ALMH Nurse Judy Skelton
The road to nursing was a little bumpy and curvy for Judy Skelton, but it hasn't changed her dedication to or her love of her chosen profession.
Initially, she moved to Texas after finishing high school in Lincoln with no plans to attend college. Her attitude quickly changed.
"I really didn't like not having an education, and I couldn't get the kind of job and make the kind of money I needed," Judy said.
So she moved back to central Illinois to pursue a nursing degree. Judy took prerequisite courses at two different colleges, mostly to receive the right credits to earn a bachelor's degree from Mennonite School of Nursing, which is now a college within Illinois State University. She did so in 1988.
"I just knew I wanted pediatrics," Judy said. "That was my goal the whole time. I just loved children."
She got a job on the Pediatric floor at a regional hospital. She started out energized by the thought of treating children, inspired in part by a friend's child who suffered from cystic fibrosis. But Judy quickly became depressed by the number of severely ill children, many whose parents would leave them alone at the hospital.
"I was too emotionally involved and realized that I needed to find a happy place," she said.
About six months into her career, Judy's sister – then OB manager at ALMH – encouraged her to apply for an opening in OB. A bit nervous about her lack of experience in labor and delivery, Judy started here in 1989.
"That was scary, but with any job it takes a long time to settle in. OB is a specialty, so it takes years, I would say, to be comfortable, and there are still times you ask someone else," Judy explained.
One of Judy's intentions is that she doesn't grow too comfortable in her role, as that is when she believes nurses are more apt to make mistakes.
ALMH is much different, she said, because of its size. That also means she has to perform all roles in the Family Maternity Suites from monitoring preterm labor to assisting at delivery and from taking care of a laboring patient to caring for the newborn baby. Her job includes postpartum care and has often required her to resuscitate a newborn that isn't breathing at birth.
In rare instances, Judy and her fellow OB nurses have needed to stabilize a baby for transfer to a regional medical center with a high-risk nursery. She has even been called to the Emergency Department to assist with resuscitation in a SIDS case. That's the most challenging aspect to her position, she says, as those cases often don't end well.
Judy said her job at ALMH requires her skills to always be sharp and updated.
"There may not be anybody else here but you and another nurse. You have to have the skills to assess situations," she said. "It keeps it more exciting and rewarding."
A wife and mother of three children who lives in nearby Mason City, Judy has seen many changes in OB during her time in nursing. She said it used to be a role of family practitioners, and it's clearly a specialty today.
"They are more high-tech with monitoring, special sonograms, epidurals," Judy said. "When I first started, nobody got an epidural. It was not standard."
Trends are always changing in obstetrics, and she said nurses have to be flexible enough to understand and respect the trends.