Sheila Patten began working at Union Hospital in Lynn on Jan. 6, 1976. She spent her last day at the hospital on April 30, 2011.
That’s 35 years of dedicated service at the hospital after previously working for ten years as a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) at North Shore Children’s Hospital, Beverly Hospital, and Salem Hospital.
The final stop in Sheila Patten’s career at Union Hospital completed a full cycle in this city: at the start she studied nursing for three years at the Lynn Hospital School of Nursing, graduating in 1966,
Patten said she has no regrets about making the decision as a teenager to pursue a career in nursing. She would recommend entering the profession to current high school students.
“For me, it’s been the best job,” said Patten. “I’m proud to have served with a dedicated and compassionate group of nurses at Union Hospital. But I know it’s the right time to retire.”
She grew up in a small town just outside Augusta, Maine and used to enjoy lobstering on the coast with her parents in the summer. When she was nearing her fourteenth birthday, her father, Wyman Closson, a bricklayer by trade, died of rheumatic heart disease. It was at that point that Patten decided she wanted to be a nurse.
“After he died, I decided then that I’m going to figure out what could have been done to prevent him from dying,” said Patten, the emotion showing in her face. “At that time because he had rheumatic heart disease, he needed valve replacement surgery, and being that it was more than 50 years ago, it was very experimental surgery.”
Patten said she was also inspired by her grandmother Everlie Dolley, a midwife who assisted in the medical delivery of babies in the town.
An honor roll student and member of the National Honor Society, Patten entered the Lynn School of Nursing, a fully accredited three-year nursing program.
She began her career at North Shore Children’s Hospital and worked for three years in pediatrics and adolescent care. She then worked in special care nursery and obstetrics/gynecology at Beverly Hospital and in medical surgery nursing at Salem Hospital before becoming supervisor of nursing.
For the next 35 years, Patten dedicated herself and her career to helping patients at Union Hospital. She has only the highest praise for her nursing colleagues, the physicians, and the staff at the hospital.
“I truly loved working at the hospital,” said Patten. “Union Hospital is the most family-oriented hospital. You have mothers and sons, mothers and daughters, who have gone into nursing and work here. Everybody treats each other like sisters and brothers. That’s the best part of this hospital.”
At Union, Patten has been an LPN on the medical floor for the majority of her career.
“I’ve been an LPN on the medical floor doing patient care, which is the heart and soul of nursing,” said Patten. “That aspect of nursing not only helps the patient, but it affects the families. I’ve been here 35 years and I’ve had grandparents, parents, and children as patients in one family because it’s a community hospital.”
Patten has also worked as in-charge nurse, assisted in the surgical and cosmetic surgery units, and has been a mentor to student nurses.
“I loved working with the student nurses because they’re so eager to learn,” said Patten.
She said the physicians and nurses at the hospital are professional, caring individuals. “Our doctors are very nice people who have very good bedside manner. They’re kind to their patients.”
Patten said in addition to helping patients during their hospital stay, she always tried to promote wellness.
“Wellness is a really integral part of what makes nursing really important,” said Patten. “You can fix anything; you can fix a broken leg or cure pneumonia, but if you don’t affect the people’s good health habits when they leave the hospital, they’re going to be back in the hospital. You want them to be well – that’s the goal, that people stay well.”
Patten said that patients’ stays in the hospital are for a much shorter period of time than when she first started out as a nurse.
“You don’t get to know the patients as well because of the shorter stays, so it’s very important that you make it a bond really rapidly when you first meet your patients,” said Patten. “Your assessment skills of their overall physical, mental and emotional condition have to be precise.”
Patten maintained a personal tradition of wearing a white nursing uniform while on duty. “It’s what I consider my comfort zone and it’s what patients recognize as the professional person.”
Sheila was married to the late Edwin Patten and they have three sons, Brian, Wyman, and Jason, and a daughter, Dawn, who is a patient care advocate at an assisted living center. All four children attended Lynn schools.
As she headed out the door for the final time, retirement parties were held in her honor and the tributes poured in from her colleagues.
“What can I say except that she’s awesome, she’s the best,” said Lyn Black, a nurse. “She looked after all of us.”
“Nurse Sheila was a godsend,” said Olga Saint Vil, a nurse. “I’m going to remember her as the perfect nurse.”
“Sheila is the kindest, most generous person I have ever met,” said Melissa Weissinger, a colleague for 11 years at Union Hospital. “I’d pretty much say she’s the Mother Theresa of the nursing world. She’s wonderful and I’m going to miss her.”