Heather Donaldson

Nursing, it's a great career

A multi-generational legacy, Heather explains that she tried not to listen to her call to be nurse, but when she answered, it was the best gift she could have received.

portrait of Heather Donaldson, nurse at UC Davis Health


Before I was a nurse, I was a musician. I lived in Los Angeles and I had a band and I did all of that. And actually, I come from a very long legacy of nurses. My mother was a nurse here at UC Davis. She was the OR nurse educator. She retired quite a few years ago, but she held that position for 25 years or something. My father was an OR nurse as well in the Sacramento area, and a nurse manager at various hospitals. Both of my grandmothers were nurses. My aunt was a nurse in Vietnam. Basically, the joke in my family is that if you aren't a nurse, you're either a nun or a priest. And I really didn't want to be any of those things, if I'm being honest. I wanted to be a rock star. I don't know what I wanted to do.

And my parents would always say, "Nursing, it's a great career." And of course, I didn't want to hear it until I was ready to hear it. And then I finally agreed to try prerequisites and I said, "Look, if I find them interesting, I'll stick with it." And I found them interesting, and now here I am. I would say that I think, nursing, especially the type of nursing that I do now, which is being a critical care nurse, I think it really is a gift because it gives you so much perspective on your own situation and your own life, and how fortunate you are often. Because I can be taking care of a patient who is so very sick for a number of different reasons, and might never be able to enjoy the type of life that I am able to live every day.

So I really think that that perspective is a gift. And I always thought before I was a nurse, I always would see these tragedies happen. Like Hurricane Katrina sticks out in my mind, and I remember thinking how I wanted to help or volunteer and now my life is very much a life of service. And I get so much fulfillment from that. So it's not just giving, it's also, you get something back from that.