A Girlfriend’s Guide to Nursing: One Riley Team Celebrates Over 30 Years of Friendship

Blog Cf Team

“We’ve been through marriages and kids together and we have celebrated life milestones like weddings, grandkids, baptisms and births, each of us asking for advice on something or another along the way.”

When these four craniofacial nurses say they are like family, they aren’t kidding.

“We’ve been through marriages and kids together and we have celebrated life milestones like weddings, grandkids, baptisms and births, each of us asking for advice on something or another along the way” says Marilyn Price, RN. “Sometimes we joke that we’ve raised each other’s children. Even our husbands are friends.”

Some say their meeting was fortuitous—yet they’ve toiled together at Riley for over 30 years.

How did it start? New to nursing, Marilyn and Mary Loughery, RN forged into their field on the same day, arriving at Riley Hospital for Children orientation exhilarated and a little overwhelmed. Both knew they wanted to be nurses and Riley’s preschool unit had reeled them in.

“Back then, Riley separated kids out into different units based on their age: infant, toddler, preschool, school and teen,” explains Marilyn. “It was very unique. The preschool unit focused on kids in that age bracket that had a spectrum of needs.”

Marilyn, who had come to Indiana from Ohio, considered herself lucky. The young nurse had already had a taste of hospital life, having spent some summers working as a volunteer shadowing seasoned staff in her tiny general hospital back home.

“It was a different time and place,” Marilyn recalls. “When a doctor walked into the room, you immediately stopped whatever you were doing and asked what you could get them. You didn’t speak unless you were spoken to. But when I asked about future jobs one of the nurses there quietly told me to head to a teaching hospital for more opportunity and better treatment instead.”

Marilyn listened.

And when a Riley Hospital for Children recruiter came to Capital University (her college at the time), she stopped by. “Riley’s age based programs were what made their jobs so interesting.”

Mary Loughery was also taken in by Riley’s charm.

“Riley recruited me from my nursing school in Cincinnati. I immediately loved that I could learn new things everyday—and I continue to. It’s wonderful.”

While Mary and Marilyn were newbies to Riley, Carol Ritter, RN had already been on the preschool block for a year. “I started at Riley in 1977. Sometimes I find it hard to believe that I’ve been a nurse for 40 years,” she says.

Carol embraced Riley unexpectedly. She had been invited to Indianapolis to visit a nursing school friend (while still in school at the University of Evansville). “My friend had just taken a job at Riley Hospital for Children and I was getting ready to graduate. I was torn between wanting to do pediatric or labor and delivery. Seeing the work at Riley helped me make that decision--and I loved the preschool unit immediately.”

LouAnn Epperson, RN, says she encountered the group a bit later. “I taught nursing school at the time and had some students placed on Riley’s preschool unit. I’d check on them and that’s how I met these gals,” she says, adding that she soon transitioned to working with them at Riley.

The sparkle in LouAnn’s eyes when she talks about the hospital swiftly gives her enthusiasm away.  She says she was immediately taken in by the trio’s kind way. Strong friendships formed. At the same time, she says, she also fell in love with the hospital’s cutting edge atmosphere.

“As a nurse here, you have the ability to learn innovative things from the physicians every single day. I think back over the number of different diagnoses that I have taken care of in my years here and where things are today and I’m just amazed at what’s changed,” she says. “One of the reasons I’ve stayed is because of the research.”

While the age-based units of Riley have come and gone, the group still sees each other regularly in the craniofacial clinic, working as nurses throughout the week on various days.

Why have they stayed?

“I couldn’t work anywhere else,” explains Marilyn. “The children here are so inspirational.”

But beyond the cases, Carol is quick to point to the staff. “The people who work at Riley have such respect for one another, making it very rewarding to be here. And in the craniofacial clinic where we reside, you get to encounter children as babies and continue to track and see them as patients, often until they reach high school graduation.”

Graduations have come and gone and the years have flown by. Still, the nurses continue to keep their focus. How? What’s their advice?

“Never stop learning,” maintains Marilyn. “And give your patients and their families everything you’ve got.”

“Always appreciate the work that you are doing for others in need,” suggests Mary.

“Understand the power of being open-minded,” reminds LouAnn, “and realize what your colleagues can teach you and what you can offer them.”

“Be a good listener and remember that communication is always key,” suggests Carol (who plans on retiring from Riley this summer). “Being a team player is also incredibly important,” she adds.

Carol should know.

She has been part of one of the best at Riley for almost 40 years.

-- By Sarah Burns

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