Operation Last Dance

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Nurse manager Kathy Herman steps away from key role in the surgical ‘ballet’

So much has changed in the practice of surgical nursing since Kathy Herman, RN, walked through the front door of Howard County General Hospital in 1978, including her feelings for the profession. A love of nursing simply wasn’t there from the beginning. But over time, “just a job” turned into so much more, an exemplary career in nursing that concluded in November as Herman bid a fond farewell to HCGH and a hello to the idea of being a full-time grandmother.

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That’s a long way from her original work plans, which ended at her own introduction to motherhood. “I had a baby, and that was going to be it for nursing,” says Herman, who closes her career instead as nurse manager of the main operating room. “But five months later, I was tired of baby talk.” The hospital welcomed her back happily, and though things have changed exponentially in 37 years on the job, one thing never did:

“I have never known Kathy to dial it in on any day. She does the right thing, not the easy thing. That can be tough in an OR setting.”
– Sharon Rossi, RNC, MS

“I have never known Kathy to dial it in on any day,” says her (former) boss, Sharon Rossi, MS, RN, senior director of perioperative services. “She does the right thing, not the easy thing. That can be tough in an OR setting. Above all else she is an awesome teacher, whether with patients, or nurses, or families. And she does it without them feeling threatened or minimized in any manner.”

As for changes, Herman mentions the technological advances in surgery as the most mind-boggling. “Things I couldn’t even imagine,” she says. “You no sooner buy it than it’s outdated.”

Herman kept current over the years through affiliations with professional programs, by reading every journal she could lay her hands on, and “keeping abreast of what’s going on at places like Johns Hopkins.” She says her advice to nurses at any point in their careers would be to do the same, because more change is inevitable: “Be a lifelong learner.”

Herman, a Pennsylvania native, moved to Columbia, MD when her husband was transferred by his company to Baltimore. Her next stop, she says, is California to be near her one child and, hopefully, to be a grandmother one day.

Asked her favorite memory from her time at HCGH, Herman says it’s watching her surgical team treat a seriously ill patient as a seamless unit: “It’s almost like a ballet.”

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