Longtime nurse to retire


MANSFIELD — “There was no air conditioning — that’s the main thing I remember.”

Eighteen-year-old Diane Cowan first walked into Mansfield General Hospital as an employee on April 12, 1964. Now, after 60 years as an OhioHealth nurse — the longest tenure in OhioHealth history — she is ready to retire.

Freshly out of high school, Cowan began her medical career as a nurse’s aide in the nursery. There she tended to newborns, helping feed and change the infants — before disposable diapers were common.

Nursing was something Cowan always had in mind for her future.

“I had two aunts that were nurses. I think I just always wanted to help people,” she said.

Her long career has inspired another two generations of Cowan’s to enter the nursing field.

“My oldest daughter is a nurse practitioner, and my one daughter works at the VA — she’s an LPN.” But Cowan’s legacy of nursing doesn’t stop there. “(Cowan’s youngest daughter’s) oldest daughter is a nurse at Nationwide, and her twin sister is going to North Central to be a nurse.”

After three years as a nurse’s aide and with support from coworkers and superiors, Cowan took one year of educational leave to earn her licensed nurse practitioner (LPN) certificate. This allowed her to work outside the nursery and attend to basic patient care and comfort.

She worked as an LPN for 22 years in the Behavioral Health Unit, where she would stay for the majority of her career. In 1989, Cowan earned her registered nurse (RN) license while continuing to work at the hospital part time.

With her new license, Cowan’s responsibilities shifted slightly.

“I was used to bedside nursing only,” she explains. But now, with her new responsibilities, Cowan had to communicate with doctors and pass medications.

After becoming an RN, Cowan also worked briefly in neuro-urology, but she eventually returned to behavioral health.

“That’s my favorite since I’ve been there 50-plus years,” Cowan said. Behavioral health holds a special place in her heart.

“I just think everybody has emotional issues or depression. I think that’s all of us. Schizophrenia, not all of us, but there’s a lot. There’s a lot of bi-polar people. And they need help, too. I don’t think they always get the help they need,” Cowan said, explaining her reason for staying in behavioral health.

In all her time, Cowan believes she has had a positive effect on her patients.

“I’ve listened to patients, let them vent, and tried to guide them. … I think a lot of times just venting helps a person,” she said.

In her 60 years of nursing, Cowan has seen many changes to hospital and medical practices.

“Medicine has changed a lot,” she said. “I didn’t pass medicine (as an LPN), but the nurses used to have to mix their own antibiotics, mix their own medicine. You don’t do any of that anymore.”

And of course, hospitals now have air conditioning.

“That seems to stand out because I remember the windows being open,” Cowan said with a laugh.

There have been other positive changes over the years.

“We didn’t have disposable gloves,” Cowan recalled. “But I used to kinda steal the sterile ones — they were for doctors only — because you’re cleaning up a lot of stuff as an LPN bedside nursing. A good nurse will do anything and everything, though.”

And Cowan never shied away from taking the best possible care of her patients.

“I know patients, their children, their grandchildren. I mean, I’ve been there so long, I knew them when they were young,” Cowan said.

Leaving after so many years isn’t going to be easy for Cowan.

“I’ll miss the patients, I know I will,” she said. “And I’ll miss my coworkers, too.”

Her close relationship with her coworkers has been one of her favorite parts of the job, Cowan added.

For young nurses just beginning or for those considering entering the field, Cowan has some advice: “Try to be a good nurse. A good nurse will tackle anything. … I’ve seen some that’ll get in there and tackle and help the patient any way they can — and that’s a good nurse. And I think you’ve got to be an advocate for your patients, too. Talk to the doctors if (the patient) can’t do it.”

In her retirement, Cowan plans to spend lots of time with her two daughters, eight grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

“My youngest daughter said, ‘Oh, they’re (grandchildren) going to be out of high school before you retire.’ Well, she’s wrong!” Cowan joked.

Cowan’s last shift is scheduled for April 7.

“I’ve enjoyed nursing, all my 60 years,” she said.

Hannah Bryan is a correspondent for AIM Media Midwest. She can be reached at [email protected].

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