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Nursing—One Day at a Time—for 44 Years

July 8th, 2014

For Dottie Schutlz, 10-weeks of psychiatric rounding while in nursing school could have been the module that halted her chance of ever becoming the “baby nurse” she dreamed of since she was just a little girl, playing with her dolls.

In 1968, as a student at St. Clare's School of Nursing, situated just walking distance from her apartment, Dottie had a second chance of fulfilling her first career passion. Years prior, Dottie, started a four year nursing program after graduating high school at the age of 17. A year and a half later, she fell in love, married and started a family. However, the nursing bug was still one that she thought of and when she learned that St. Clare's School of Nursing offered an intense two-year program, she weighed her options and decided that working at the phone company, while a good job, was not satisfying for her.

At the age of 28, with the support of her husband and mother, she took on the challenge—after all, during those years, married women with 3 children to care for, did not typically juggle home and career. Dottie was on her way to becoming a new era woman. After passing the entrance exam, nursing school was on her radar, until she learned that she might have to participate in a 10-week away tour at the Psychiatric Hospital in Central Islip, during  the final year of the program, more than 40 miles from her Manhattan home. After sitting in orientation, she felt defeated, because there was no way she could complete the 10-week tour away from home. She had other responsibilities—her family. She went to the registrar with the intention of withdrawing from the program, and it was the woman there that said there was a strong chance the tour would be moved to a closer hospital, which would offer a commuting option, as opposed to 10 full weeks away from her family. The woman at the registrar’s office also gave Dottie advice that she still keeps with her until this day, “take it one day at a time”.  Comforted by this new possibility, without further hesitation, Dottie excelled in her courses and managed life at home. She even sat for her licensed practical nurse (LPN) exam midway through the program, which she passed with high marks. Things were going very well and her dream of nursing was promising.

The last year of the program was underway and Dottie learned there would be no change to the psychiatric tour in Central Islip. With anxiety and tears in her eyes, Dottie went to her mother, who was helping her with the three children, to tell her for the second time, that she was not going to be finishing nursing school. And with the most consoling voice her mother said, “Don’t you worry, everything will be fine—I will take care of the kids until Bill comes home at night.” She said that was something she never forgets. “I did it, and I was finally able to make my mother so proud,” said Dottie.

In 1970, Dottie started working as a registered nurse at St. Clare’s Clinic. She worked in several units from allergy, gynecology and surgical to name a few, but her love for pediatrics is where she flourished. She moved to Holbrook with her family and worked as a nurse manager of pediatrics at Smithtown General Hospital. She fulfilled the same role at the medical center as nurse manager of pediatrics for a few years and eventually transitioned to the maternity department as a staff nurse, where she has been for more than 14 years.

“Pediatrics was a whole different ball game—you had children who had all sorts of alignments—so the transition to the maternity department was an adjustment,” said Dottie. “I have always liked pediatrics—you are like an investigator with the doctors trying to figure out what is going on with the patient—I loved the challenged, but I have also loved working in maternity as well.”

Every nurse has a different story of how they come to be the “compassionate care giver”—Dottie’s is one that leaves you encouraged with a sense of perseverance and balance. She never gave up on her passion to nurse, found a love in pediatrics, a fulfilling career, loving wife and proud mother of three children, one of which is also a nurse.  “If I did not have such a supportive mother and husband, 10-weeks could have changed the course of my life,” said Dottie.

The Ridge resident will retire on August 1, 2014, after 44 years of nursing. She is sad to be leaving the maternity department, she says it is bittersweet, but is looking forward to spending time with her husband and children, traveling and organizing the house. She passes on the same words of encouragement that has and continues to help her throughout her career and life, “take it one day at a time”.

 For more information about St. Catherine of Siena Medical Center, please call (631) 870-3444.