Pediatric nurse celebrates 50 years on the job

Chicago's Very Own

CHICAGO — A pediatric nurse who has cared for some of the youngest and critically ill patients, with 50 years on the job and an unstoppable zest for life, shows no signs of slowing down. 

Donna Schwarz is one of Chicago’s Very Own.

A few weeks ago, Schwarz, a Lurie Children’s Hospital nurse, achieved a milestone many will never claim — 50 years on the job.  

 “I can’t believe it’s been 50 years,” she said. “It doesn’t seem like 50 years, but it really is.”

Schwarz has done it all, including pediatric surgery and pre-operation and post-operation teaching. She said one of her most memorable moments in her nursing career was participating in the separation of conjoined twins.

“I got to be in the operating room and go out to talk to their parents and let them know how things were going and to be there when the children came out and to see them successfully go home. It was an honor to be able to do that,” she said.

Caring for children who are ill, seems to come naturally for Schwarz. Although at times it can be difficult, she said the good times outweigh the bad. She said she has cared many of her patients  since birth and finds it rewarding to witness them grow and succeed.

“A lot of them become family, you’ve had them for a long time, if you’ve known somebody for 12 years you know them you know their family,” she said.

She said the children affectionately call her the “grandma nurse.”  Among her colleagues, she is known for her upbeat personality, white skirts and plethora of knowledge.  She knows so much, that incoming nurses get a special training day with her known as a “Day with Donna.”

“Well as new people came onto the floor, I was noticing that some people had some skills that just needed to be buffed up, and I said, ‘What these people need is a day with Donna,’” she said.

“Donna has learned the tricks of the trade herself so what better way to learn than from the expert herself,” Katrina Andracki, pediatric nurse at Lurie Children’s Hospital, said.

Her commitment, dedication and love for her patients was evident early in her career. On her wedding day, she managed to work a shift before squeezing in the nuptials and her son Bradford is named after her first pediatric patient.  

A few weeks ago, colleagues held a celebration for Schwarz celebrating 50 years at Lurie Children’s Hospital, many wearing a white skirt to honor their friend. 

“She is the epitome of nursing she is such a wonderful resource for everyone on their floor,” Andracki said.

And although she has decades on the job, her criteria for retirement is not based on years of service.  

“I am not going to retire until the job is not fun anymore, because I’m still having fun,” Schwarz said.

Schwarz said she keeps in touch with many of her patients, some who are now close to 50 years old

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