Cheryl Cowan tries to make connections with her patients so that she knows if they have a fear of needles or are missing a big event due to an illness.
She will comfort someone during a life-changing diagnosis or go out of her way to make sure the patient is discharged on time so they can make it to their grandchild’s school play, said Mary Brend, manager of Clinical Nursing Operations at Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital.
Cowan, 57, of McHenry, is a staff nurse and part of the resource staff, so each morning, she calls the assignment line to see what unit she’ll work in. While pediatrics is her specialty, she enjoys learning something new every day.
Cowan has been a nurse for more than 30 years, starting at Lake Forest Hospital in Lake Forest and now working at Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital in Barrington for 15 years.
Her favorite part of the job is working with student nurses or new orientees and reminding them that while it is easy to get frustrated with irritable patients, the hospital is the nurse’s turf. Cowan said that while nurses are comfortable with tests and IVs, most people are scared and do not want their nurse to know they are scared.
“It’s important to take a step back and get to know the patients as a person,” Cowan said. “They have a whole life outside of this place where they are comfortable. I’ve taken care of football stars to homeless people. I’ve made thousands of friends over the years and met people from all walks of life, and they are all on the same playing ground when they are in the hospital.”
Cowan is a single mother and raised three children on her own. Her oldest son, Jonathan Cowan, said his mother is a selfless person and the trait goes hand-in-hand with being a nurse.
“She took care of me when I broke my femur and was in the hospital for three weeks when I was 4, so I got to even experience her great nursing,” Jonathan Cowan said. “My mom is such a good person, we laugh and say, ‘Cheryl is next to godliness.’ I deal with humans all the time and I don’t know a better person.”
Jonathan said his mother worked night shifts his whole childhood and he was amazed that she somehow still was very present in all her children’s life.
“She put my whole family on her back because my parents got divorced when I was 12, and she basically became the family breadwinner and held things together somehow,” Jonathan Cowan said.
In her free time, Cheryl Cowan is very involved in the Calvary Church in Crystal Lake and helps direct the children’s music program and Christmas program each year.
“Even when she has her own struggles at home, she gives it her all at work,” Brend said. “You see other people who let that filter into their work and she never did. She always goes to patients with a smile on her face and wants to know how she can make them more comfortable.”
Brend said Cheryl Cowan has a knack for knowing when someone is having a bad day and sending them notes or baking cookies. She never forgets to thank people, Brend said, adding that it’s nice to work with someone like that.
“I think the written word is really, really important and when you have that card in your hand and know someone is thinking of you, it speaks to someone,” Cheryl Cowan said. “I’ve had people come up to me crying after getting the card, and they are simple messages, but they can see I appreciate them.”