DONNER WHEELER - 2016

The Registered Nurses Foundation of Ontario honours a dynamic duo who have influenced the careers and lives of many nurses here this evening and those in far flung places.  Gail Donner and Mary Wheeler – founders and partners of the infamous ‘donnerwheeler’ are the recipients of the 2016 RNFOO Honourary Lifetime Member Award.   donnerwheeler had its beginning when Gail was working at Sick Kids as director of nursing education and research.  Mary had opened her own consulting practice in organizational development.  The Ontario Ministry of Health – driven by a concern about nursing recruitment and retention- initiated the Nursing Innovation Fund to support innovative projects responsive to this concern.  At the time, most organizational professional development programs focused on helping nurses to learn what they needed to know to do the work that needed to be done.

>Characteristically, Gail and Mary forged a different path and spearheaded the development of a funding application that proposed a career planning and development program intervention aimed at helping nurses to be who they wanted to be. After one rejection they reapplied and were awarded the grant.  

The Taking Control of Your Career and your Future intervention workshop coupled with individual career coaching took off at Sick Kids and before long other health care organizations were asking them to come to their place to do whatever it was they were doing at Sick Kids.  Never ones to pass up an opportunity to support their colleagues, Mary bought some business cards, they launched donnerwheeler, and have never looked back.  

Over the past 25 years of their partnership, the extent to which Gail and Mary have influenced the careers of individuals and groups of nurses locally, provincially, nationally and internationally is unparalleled.  They have demystified and made accessible career development and the scope of this influence has been achieved, in part, through the multitude of resources and publications they have created and disseminated.  

Mary has personally, proudly and firmly put the copyright stamp on numerous resources - the donnerwheeler career planning and development model, the 5 phase mentorship relationship model and the Coach Mastery and Health Coaching Skills Programs, to name but a few.  

Together, Gail and Mary have published 4 career planning and development books and a number of online programs aimed at helping registered nurses, student nurses and fellow health care professional students and practitioners to create and navigate their careers. Their work has been taken up by nurses and nursing organizations across the globe. 

The outcomes – "the what" - of Gail and Mary’s partnership are important, impressive and far-reaching. However, it is "the how" of this remarkable partnership, that is their truest hallmark and what will be their legacy.

What has this partnership modelled for nurses across the continuum?  It has given us a glimpse of how nurses can work together for a quarter of a century and that through an honest, respectful and affirming relationship, the possibilities for creative influence are endless.  They have shown that if you surround yourself with people who make you better and allow others to share in, and contribute to meaningful work, you will see opportunities and promise that you might not otherwise discover. 

They have also lived life-long learning and discovery that energizes and infuses their work, their clients and their partnership with new and exciting insights. In terms of their specific contributions to RNFOO, Gail and Mary have recognized and nurtured nursing student leadership through the donnerwheeler Nursing Career Scholarship, awarded for a number of years through the RNFOO Awards and Scholarships program. Their donation of individual career coaching has been a popular prize at many of the RNFOO Gala silent auctions.  The difference they have made to RNFOO and to the nursing profession is quite simply - awesome.