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A Unique Calling

A home health nurse since 1998, Cathy Keogh, RN, sees a variety of patients every day. "I see them when they're at their most vulnerable. It's a privilege to share their journey," she says.

She gives the example of a homebound war vet whose battle-front is now health related. Every two weeks Cathy visits him, assessing his condition and changing a medical device. She brings professionalism, expertise -- and more. "I bring the outside world to him," she says. "We talk politics, current events, whatever he wants to talk about."

The patients Cathy cares for live in Fargo and beyond. Some she'll see just a few times following a hospital stay, others long-term. Care might include medication setup, dressing changes, blood draws, wound assessment and more. But no matter what the specific need, she focuses on three key questions:

    * Is the patient safe at home?
    * Are doctor's orders being followed?
    * Does the patient and family know who to call with questions or an emergency?

One of the challenges in Cathy's job is the home setting. Medical resources are limited, there are no coworkers to help and sometimes family issues and problems with pets enter the picture. Cathy deals with every challenge professionally and with kindness. She also respects how others choose to live. "When I'm in their home, I'm in their world. I honor that," she says.

Singing the praises of others

A nurse for 30+ years, Cathy has worked in a variety of settings. Her first job as an LPN was on the surgical/pediatrics floor at a hospital in Valley City, N.D. Then she moved to Fargo, where she worked in hospital orthopedics/neuro. During this time she also earned her RN degree. In later years she pursued more education to become a parish nurse.

In the late 1990s, the opportunity to work in home health came her way. "When another nurse told me about the opening, I was interested," she says. "At that time, I was looking for something different, including more flexibility. I had a young daughter, too, and this job sounded like the perfect match."

Today Cathy enjoys not just her work, but her coworkers. She values them, too, lifting up the entire Sanford Home Care team -- the other nurses, aides, social workers and more. “I don’t know what I’d do without them,” she says. She sees them just twice a day: first thing in the morning when she's in the office preparing for the five to eight patients she'll see that day, and late in the afternoon when completing paperwork and making follow-up calls to doctors.

"Coworkers get you through the ups and downs," she says.

Comments over the years have indicated Cathy, too, gets many people through ups and downs, particularly her patients. Among the comments: “Cathy is genuinely compassionate, full of wisdom and wit. She gives a great part of herself when caring for others. She finds the silver lining in many difficult situations. Her humor is a gift that helps heal and helps many to carry on."

A visit with Cathy gives an inside look at what makes her so effective. Comfortable with silence, she listens with her ears -- and her heart, too. It's easy to imagine her sitting at the kitchen table with worried family members or kneeling at the bedside of a patient who received a devastating diagnosis. She's 100 percent present.

An early decision

Cathy's decision to become a nurse can be traced back to her mom. One of eight children, Cathy grew up on a farm south of Valley City, N.D. Her mom was a hard-working farm wife who worked nights as a nursing assistant in the local hospital. When it came time for Cathy to choose a career path, nursing would've been an obvious choice, but she loved music, too -- specifically saxophone. Her mom's quiet example played louder.

“She touched so many people's lives, but never talked about it," says Cathy. "We'd hear about it from others -- how she'd sit and hold a hand, take an interest by listening, or bring goodies in for coworkers. She had a very giving nature."

Cathy followed in her mom's footsteps, including the beauty of humility.

Reaching a high note

Without a doubt Cathy is a dedicated nurse, but she never let go of her love for music. For 28 years she played saxophone in the 188th Army Band and currently plays in the Red River Valley Veterans Concert Band. She also plays with a Dixieland group.

One of her favorite moments? Cathy smiles as she describes what it's like to look out at the audience and see the familiar face of a former patient.

"That's the best," she says.

Posted Date: March 2012