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Fay W. Whitney School of Nursing|College of Health Sciences

2006 Distinguished Alumna

Carol Tafoya, RN, BSN
(BSN, '73)

**********

The number one definition of nursing is "the work of caring for the sick or injured or infirm." Nursing is a discipline focused on assisting individuals and/or families in attaining, re-attaining and maintaining optimal health and functioning. It includes science and art that focuses on quality of life, of living, and dying as defined by persons and families.

Florence Nightingale believed that every person who is drawn to ease the pain and suffering of another is an instrument of genuine healing. She also believed that a spiritual vision and professionalism should be combined. She said that her work was her "must". She was the icon of wholeness and thought that everyone should find their own "must". She also believed that intentions and prayer, love, and compassion affected the clinical outcome of patients. These qualities of nursing have been demonstrated through the professional practice of nursing given by Carol as evidenced by the comments made by her patients and co-workers.

Carol found her "must" at the early age of four, when she decided she was going to be a nurse. That calling never left, and she started on the journey by becoming a candy-striper while in high school. She completed the nursing assistant program, became certified, and then entered the University of Wyoming School of Nursing program from which she graduated in 1973. During Carol's eighteen years at United Medical Center in Cheyenne, she rotated through medical-surgical, pediatrics, intensive care, the emergency room, and tried management. It was in 1987 that she got involved with oncology and the administration of chemotherapy. She had found her calling! The University of Colorado provided the advanced knowledge she needed in chemotherapy. She has taken their course three times to remain current. In 2001, Carol left the Internal Medicine Group and teamed up with the oncologist in private practice. The physicians at the Internal Medicine Group knew they had lost a valuable resource when she quit to work solely with the oncologist. One of the physicians described Carol as one of the "most conscientious and caring employees" ever to have worked with them. "Her clinical skills and compassion make her an absolutely outstanding nurse."

Patients have been followed by Carol for as many as 12 years. They request her because of her skills and kindness, making them able to handle the "dismal disease of cancer." One special skill is starting IV's in veins that have been over used. Several patients mentioned that Carol has high moral standards, great integrity, practices her Christianity with patients, and goes the extra mile. One patient said that Carol was a "gift from God", became an integral part of the family, explained each step of treatment, and showed compassion through her devotion. Carol doesn't allow her patients to lose hope, has seen miracles in some lives, but sadness in others. Carol's spirit never waivers in its love and the support she gives families.

Even though Carol has been recognized with awards, she remains the most humble person I have ever known. She is a wonderful "giver" but never considers herself worthy of recognition for doing what she considers "just her job." If only every nurse practiced with the caring, commitment, and compassion that she does! Carol makes home visits on weekends, at night, and even buys every patient a special cookie to celebrate their last chemo treatment. She has been described as and "angel on earth" and her practice as "what nursing is all about." It isn't every nurse who would use one week of her vacation time to answer an emergency call for staffing help in another city. I believe that Florence Nightingale would be proud of Carol and accept her as someone who found her "must" in her journey through life. Carol practices what Florence Nightingale believed, that intentions and prayer, love, and compassion affect the clinical outcomes of patients. Carol does not compartmentalize her life, but practices her spirituality in her profession. This, too, was what Florence Nightingale thought someone was who had wholeness and a united, integrated life.

*Quotes on Florence Nightingale from Lecture by Barbara Dossey

A special poem for Carol by Bev Gross

Carol Tafoya, my angel, my friend
During my battle with cancer
Our friendship began
The doctor said no hope
Nothing can we do
But Carol answered my prayers
By saying her prayers too
Upon every visit a smile and a hug
That's just what I needed
Never snobby, or smug
I battled the cancer
With courage she gave me
Thank goodness for Carol
Without her, where would I be?
There are angels on earth
Without doubt
When looking for a hero
That's what Carol's all about.

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Tafoya 1973

Pamela Clarke (right) presents the 2006 Distinguished Alumna award to Carol Tafoya.

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