight years. Her favorite part of the job is meeting personal and professional challenges while learning that people are all the same and deserve the same level of respect and care—no matter where she goes.
Bringing Care to Each Assignment
Traveling has come with many benefits for Thomas, who expressed her gratitude for experiences such as seeing the Grand Canyon and visiting Hawaii. These days, her dream assignments are the ones that get her closer to her family.
“I can’t pick a favorite assignment—for me, it’s about the people and the relationships developed over the years. I love getting calls from folks from years ago, checking in to see how I am, if I heard about the new regulations, to ask a question, or—my favorite—saying they need me to come back.”
Rewarding Work Ethics and Dedication
Thomas was fortunate to work with colleague Mary Alice Stevenson, who nominated Thomas for the Daisy Award, at two separate facilities. She noted how she and Stevenson shared their placement of priorities and sense of urgency right from the start.
In her nomination, Stevenson emphasized how dedicated Thomas is, speaking to her great level of nursing knowledge and experience, unbelievable work ethic, managerial and people skills, hands-on care, and how much of a team player she is—selflessly always having the facility’s needs in mind.
Stevenson recounted a time when the facility was expecting surveyors. Instead of going home for a 3-day weekend, Thomas chose to spend time at her sister’s house, which was closer to the facility, so she could be available if needed. Just one example of her strong work ethic.
“I’ve been doing travel work for 7-8 years and have never worked with a more outstanding person and nurse as her,” said Stevenson. “I’m blessed to know her and have worked with her. I wish she would’ve started this assignment at the same time that I did. We could’ve accomplished even more than we did in our brief time together.”
These accomplishments included creating a pleasant work environment and developing expectations for professional conduct, mutual respect, and accountability at the facilities they served. They also cleared numerous tags from an annual state survey conducted before Thomas’s arrival at the first facility where they worked together.
Thomas spoke fondly of her partnership with Stevenson, saying they were “an effective team in that we could combine our methodologies for management and success. Our time as travelers is so short in comparison to the total need of the facility. So much was yet to be done, processes and systems yet to be defined and educated. But the working relationship we had was perfect.”
Words to Live By
Thomas shared how she felt about winning the Daisy Award. “I was so honored! I cried,” she said.
She described how she’s always ready to jump in and get to work, crediting her children, family, and her sweetheart for keeping her going daily. She approaches each new assignment with care and has two pieces of advice she lives by every day:
1. “Be Nice.” – Athena Simpson
2. “The secret to success is to surround yourself with people who know how to do their jobs and do them well.” – Julie Morris, LNHA
Outside of work, Thomas loves being in peaceful places, like her cabin in Missouri or on a farm in Tennessee. She enjoys being with her children, grandchildren, and her sweetheart, and enjoys hobbies such as playing and writing music, binge-watching TV alongside her sister with a bag of chips, camping, and cook-outs.
Thomas’s extraordinary dedication to nursing, teamwork, and caring for others is an inspiring example for all in the healthcare field and beyond.
Jennifer Melham is a content writer for Medical Solutions.