#GirlsRock: 👩‍⚕️ An interview with nurse Anne Sullivan


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Cats.

I read a blog about cats. Since I was a teenager, I’ve usually had at least one. Cybill (named for Cybill Shephard.) Pumpkin (the kids named her – she was a calico and fit the name to a whisker.) Brownie, Cubbie, Baby, and Leo.

They were siblings I rescued.

I met Anne through a post on Katzenworld. She spun a beautiful tale of a cat she’d taken lots of adventures with. We began a correspondence. I discovered her adventures with cats were only part of her story.

Nurse and life adventurer Anne Sullivan is today’s #GirlsRock interview.

Please give Anne a warm CD welcome. She’s honest and engaging and you’ll find yourself wanting to know what happens next, as I did. It goes to show that simply saying hello to a stranger can be one of your day’s best decisions.

AS anne sullivan after a new haircut

Eli: When you were little, what did you think you’d grow up to be?

Anne: My mother kept her nursing uniform and cape enshrined in the closet. Although she allowed my sister and me to wear her beautiful wedding dress as a Halloween costume (and ruin it) we could not even touch her nursing uniform. I suppose that pushed towards the goal of becoming a nurse. But I remember wanting to be an astronaut and secretly harboring a desire to go to medical school.

Eli: Why was your desire to go to medical school harbored in secret?

Anne: My father was a doctor but emotionally unfit to nurture a child. Both my parents loved all their children dearly. I guess they were products of their time and family of origin. I was the second born and the second girl. My mother had an abruption during labor with me. (An abruption is when the placenta separates from the wall of the uterus prior to birth. The fetus will not get enough oxygen if the abruption is prolonged and or severe. This can cause death or severe brain damage to the baby. The mother can also die from blood loss.

My mother told me she felt a ripping pain in her side as my father was driving her to the hospital. She gave birth to me within 10 minutes of that event. I think my parents didn’t have any faith in my potential to do anything as I was growing up. It probably never occurred to my father that I was interested (in medicine). My father was also an accomplished musician and my older sister has musical talent. My father was so overbearing and hypercritical with her that she won’t even look at a piano now.

My younger brother is a CPA. He inherited my mother’s financial brains. He almost faints at the sight of blood. My father expected him to go to medical school. Given my family dynamics being an “invisible middle child” was helpful. But I wasn’t that invisible. I did tend to hold many of my dreams inside me.

AS anne sullivan Anchorage HS with sweet new cat

Eli: What dreams do you hold inside yourself now?

Anne: I still dream a lot about many things. I want to do some more adventure travel. I went to Mexico to see the remains of the Mayan and Toltec civilizations. I was able to hike the Inca Trail to see Machu Pichu. I did a biking tour of Ireland. I like to do some more biking tours. At present, work and money are a constraint. I dream of starting a cat cafe. It would have an outside garden area with a brick patio, a fountain and lots of cat-safe plants. The inside would have tiled areas on walls and cement floors with a drain (covered by a drain strainer) that would make cleaning easier. I would live there to have my own quarters.

This may need to be in Florida because I want to have a small outside lap swimming pool area.  Very detailed. I have sometimes fantasized of starting my own assisted living/nursing home so that I would be able to eventually grow old in a place where I am comfortable. Being a nurse from Florida I see a large need for such a thing.  I would want to have an atmosphere that would allow me to enjoy my life. And I want a pool. The residents may have to wear rubber diapers in the pool though.

Sometimes I want to buy some acreage in Alaska north of Anchorage but still on the road system.  It would need a well. I would have a tiny permanent building to live in during the winter if need be. I want compostable toilets and warm showers. In the summertime, I would put up a few yurts for my family and friends in the south to stay the summers to escape the escalating summer heat. I could have a nice size garden too. The soil in Alaska is wonderful for gardening.

I plan to take piano lessons at some point in the future. Perhaps when I’m working at a semi-retired pace.

I dream a lot. It feeds my soul. My father used to say, “You can have anything you want but not everything you want.”

AS anne sullivan On a Civil Rights Immersion trip in front of the Brown Chapel.JPG

Eli: Would you say your dreams define you more than your work?

Anne: I would say that my dreams override my work. But I do have dreams about working the perfect job. I found a note on my sister’s dresser that said, “The secret to happiness is not getting what you want but wanting what you have.” I still feel that I am honored to be able to offer comfort to those who are suffering. And most of the people I work around are inspiring and quite altruistic, despite some of the cynicism that is pervasive. But still, I’m living on dreams.

Eli: Tell me about the people you work with, in a general sense.

Anne: I work in the Central Nursing Office at the Native Hospital in Anchorage. We are all nurses or nurses aides and work as a team usually. Most of us try to emotionally support each other. We are currently suffering from a collective tragedy. Management has decreed that our department is too expensive and we are all being transferred somewhere else. Needless to say many of us are quite morose. We provide support to the nurses on patient care units. Now we will not be able to do that. Ultimately patient care will suffer.

My immediate boss said, “It’s like finding out your parents are getting divorced when you didn’t even know they were fighting.” We’ve been having group hugs and group weeping sessions and some of us are hopeful about what the future will bring. I’ve worked in other places that were not able to emotionally support each other the way we have here. I will sorely miss coming to work in this department. I work with wonderful nurses and will remain friends with most of them.

AS anne sullivan This is me attempting to climb Flattop Mountain in Anchorage with my brother

Eli: I’m so sorry to hear that, Anne! In your career, how have you bounced back from changes similar to this?

Anne: Fortunately I’ve been through these scenarios before. I have to remember that ” this too shall pass” and I cannot take it personally. And I live a blessed life. Whatever happens to me, results in positive and wonderful improvements in my life.

Eli: What advice would you give young women just starting out, about where life can take you?

Anne: Be very careful about anything you post on social media. Expect to adjust the expectations of your career to the reality of the job you are hired to perform. Seek out, positive role models. Try to stay in your first job for at least one year but preferably for three years. Do not compromise your moral values. If you are expected to do something that you know is illegal or immoral you need to resign from that position. Do not burn bridges when resigning from a job.

Do your very best to act courteously and respectfully to everyone around you. Be kind to people whenever possible, especially the “invisible people” such as housekeepers, janitors, cooks, waitresses, etc. Start every day with pleasant thoughts about yourself and the world you live in.  Life is Good.

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12 thoughts on “#GirlsRock: 👩‍⚕️ An interview with nurse Anne Sullivan

  1. Lovely interview – I have such respect for Nurses and the amazing jobs that they do. Sorry that you are going to be transferred. I hope that you can stay in contact with your department because the support you give each other sounds wonderful.
    That quote at the end of the post is so good – thank you for the reminder.

  2. What an inspirational woman. I have such a soft spot for nurses, because my mom is an RN in a nursing home. Hard work, not always fully appreciated. Thank you, Anne, for all you do ❤️ And that quote at the end is beautiful. I’m not much of a cat person but that’s changing as the days go by. Mostly I just prefer animals in any form to humans, some of the time anyway 😊 great interview, Eli!

    1. Glad you feel that way, Charlotte. You know the life then, with your mom. Certainly love for the work. I get you on preferring animals to people! Sometimes, I’m that way with tacos.

  3. anne is an inspiration, and still has a positive approach to life even though things have not, and continue to not be always easy. her name is shared with the woman who changed Helen Keller’s life, and I’m quite sure that anne has changed many people’s lives for the better, perhaps without even knowing it.

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