When the students of the Rasmussen College Moorhead campus Student Nurse Organization first learned one of their beloved nursing instructors, Ellen Rummel, had suffered a horrible loss in her family, they knew they wanted to do something to help. In November 2015, 10 months after being diagnosed with a brain tumor, Rummel’s 8-year-old son, Zach, passed away. Rasmussen College nursing student and Student Nurse Organization president, Heather Spessard, was sitting in one of Rummel’s classes listening to her lecture on the nervous system, when Rummel mentioned the loss of her son and talked about how his nervous system had shut down a few years ago. Spessard was moved by the story and knew she wanted to do something to honor Zach and give back to an instructor she admired.
Spessard says, “Ellen is the epitome of the type of nurse I want to be someday. She makes me want to be a better kind of person.” As Spessard’s first nursing instructor at Rasmussen, Rummel has had a large impact on her journey toward becoming a nurse. Spessard says Rummel’s positive attitude and willingness to share her extensive knowledge and passion for the nursing field inspires her students.
Back in October 2016, Spessard wanted to find a place where she and her peers could practice the nursing skills they were learning in their courses, and use them to help the community. Spessard, along with five of her peers, decided to resurrect the former Student Nurse Organization on campus. In their first meeting, they established their mission, “to offer unique experiences for student nurses by providing education and health promotion to our communities.” The organization focuses on different health issues each month and puts on events on campus and in the community to not only practice their skills, but also to give back.
Wanting to do something to support their mission and honor their instructor’s son, the Student Nurse Organization reached out to Rummel to ask if they could host a blood drive on campus in Zach’s honor. According to Spessard, Rummel was “over-the-moon excited.” While Spessard never had the opportunity to meet Zach, she felt she had a special connection with Rummel and her son that called her to help.
In an interview with On the Minds of Moms, Rummel says, “Zach was everyone’s friend and always wanted to help others. Helping others would be the best way to honor Zach’s legacy.” Hosting a blood drive was a great way to get students and community members involved. Spessard says donating blood is an important and easy way to give back to the community and help save lives. According to the American Red Cross, the need for donations is huge—every two seconds someone in the United States needs blood.
Once the plans were set for a “Team Zach” blood drive on May 3, 2017, the list of volunteers came pouring in. Members of the community were quick to become involved in the cause. Spessard says the support for “Team Zach” from both the Rasmussen College family and the Red Cross was wonderful. “It has been three communities coming together as one: ‘Team Zach,’ Rasmussen College and the Red Cross, all working to fulfill the needs of communities and help each other,” she says.
During the six-hour blood drive event, the Rasmussen College Student Nurse organization was able to collect 27 units of blood, which could potentially help up to 81 patients in need. Regarding the event, Spessard said, “I am beyond excited and humbled.” She says, “Zach’s light is shining bright, and he is everywhere.”
After seeing the success of the blood drive and being able to help in the community, Spessard is more excited than ever to join the nursing profession. With a previous degree in Human Resources, Spessard has worked in hospitals and clinics in an administrative capacity for many years. One day she woke up and felt unfulfilled, felt she needed a change and wanted to directly care for patients. She says her five children “inspire me to want to be my best self.” With four pre-teen daughters who are all starting to explore future career options, she wants to be a role model of “going for what your heart tells you.” With the support of her daughters, three-year-old son and her husband, Spessard is working hard through nursing school to make her dreams possible. “I’m so excited!” she says.
Rasmussen College Dean of Nursing, Shantelle Smith, says Heather, “cares about her community and Rasmussen College.” She is, “an incredible leader for our Rasmussen Student Nurse Organization…and she will be an impactful nurse leader in the future.”
For more information on the Rasmussen College nursing program, click here.