Nurse Brings Fun Where It’s Needed


Posted to Nursing, Nursing Jobs, Nursing News

Image courtesy of serch via Flickr

The Daily Iowan has an article about a nurse practitioner named Mary Shlapkohl, who has worked at the University of Iowa Children’s Hospital for many years. She managed to find a way to bring some much-needed cheer to the kids who are her patients.

Every day, Mary Schlapkohl wears a red I AM LOVED button pinned to the straps of her ID-card, dangling around her neck.

“A teenage girl gave this to me,” the 50-year-old said, clutching it in her hand.

The nurse-practitioner said when she asked the young patient handing them out for one, the child replied, “Ugh, you’re never going to wear it.”

“And so I’ve never not worn it, just to spite her,” Schlapkohl said and smiled.

Working at the University of Iowa Children’s Hospital for the last two decades has allowed her to meet numerous children and families facing cancer.

“I’ve worked here a long time, so everybody knows me, and I’m up here on the floor a lot,” she said.

A UI nursing alumna, Schlapkohl worked for two years as a bone-marrow transplant specialist before becoming an assistant head nurse for the inpatient unit at UIHC. In 1992, she became a nurse-practitioner — beginning her work in the UI’s second-level pediatric hematology oncology unit.

A few years after, Schlapkohl was invited to the first planning meeting for Dance Marathon. From there, she has witnessed its continued growth.

“I think of how [Dance Marathon] has evolved to where it is now, and I can’t believe it,” she said. “It’s not just the amount of money it has raised, but what this has grown to mean to our families has been just incredible and how much the students just embrace our families and become so involved with them.”

For Schlapkohl, Dance Marathon is like a partnership. The volunteers bring joy to distract patients, she said, and the hospital staff members help children get better and provide information to the families.

“So I think it’s a great parallel way of treating our patients and working with them together,” she said.

Children’s Hospital nurse Kristie Febus, who has worked with Schlapkohl for the last seven years, said she has a knack for working with children.

“I can honestly say that I have not seen a kid who doesn’t love Mary,” the 31-year-old said.

Febus said Schlapkohl always maintains a lot of energy around staff and patients.

“She figures out a way to put fun into the hospital,” Febus said. “This isn’t a very fun place, and somehow she is able to make the kids feel comfortable and make them feel like they’re at home. It’s always jokes and laughing with them, and she makes them feel like there’s a little bit of fun to be had here.”