Retiring neonatal ICU nurse reflects
Ann Swarek of Prospect Heights, a nurse in the neonatal intensive care unit at Advocate Lutheran General Children's Hospital in Park Ridge, retired after 40 years at the hospital. | Ryan Pagelow~Sun-Times Media
Updated: November 26, 2012 1:04PM
PARK RIDGE — Ann Swarek’s retirement is bittersweet.
After 40 years as a neonatal intensive care unit nurse at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, Swarek has meaningful memories of caring for the smallest and most vulnerable of patients.
Lutheran General staff recently threw Swarek a going-away party.
Q: What kept you coming back to this job every day for the last 40 years?
A: As a neonatal nurse, you come in every day to work knowing you can make a difference in someone’s life, and that’s very important. The special bonds I have with the people I work with, the special bonds I’ve formed with the families and the babies I take care of — that’s been especially important and obviously has sustained me and enriched me.
Q: What have been your challenges and what has been fulfilling?
A: The challenges are the professional part of it — keeping up your technical skills, maintaining them and becoming an expert at them. Also keeping up with all the new procedures, all the new technologies to improve the care for the babies, obviously. You have to continually be educated, you have to keep up with your credentials, you have to keep up with your education. That’s the expectation, both personal and professional. The bonds that I’ve formed with families — that’s been the most fulfilling. I was able to go to birthday parties and baptisms. I’ve seen them at 10 years of age, I’ve seen them at 16 years of age, I’ve seen them at 20 years of age. I actually had a young man who came back as a doctor now. He came back to see where he started and introduce his fiancée to me.
Q: What are the biggest changes you’ve seen?
A: Obviously technology. That has allowed us to save smaller babies and give them the best care possible. Professionally, you are expected to have more education, so that’s another challenge. And really, the entire gamut of what we can offer the families. We can offer so much more for the families and the babies in regards to specialists, follow-up to developmental care, all those things we could not provide at the beginning. The fertility has been a huge change — having triplets and quadruplets and twins. We have seen a lot more of that over the years.
Q: What are the memories you will take with you?
A: All the special bonds I formed with the families and babies and the special bonds I formed with my colleagues and friends that I’ve cherished for the last 40 years. They’ve enriched my life, and I’m immensely blessed by having them in my life.
Q: What are you plans after retirement?
A: I’ll begin a new chapter of my life: enjoy my family and friends, become more involved in my church (St. Alphonsus Liguori Parish in Prospect Heights), which I really want to do, and then obviously explore all my passions and interests more in-depth — music, singing, opera, orchestra, you name it.