Some people would say that working in certain fields runs in the family. This fact is especially true for a group of sisters from New Cleveland who pursued careers in nursing and all ended up at St. Rita’s Medical Center to fulfill their careers. Between the four Kuhlman sisters, they put in over 168 years of service as nurses in the hospital.
Elaine Laudick was the first of the four to pursue a career in the medical field. She attended the St. Rita’s School of Nursing in 1965, where she was third in her graduating class and started the trend that continued with her younger sisters. During her years at St. Rita’s, she covered many departments including neuro, coronary care, medical surgical and finishing at Putnam County Ambulatory Care Center. She retired in 2007 after 42 years of service.
“I had an aunt who was a nurse that also graduated from St. Rita’s and I looked through a lot of her books and thought it was very interesting, which is why I decided to pursue nursing,” Laudick said.
Immediately after high school, Kathleen Kern worked as a typist while figuring out what she would like to do long term. “After graduation, one of my brothers joined the Navy and the other two were drafted. My dad farmed so I was his farm help because my three older brothers were gone, so I know he was glad I stayed around,” Kern shared.
Since her older sister was a nurse, she thought about pursuing nursing as well and two years later when her sister Lottie graduated, they both enrolled in their nursing programs.
Kathleen and her younger sister, Lottie Salisbury, were graduates of the first nursing class from Penta Tech in 1971. The same year was also the last year a class graduated from St. Rita’s School of Nursing. Of their graduating class, Lottie was first, and Kathleen was second.
Both Kathleen and Lottie worked in a nursing home while going through their nursing program.
“I liked working in the nursing home, but I wanted more exposure with just getting out of school because you know very little and you learn so much on the job,” Kern said.
Kathleen retired in 2010 after 41 years of service but still worked casually throughout the hospital. Throughout her time at St. Rita’s she worked in orthopedics, ENT, gastroenterology and endoscopy for 25 years.
While Kathleen started at St. Rita’s shortly after her graduation, Lottie stayed at the nursing home for two years before starting her career in the same place as her sisters. She was with St. Rita’s for 43 years, serving in departments such as neurology, mother/baby, medical surgical, step down and outpatient before retiring in 2015. Lottie still works at St. Rita’s on a casual basis and volunteers with hospice.
Sue Verhoff was the youngest sister and the final one to join St. Rita’s. She graduated from Lima Technical School in 1976 and started at the hospital as a nurse’s aide before becoming an RN for 40 years. Before her retirement in 2016, Sue worked in many departments. She was in neurology, same-day surgery, recovery and pre-admissions. She was a manager for 25 years and retired after 42 years of nursing.
Over the years, the sisters watched as things changed in the medical field. From surgeries that once took a week to recover now being outpatient procedures and learning how these things changed was something that kept them all interested, and the diverse nature of nursing drew all four of them in. Whether the diversity was in departments, hours or opportunities to advance, these sisters were not limited in their paths at St. Rita’s.
While there were four of the Kuhlman sisters at St. Rita’s, the medical field continued to run in their blood. Their immediate family members include nurse practitioners, a radiology technician, an exercise physiologist, a pharmacist, a sonographer and a nurse. They have many grandchildren among them looking to enter the medical field as well.
Each one of these women found something that drew them into the nursing field, and being able to work alongside their sisters was just another reason St. Rita’s was a great place for them to spend their careers. After their retirements, these women still stayed active in the St. Rita’s communities and continued making a difference even after they were no longer full-time nurses.
This is part of a monthly series of stories submitted by St. Rita’s Medical Center marking the 100th anniversary of the hospital.