Legacy of Care: Karin Meier, RN

Karin Meier grew up in Wauwatosa as one of six children. "Back then, if a four-year college wasn't an option, you always had the choice of the three-year nursing schools. For a large family like mine, that was a great option to have."

"Two of my sisters attended Milwaukee County General nursing school. My aunt was a graduate of Lutheran Hospital nursing school, so she encouraged and guided me towards Lutheran. That's where I started a 42-year nursing career that continues today at Aurora Psychiatric Hospital."

Karin remembers the caring, supportive and dedicated instructors, as well as how Lutheran Hospital staff helped them learn and grow. She also remembers being intimidated by some of the doctors. At the same time, she remembers learning the discipline and resilience a nurse needs to succeed. "These were not easy working hours," said Karin. "We had class from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., and then we worked in units, often for full eight hour shifts. On the floors, we learned a fellowship that really inspired me. There was no room for competitiveness or cattiness. Everyone just clicked into place and supported each other as a team."

"I realized after about two months that I made the right choice. I have never, ever looked back."

When Karin started nursing school in 1968, Milwaukee, the nation and the world were undergoing massive social changes and cultural challenges. "The Vietnam war was on top of everyone's mind. My boyfriend was in the Army over there, so it was definitely on top of mine. There was a lot of racial tension after the nine-day riots in 1967."

"And yet, I was living on 22nd and Kilbourn with a bunch of women, walking wherever we wanted to go, whenever we wanted to go there. We'd walk the 16 blocks to MATC for classes every day. We never felt unsafe."

When Karin started nursing school, MATC provided general education requirements, such as health sciences, anatomy, biology and chemistry, which complemented clinical training. "During my senior year, the teachers at MATC went on strike, so we never officially had final exams," Karin laughed. "Now, try explaining that on your transcripts!"

Lutheran was one of many facilities to close its hospital-based nursing school in 1973. The hospital later merged with Evangelical Deaconess in 1980 to form Good Samaritan Medical Center. "I was sad to see the nursing school close," said Karin. "I understood the value of a four-year degree, but the hands-on learning I had was invaluable. You'll hear that from three-year graduates. They had no shell shock walking into nursing jobs on the first day. They had no fear taking on unfamiliar assignments."

"I remember starting my first job. I had no orientation, training or onboarding. I was working on a medical/surgical floor, and someone asked, 'can you work in Psych?' I knew I had found my niche. I have always wanted to be a behavioral health nurse, and here I am."

"If I could go back in time, I would tell myself that I had just begun a great career. I would remind myself that I didn't need to know everything, I just needed to remain flexible and resilient to the changes that were coming in health care."

"I often coach new nurses to stay open to the changes they'll see in their future. They're going to see a lot of them."