Maybe it was written in the stars that Nancy Rittgers (nee: Small) was destined to become a nurse. Her middle name is Joan, which is in honor of her grandfather’s sister, a nun and nurse at the old St. Mary’s Hospital on Grand Avenue for several years.
“The nuns were not allowed to leave very often, so I remember visiting her in the dayroom at the hospital on Sunday afternoons,” said Rittgers, who lives in Caledonia.
Something must have connected with Nancy. Once in the second grade, after a classmate vomited on her desk, little Nancy ran to her locker, grabbed a mitten to hold over her nose and then started cleaning up the vomit before a janitor arrived.
The 61-year-old Rittgers, a 1975 St. Catherine’s graduate, has been so dedicated at several positions in her profession for the last 40 years that she carries on even though she could be retired by now. And she had made a difference throughout her career.
One of her most enduring memories is a premature baby being born to a mother with several other children when Rittgers was working as a nurse case manager in the neonatal intensive care unit. When concerns about the family’s living conditions came to light, Rittgers contacted the Public Health nurse to do a home visit. Safety concerns were identified and the landlord was forced to address the deficiencies.
“Initially, she was suspicious of my motives for this home visit and was angry with me,” Rittgers said of the mother involved. “Once she realized I was helping her, she was very appreciative.”