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Health Care Hall of Fame

Colleen Conway-Welch
Inducted in 2017

Colleen Conway-Welch
1944-
Inducted in 2017

In her long career in nursing, Colleen Conway-Welch figured out sometimes it’s good to bend the rules a bit.

She first realized that early in her career, as she cared for a patient nearing death. “She had a Yorkshire terrier she just adored,” Conway-Welch recalled. “She just wanted to see that little dog before she died.”

Dogs, however, weren’t allowed in the hospital. But that rule interfered with Conway-Welch’s idea of how best to care for her patient, so she found a way around it. She brought the dog up to the fire exit in a small basket, allowing a reunion between the dying woman and the dog she wanted to tell goodbye.

“I realized what I did was really the essence of nursing,” Conway-Welch said. “Afterwards, she was peaceful. That’s what nurses do. They take care of the needs of patients . . . not only the physical but the psychological and even the spiritual. We address every aspect of care.”

That would be a theme troughout her career—advocating for nurses to do more, to learn more, to push boundaries to make sure patients are cared for. And that career included a long tenure as dean of the Vanderbilt University School of Nursing in Nashville.

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