RN-BSN Student Earns Nursing Excellence Scholarship

Shanna Downey and Susan Williams

Shanna Downey and Susan Williams

Las Vegas, N.M. — Outstanding New Mexico Highlands University RN-BSN student Shanna Downey earned a $1,000 New Mexico Nursing Excellence Award.

Downey was tapped for the competitive Nightingale Scholarship that honors nurses for contributions they make to their organizations, communities, and New Mexico.

The 35-year-old Downey was born in Gallup, N.M. and is a member of the Navajo Nation. Her mother’s clan is Honí¡ghí¡ahnii and her father’s clan is Bilagí¡ana.

Downey says her Navajo tradition influences her nursing practice.

“The Navajo tradition is focused around being in harmony with nature, and that is my way,” Downey said. “To be healthy mentally, physically and spiritually we need to be in harmony with our surroundings, and that plays a huge role in nursing.”

Downey is a nurse and case manager for Allegiance Premier Home Health Care Providers, LLC in Gallup. At least one weekend a month she dons her U.S. Air Force Reserve uniform and serves as a medic at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colo.

“I take pride in wearing the military uniform and having the ability to help at a moment’s notice in times of crisis. I’ve always wanted to help the greater good and my country. I love the camaraderie and connection of serving in the military.

“The most important thing to me is giving back to the community and helping my fellow man. With nursing I can do that,” Downey said.

Susan Williams, director of the RN-BSN Program, said Downey is an outstanding student.

“Shanna is someone who is highly motivated and always takes the initiative, which we look for in our students because with these qualities they’re likely to be excellent in both school and nursing practice,” Williams said. “Shanna is our first recipient of this Nightingale Scholarship, which speaks highly of her all-around excellence.”

Downey said it will be advantageous to earn her BSN.

“I believe earning my BSN will open many doors for me in my military and civilian life,” Downey said. “I can commission and become an officer in the Air Force. As a civilian nurse, I’ll be in a position to be given more responsibility and learn more. This will give me an advantage professionally, and also when I pursue my masters in nursing.”

Downey said what she appreciates most about the RN-BSN Program is the ease with which she transferred all her nursing associate’s degree courses. Other factors are also helping her complete her BSN.

“The flexible scheduling and the online courses fit my schedule perfectly — helping me balance my family, work and school responsibilities. I feel very supported in the RN-BSN Program,” Downey said.

Downey is a single mom with two sons, Tristan, 10, and Tyler, 9. She says they have always been her driving force.

“I want my sons to see that it’s possible to accomplish great things if you put your mind to it and work hard. I’m very appreciative for the blessing of this scholarship,” Downey said.


Downey also finds time to volunteer in her community, whether it’s helping with the Gallup Homeless Veterans Stand Down, coaching youth t-ball and soccer, or serving as the secretary for the Diné bé Iiní¡, Inc. (The Navajo Lifeway) Board of Directors.


Williams said Downey is typical of the majority of RN-BSN students who are managing family, work, home, and community activities.