Editor’s note: This article was written in March, a month before Donna Punch was supposed to retire. But in true Donna fashion, when COVID-19 hit, she couldn’t leave her team at such an important time. She decided to postpone her retirement, roll up her sleeves and work with her ambulatory colleagues to keep their patients safe. She showed tremendous dedication, leadership and patience in the face of the terrifying pandemic. She guided us with her ever-calm words of reassurance as she remained in her role until she retired in July. Thank you, Donna.
Donna Punch, VP of Ambulatory Services, retired after a rewarding nursing career that spans over 49 years. When she was 18, Donna began working as a nurse in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. She quickly gained experience in emergency care, general operating rooms, trauma, orthopedics (which she loved). Eventually, she took on more team lead positions. Donna had two children, one in 1977 one in 1979. Maternity leave was only three months long at the time, so she continued to work full-time. In 2000, after 24 years as a nursing leader in Sault-Ste Marie, Donna and her family decided to move to Toronto, or as she calls it, the “Big City”. She began working at Markham Hospital, where she gained some more ophthalmology experience. She grew to love the city.
In the fall of 2005, Donna heard of an eye institute opening up in the community. She jumped at the opportunity and became first nursing team lead at Kensington Eye Institute (KEI), assisting with the planning and opening of the Institute a year later. She was promoted to Director of Kensington Eye Institute in 2007. Donna poured her heart into Kensington. A true northern Ontario girl, Donna always got the job done, forever level-headed and down to earth. She was instrumental to KEI’s growth and saw the Institute grow from 32 to 53 physicians, expand its scope of surgical services, begin to offer diagnostic eye care services and pilot corneal cross-linking. Learn more about KEI’s history here.
We sat down with her to reflect on her time at Kensington:
Is there a special moment that sticks out as you reflect on your time at Kensington?
“I remember when we celebrated our 25 000th cataract patient, we organized an event and had the 1st and the 25 000th patient there. That was pretty special. Then we did 50,000, then 100,000 and so on. There isn’t a day that goes by without a patient or family member coming to my door and telling me what a great experience they had at KEI and how knowledgeable and kind the staff are.”
Healthcare is constantly changing and moving forward. Where do you see Kensington going in the future?
“My first assignment in the early 70s was a post-op surgery ward where I did on occasion nurse post op cataract patients. Cataract surgery was an hour long back then. These patients had to spend up to a week in the hospital lying flat on their backs with sandbags holding their head in place. They were quite a nursing challenge. Fast forward to what we see now, a few minute procedure, in and out day procedure with amazing vision results for our patients. I see Kensington as an organization that will keep on growing, more and more in ambulatory care, a leader in Ontario.”
If you could give go back in time and give your younger self some advice, what would you say?
“Always follow your dreams. When I was a small child, I got a nurse kit for Christmas. Also, when my sister and I used to play school, I was always the nurse and she was always the teacher. She became a teacher. And we know where I ended up.”
We are so very excited for Donna as she embarks on this new chapter of life. Donna looks forward to enjoying time with her four grandchildren, connecting more with her siblings, and travelling with her husband. Please join us in congratulating Donna on her retirement!