Melanie and Doug Simpson's planned gift will help future nurses

Doug and Melanie SimpsonAs Doug and Melanie Simpson, RN, PhD, revised their will, they wanted to create a meaningful legacy. When they thought about their shared passions, they quickly agreed and decided to provide professional education for nurses at The University of Kansas Health System.

Since Doug and Melanie met when Melanie was working her way through nursing school, nursing has always been a big part of his life. "For the first 22 years of our marriage, Melanie was pursuing one or another of her degrees," Doug said.

Dr. Simpson, clinical pain management team coordinator, earned a bachelor of arts in human relations, a bachelor of science in nursing, a master's degree in health science and a doctorate in health administration. She's the president of the American Society for Pain Management Nursing and has received numerous awards, accolades and invitations to speak throughout the country. In 2012, she was named Magnet Nurse of the Year, a national recognition for only five nurses in the nation. She also received an Honorary Nursing Alumna Award from the University of Kansas Nurses Alumni Association in 2016.

"I may have more degrees, but Doug was better at school," she said. "He graduated third in his class of more than 450 students." Doug has a bachelor of science in business from the University of Nebraska — Kearney and has taught irrigation at Longview Community College. He also is a football official. "I've officiated college games for 25 years," he said.

The difference of academic medicine

In 1996, Melanie joined The University of Kansas Health System as an oncology nurse and member of the cancer pain management team. The more she learned about pain management, the more she realized how important it is to all patients - not just those with cancer.

"Pain is the number one reason people come to a hospital," she said. "We need to be prepared to control that pain, and it's critical to recovery."

In 2002, Melanie and her colleagues proposed a nurse-led pain management team to support patients throughout the health system.

"When we started the program, there were no other nurse-led pain management teams in the country," she said. "I had to learn on the job, so I joined every national organization and attended every national conference on pain management I could find."

Now, Dr. Simpson and her team meet with patients to assess pain and identify risk factors, then consult with physicians about treatment plans. They also teach pain management techniques to patients, nurses, physicians and other healthcare providers.

"My life has turned out the way it has because of The University of Kansas Health System," she said. "In an academic setting, nurses work as partners with physicians. We have expanded roles and are recognized as experts in our fields. It's not like any other hospital."

Opening doors for others

The Simpsons have earmarked their planned gift for the clinical excellence team within the nursing department.

"We hope our funds will help future nurses take advantage of career development opportunities," said Melanie. "I hope they will take classes, earn certifications, attend conferences and host seminars — that's how you meet new people and learn new things. You get inspired to go back to your job and do it even better."

"The health system has been so good to us both," said Doug. "We hope it continues to grow and remain an important part of our community for years to come."