Giving Back Comes Naturally to Care Team Leader

Emergency Department (ED) care team leader Sue Wolfe, BSN, RN, was a little overwhelmed by the public displays of support for her team at University Hospital shortly after the COVID-19 pandemic took hold in March 2020.

“People from the community were bringing us food and holding up signs of encouragement,” says Sue. “It was all very humbling since we were just doing our jobs. Still, it was incredibly kind for the public to show so much support at a time when it felt like everyone’s world was being turned upside down.”

Seeing news coverage of growing lines at local food banks, Sue instinctively knew she had to do something to give back.

“We clearly had our share of stress in the ED with COVID-19, but so many people outside our doors were losing their jobs and having trouble feeding their families,” Sue says. “That’s a whole different level of stress.”

It didn’t take long before Sue sent an email to her ED colleagues seeking donations to support Dane County food banks. To make it easy, she set up PayPal and Venmo accounts so physicians, nurses, pharmacists and other ED staff could start contributing with just a few clicks on their phone.

She was hoping to raise $500 within two weeks, but by Day 5, $3,000 had come in.

“It was blowing up in a way I couldn’t imagine,” Sue says.

Social media helped spread the word even further. By the time two weeks elapsed, Sue had raised $10,400 for the Dane County Food Pantry Network.

“It was exciting to see so many of my co-workers get behind something during such a tough time,” Sue says. “People just needed to feel good about something.”

A UW Health nurse since 1984 and ED care team leader for 11 years, Sue is widely regarded as a someone who reflexively looks out for the best interests of the ED as a whole.

“In the best sense, Sue is like a ‘Department Mom’ to so many of us,” says ED nurse manager Melanie Hankes, BSN, RN. “She’s approachable, dependable and caring, and helps us weather any storm we face while always putting patients first.”

Like many of her colleagues, Melanie was not surprised by Sue’s food bank fundraising last spring.

“It’s part of Sue’s DNA to go beyond the call and help others,” Melanie says. “From volunteering at a Wisconsin summer camp to teaching emergency room nurses in Ethiopia, Sue just appreciates how wonderful life is and wants to keep paying it forward.”

View the full nursing annual report, 2020: The year of the resilient, remarkable nurse: