Cindy Schweder remembers exactly the way she felt as her father suffered a massive heart attack during her family’s Memorial Day party and suddenly died: helpless.
It was something the 13-year-old never wanted to feel again.
“Shortly after that, I decided I wanted to be that person to help people, and nursing ended up being my chosen profession in order to do that,” said Schweder, now 59.
Getting to the place she’s at today – the nurse manager of value analysis with Centegra Health System – wasn’t easy for Schweder, who had little financial support from her widowed mother of four.
Schweder started volunteering as a candy striper nurse when she was in eighth grade, she said. Her mother, Helen, didn’t drive, so Cindy would put her uniform in her bike basket and ride to Centegra Hospital – McHenry for her shifts.
“She had it in her head what she wanted to do, and she was going to do it,” said Gary Schweder, her husband of nearly 38 years.
Cindy Schweder did whatever she could to earn enough scholarships to get her through college at Northern Illinois University, from which she graduated in 1980. She received an Auxillary scholarship from Centegra Hospital – Woodstock, among others, on the premise that, after she graduated, she would work at the hospital for at least a year.
After graduation, she jumped right in to working the evening shift as a surgical nurse.
“And I never left,” Cindy Schweder said.
Thirty-seven years later, she’s still with Centegra Health System. Since her first job in the surgical unit, Cindy Schweder’s worked in a variety of roles, including a telemetry nurse, acute bedside nursing care and her favorite position – supervisor of infection prevention.
While nursing can be exhausting, and not always glamorous, Cindy Schweder said she’s never questioned leaving the field she’s so passionate about.
“In nursing and in health care, ultimately, it’s all about patient outcomes,” Cindy Schweder said. “So it’s all about the patient, and that’s what drives me.”
Caring for patients isn’t just about fixing their physical problems, but it’s about educating them and their families, so their minds are at ease.
“So for me, that patient in that bed, they feel helpless – and not only they feel helpless, but the family feels as helpless,” Cindy Schweder said. “I could identify with that feeling.”
Cindy Schweder’s co-workers at Centegra said she is a wealth of information, a mentor to those around her and passionate about caring for her patients.
“It really all comes down to what her knowledge does to protect her patient – and she advocates for them like a little terrier,” said Kelly Neubauer, infection prevention practitioner with Centegra. “… I think that they very much appreciate the fact that someone is really looking out of them.”
Heather Voss, manager of quality improvements with Centegra, said something that stands out about Cindy Schweder is she goes above and beyond to ease patients’ minds, and make them feel comfortable.
“She always goes above and beyond, not only with patients, but also with her colleagues,” Voss said.
Reflecting on how she chose this career, Cindy Schweder said her father, Stephen, and her mother, who died about five years ago, would be proud. Without her mother’s support, she would never have made it to where she is at today, she said.
“If you work hard for something, and you’re passionate about it, you truly have a love for it, Cindy Schweder said.