"What do you want to be when you grow up?" It's a question kids ask each other as they play "pretend" games. Ask a group of grown-up health care workers and they might say: I always wanted to be a nurse. I knew I would be a radiologist since high school. I fell in love with the Emergency Department. I was ready to assist in bringing life into the world.

Donna Atkinson is no exception. Since she was a little girl, she wanted to be a nurse but raising her family came first. After her two boys grew up and with her husband's encouragement, she went back to school. "I like variety," she said, noting that patients at The Outer Banks Hospital may be recovering from pneumonia, hip replacement surgery or appendicitis. "The variety keeps your skills set sharp," she said. Patients and their families have been known to call the medical-surgical unit at the hospital and ask if Nurse Donna will be in that day because they want to drop off a cake or cookies they've baked in thanks for her service. "Donna is genuine in her commitment to patient care," said Bernice Jardel, Director of the Medical-Surgical Unit.

Atkinson worked for 10 years as a registered nurse on the infectious and pulmonary diseases unit at Virtua Health in Mt. Holly, New Jersey, before she and her husband, David, moved to the Outer Banks in 2001, where they had vacationed for more than 10 years. "We sold everything and moved here with no jobs. Had we waited, we might have lost that window of opportunity in our lives."

Atkinson submitted her job application when the hospital opening in March 2002. "I'm most comfortable in the hospital setting, I like working bed-side, and I enjoy assisting patients recover their health," she said. In her five-plus years with the hospital, she has seen a lot of growth. However, the hospital has maintained its warmth and affability. "Everyone is accessible," she said, "the physicians are approachable and when I pick up the phone and say, 'Hello, this is Donna in Med-Surg,' everyone knows who I am."