Ann Klipsch, RN: Riley Nurse Reflects on Her 36 Years
Klipsch has worked at Riley for 36 years, and while she’s changed positions, she’s never left. When asked why she stayed working with kids all these years, as both a nurse and researcher, Klipsch points to their purity of spirit.
For Ann Klipsch, RN, a Pediatric Liver Research Coordinator at Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health, there was no “aha moment” that nudged her towards nursing. “I always knew that I wanted to help people,” she recalls, “In the beginning, I just wasn’t sure in what capacity.”
Klipsch’s turning point came in college: “When I was attending Indiana University, Riley began offering a program where they helped pay for a student’s tuition for the final year of schooling if you agreed to work for them once you graduated,” she recalls. Klipsch signed a one-year contract. She started working in a student nurse position (paid) at Riley Hospital for Children during her senior year.
Back then, in 1982, there was a nursing shortage so nurses were in high demand, she recalls. Her first assignment was a position on Riley’s pediatric intensive care unit. “At first, I thought, I can’t do that. I was afraid that I wouldn’t possess the skill or knowledge as a student nurse to take care of these critical pediatric patients. Little did I know the Riley nursing PICU staff would nurture, guide and teach me everything I’d need to know; skills I still use today. That experience changed me as a person and gave me a new confidence in myself. It was life-altering.”
The position also helped Klipsch develop a deep trust and respect for the other nurses she worked with. “Those women were a wonderful team—putting their patients first at every turn and constantly thinking ahead on how to best care for these sick children. I remained working at that ward for 15 years,” she says. “As a student, I took care of the more chronically ill children that were on ventilators. However, once I passed my boards as an RN, I was trained to care for children at Riley with a wide range of illnesses: open heart surgery, liver failure, trauma, kidney disease, end stage cancer, cystic fibrosis and AIDS—I even worked with Ryan White back in 1984,” she recalls.
The unique role that parents play in pediatric care was also something Klipsch didn’t immediately anticipate as a newbie but she navigated through quickly. “Being able to gain the trust of a patient’s mother particularly; the ability to make that individual feel comfortable with you caring for her most precious gift in the world; that is not something easily won,” she says. “I made it a priority to immediately foster that relationship and gain parents trust from day one. Years later, when I became a mother the impact and importance were further emphasized.”
The flexibility of nursing as an occupation was also appealing to Klipsch. During this time, the seasoned nurse had two kids and was able to get a schedule where she only worked weekends (12-hour shifts Saturday and Sunday) since she wanted to stay home with her kids during the week. “The other nurses that I worked with also kept me coming back,” says Klipsch. “We were all moms that worked every weekend. We were a strong support system for each other as young mothers and we are still in touch today.” Having a job she loved and having the support of other nurses going through the ups and downs of motherhood was huge.
Things changed for Klipsch in 1988, she says, it was a time when Riley started doing liver transplants. “I always thought that was an interesting field,” says Klipsch. So, when she transitioned into a full-time Monday-Friday job in 1998, Klipsch applied for a position in the pediatric gastrointestinal (GI) department. While Klipsch had been a generalist nurse for 15 years—dealing with heart, liver and kidney issues—she was suddenly interested in becoming proficient in liver disease.
By 2005, Klipsch was working with Dr. Eugenia P. Molleston, MD, a Pediatric Gastroenterologist who focused on liver issues. Klipsch was doing both research (studying children with Hepatitis C and fatty liver disease) and her nursing job and it soon became apparent that it was two full-time positions. Klipsch had to select one, so she picked research. “The nice part is that I still work with families, since I have patients in my research studies,” she says. Why did she pick research? “I love that I’m constantly learning and participating in new and different ways to help care for patients,” she says.
Klipsch has worked at Riley for 36 years, and while she’s changed positions, she’s never left. Many say her longevity is a rare thing. When asked why she stayed working with kids all these years, as both a nurse and researcher, Klipsch points to their purity of spirit. “Kids always want to get better. Adults may give up, but kids are filled with such strong optimism. It’s inspiring.”
These days, Klipsch isn’t alone in her quest to care for kids. Her daughter also became an IU Health nurse and currently works on the bone marrow transplant unit. “It’s so wonderful to see my daughter have the same great experiences I did as a young nurse at Riley.” When asked why she’s stayed working at Riley, Klipsch also spotlights the science. “I’m constantly learning about the latest technology and using all of this information to help pediatric patients in Indiana and beyond. It’s great to be an active part of that process.” she says. “Riley is a very special place.”
-- Judy Koutsky