By Sarah Wengert
Rhonda Thompkins has served in various roles throughout her healthcare career. She began her journey as an EMT when her first child was a baby then worked healthcare adjacent as a 911 dispatcher. Next, she became an LPN, L&D RN, and, starting in December 2021, a travel nurse with Aureus Medical (a Medical Solutions company). In the summer of 2023, she earned another exciting title: DAISY Award winner.
Thompkins was nominated by physician/patient, Megan L., who had the “unfortunate experience of needing Rhonda as our nurse” when her daughter was admitted for RSV.
“While I’ve watched her for nine months, care for my obstetrical patients, it was another view to watch her care for my baby,” she said. “Her level of commitment as a travel RN surpasses 99% of our travel staff. She is most deserving of a DAISY award.”
The physician who nominated Thompkins also called her “an exceptional nurse” whom she wishes would stay on as permanent staff.
“She immediately integrated into our team, quickly gained trust of the physicians, and treats every patient with the upmost respect,” said Megan L. “She was always willing to take a full assignment or the ‘patient no one wanted’ and treated every patient with dignity and respect every patient deserves. She also was committed to the team and picked up any needed shifts, made last minute changes to her schedule to help others and numerous times, came in last minute day or night when we were in a scrape with an acute case.”
The warm feelings are mutual. Originally from Marion, South Carolina, Thompkins is currently on assignment in Morehead City, North Carolina, where she was nominated for her DAISY. She enjoyed the facility so much she worked there for nearly a year, left for another contract, then returned.
“They treat me like I’m one of them and I’ve made so many friends here,” Thompkins said. “It’s crazy the amount of people that I’ve brought into my life from just being in this role. I mean, I really do want to go other places, but I needed to come back here for a little while — for a couple of contracts and then I’ll hopefully venture out further.”
Next on Thompkins’ list of dream locations? Alaska — inspired by the seven–day cruise she and her husband, Stephen, took for their 22nd anniversary.
“I always wanted to be a nurse,” Thompkins said. “I grew up with a mentally handicapped brother and took care of him during the summer when mom and dad were at work. Being that caretaker was what drew me into nursing.”
Thompkins’ stops along the way of her career were largely about her dedication to her family and finding the right timing. After a detour in the county clerk of court’s office, healthcare called her home again and into an 18-month LPN program.
“Nursing had always been where I wanted to be,” she said. “The program was scheduled just like public school — Monday through Friday during school hours. I could take the kids to school, go to my classes, and then I was able to pick them up. Essentially, I did full-time mommy duties while I was in LPN school. While they were young, I worked weekends only in long-term care. I was a full-time mama during the week and a nurse on the weekend.”
Thompkins’ husband worked long, demanding hours as a paramedic, so she paused again until the kids were older before getting her RN.
“When my son got his license, I started doing pre-reqs so I could live out my dream of being a labor and delivery nurse,” she said. “It was busy, but worth it.”
Thompkins isn’t entirely sure why she chose L&D as her RN specialty, but said she knew all the way back during her LPN clinical.
“When I went home that day, I told my husband that I would one day go back to school to get my RN and work in labor and delivery,” she said. “I can’t really explain what drew me to it, except that I had C-sections with my children and never got to experience that vaginal delivery. When I saw a vaginal delivery during my LPN clinicals I was just amazed at what a woman’s body can do.”
Now that she’s been in L&D for a while, Thompkins is quick to remind people it’s not just about rocking or holding a baby.
“I like the challenge labor and delivery gives because you have two patients, but one of them you can’t see. You really must know what’s going on just by the monitor showing the baby’s condition. You need to be able to use critical thinking to know when the baby is in danger.”
RN dream unlocked and incredible kids raised, Thompkins is pleased with her career pace and a very proud mom of her 6’5” “baby” boy, Hunter, and her daughter, Madison, a full-time police officer Thompkins calls “my little mini me.” She also raised her stepdaughter, Chelsea — mother to Thompkins’ granddaughters, Kylie and Khloe. She, Chelsea, and Khloe shared a very special moment in the hospital. “I got to deliver Khloe, because she was my stepdaughter, not my biological child,” Thompkins said. “The baby was measuring small, so we needed to do an induction. We went in that morning, and Chelsea wanted me there but also [wanted her other mama there]. So, me being the nurse was the best option. They let me do it and the doctor working that day let me catch the baby. It was really cool.”
While Thompkins travels solo while on assignment, her husband, miniature dachshund puppy (Hooch), children, and grandchildren come to visit. She’s currently only about three-and-a-half hours from her home in Marion, South Carolina.
Thompkins wanted to try travel nursing after chatting with the many travelers who came through the hospital at home where she worked on staff. She says, “talking to them and hearing all the places they’d traveled to, making new friends and seeing new things, learning from other facilities,” sparked her interest.
“You get stagnant in the way things are done at your hospital,” she said. “You don’t ever know how it’s done somewhere else. I wanted to broaden my knowledge.”
When she learned about her DAISY Award win, Thompkins was on shift and caught quite off guard when she was pulled off the floor and into a meeting.
“I was shocked, because I didn’t even know I’d been nominated,” she said. “The doctor that nominated me knows I just do what needs to be done. I don’t do it thinking I’m going to get an award or anything like that. It’s just my job and I do my job every day. But the fact that she [nominated me] and said she felt I went over and above was nice to hear — especially in a travel role.”
Sarah Wengert is a senior content writer for Medical Solutions.