Two of the 100 Great Iowa nurses for 2009

Julie Cutler

By Barb Arland-Fye

(Editor’s note: Among nurses chosen as Great Iowa Nurses for 2009 are two Catholic women who agreed to be interviewed by The Catholic Messenger.)

Nursing is a gratifying career for Julie Cutler of Davenport because it allows her to balance family life with work and to help others.

Her commitment to providing excellent care to her patients, clients and students has resulted in Cutler being named one of 100 Great Iowa Nurses for 2009.

A nurse with Genesis Health System and a member of St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Davenport, Cutler, 54, said her initial reaction to being honored was surprise.


“There are so many excellent nurses, certainly everyone at Genesis,” she said. “It was just a huge honor to be recognized.”

Cutler is one of seven Genesis Health System nurses selected for the award. The others are Judith Chapman, Lucia Dryanski, Kathleen Lenaghan, Kelly Schmidt, Jennifer Stender and Jill Weber; all were honored during a May 3 ceremony in Des Moines.

The award recognizes nurses who have made a meaningful and lasting contribution to humanity and their profession and act as mentors to others.

Born and raised Catholic, Cutler attended St. Vincent and Holy Family schools in Davenport and graduated from Assumption High School, also in Davenport. She married her husband, Dan, in June 1974, and became a nurse in 1976.

Today she is a registered nurse with a master’s in nursing and is an international board-certified lactation consultant.

She serves as lead lactation consultant for Genesis Medical System, assisting breast-feeding families while they are in the hospital; teaching community education classes on breast-feeding; assisting moms who call in with questions about breast-feeding; and facilitating a breast-feeding support group twice a month. She also teaches at St. Ambrose University in Davenport.

“Initially, I wanted to be a teacher,” she said. “I get to be a teacher now, too.”

But years ago she was inspired by her older sister, a nurse who enjoyed her profession.

“I wanted to have a family, and nursing provides a lot of variety and different shifts and the flexibility for a woman to be in a profession and take care of her family,” explains Cutler, the mother of five: Brian, 32; David, 29; Kari, 27; Danny, 23; and Kevin, 19.

Cutler’s greatest satisfaction as a nurse is “helping families get off to a good start with breast-feeding.” And her greatest challenge? “Helping families get off to a good start with breast-feeding,” she says with a laugh.

Her Catholic faith has an impact on her work as a nurse. Jesus was a great teacher and healer, she noted. Her goal is “following his example and being nonjudgmental, which can be very hard in our society. He accepted everyone. I think that’s very important. We see quite a bit of diversity.”

When things get tough or frustrating, “I pray for support, for help for (patients) or for myself.” Faith, she adds, “helps me keep things in perspective.”

Kelly Schmidt, another Catholic nurse from Genesis who is one of 100 Great Iowa Nurses, said she felt honored to be nominated for the award, let alone receive it.

A member of Sacred Heart Parish in Maquoketa, she has been a nurse for seven years.

“It was something I always wanted to do, from elementary school on. My mom is a retired nurse and my older sister is a nurse,” said Schmidt, 46, a graduate of Catholic schools in Bellevue.

But before becoming a nurse, she worked as a certified respiratory therapist. She’s also a paramedic, who still takes on-call rotations. When she read about a nursing shortage, she decided to go back to school to become a nurse.

She graduated in 2001 from Scott Community College and is a registered nurse working toward her bachelor’s in nursing at St. Ambrose University.

It’s a balancing act for Schmidt, who commutes to work with her husband, Dennis, from their Maquoketa home. They have two daughters, Keisha, 23, and Nakia, 20.

Schmidt works primarily as a critical care float nurse. She is specially trained to insert a peripherally inserted central catheter, or PICC line — a small, flexible tube inserted into a peripheral vein for such things as prolonged IV antibiotic treatment and chemotherapy.

“I enjoy spending time with and caring for my patients and their families,” she says. “I enjoy learning from other nurses who are more seasoned than me. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t learn something. I’m proud to say I work here.”

Her greatest challenge as a nurse, she says, is dealing with “somebody I’m trying to help, but doesn’t seem receptive to the health care I could provide them.”

That’s where faith comes in.

“I do a lot of praying … I like to think my faith helps me to be a little bit more caring and compassionate and to be aware of what the patient’s special needs are.”

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