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Giving Her All to the Tiniest Patients

Catherine Parsons-Goudberg, RN, MSN, is one of 3 Northern California nurses who was recently recognized with the Kaiser Permanente Extraordinary Nurse Award.

Catherine Parsons-Goudberg has cared for some of Kaiser Permanente’s tiniest patients during her 42 years as a neonatal intensive care nurse. But no matter how tiny, every patient benefits from her big heart, vast skills, and expansive knowledge.

“Cathy is extraordinary,” said a colleague at the Kaiser Permanente Roseville Medical Center, where Parsons-Goudberg is a clinical nurse specialist, charged with training new staff, monitoring and improving clinical care, and intervening in complex cases.

“She is the go-to person for troubleshooting equipment, and she is never too busy to help with patient care issues. My nursing practice has been elevated by working with her.”

What made you want to become a nurse?

When I was 5 years old, I was admitted to a children’s hospital with intense abdominal pain. The nurses were really nice. They let me tag along as they checked on patients, and they explained what they were doing. When I got home, I told my mom I wanted to be a nurse when I grew up.

What do you love about nursing?

I appreciate the variety it offers. You can choose to nurse at the bedside, be a teacher and mentor, or manage in a hospital or clinic. You can roll out programs or coordinate patient care as part of a multidisciplinary team. I’m also grateful that I can be part of a dedicated team of people who all want the best for our patients.

What’s the most challenging part?

There have been times in my career when work-life balance was difficult to achieve. I had to force myself to leave work behind at the end of the day, knowing that it would still be there the next day, when hopefully I’d be able to come back with renewed focus and energy.

What was one of your most memorable moments as a nurse?

When I was a staff nurse in the intensive care nursery at Kaiser Permanente Santa Clara, I decided to organize an annual holiday reunion for our infants who were discharged. I remember one little boy whose parents brought him to the reunion. He had been born with a rare neonatal disorder that causes lymphatic fluid to accumulate in the chest, and it took many chest tube insertions to resolve it. His condition was unstable for quite a while. I attended his birth and was his primary nurse.

His mom shared with me that she had closed the door of the nursery she prepared for him at home because she didn’t think he would survive. She didn’t open the door until the pediatrician told her that her baby would be going home. I kept in touch with her for several years. It was a joy to know that her son was healthy in spite of his complicated course. He is just one of many babies I’ve had the pleasure of caring for and sending home well.

Describe a professional achievement you’re proud of.

One of my favorite roles is training and mentoring staff. I so enjoy it when nurses call from the bedside and ask to consult with me on a patient or review a nursing procedure. What’s even more exciting is when they in turn become experts and can pass that information along to one of their peers.

If you could go back in time and give yourself advice, what would you say?

Believe you can make a difference in someone’s life. Something as simple as a kind word or a thoughtful gesture can really help a patient or family.

A couple of years ago, my mom had to call 911 when my dad was having a hard time breathing. When I arrived at the hospital, my dad was ventilated and nonresponsive. My mother was tired and confused.

The first person who greeted us in the ER was a chaplain. She asked my mother if she needed anything, and when mom said she was hungry, the chaplain left and returned 5 minutes later with a sandwich. Of all the people we met during dad’s hospitalization, this chaplain’s name is the only one my mother recalled.

What would people be surprised to learn about you?

I’m retiring this year after 43 years as a nurse, and 42 of those years have been in neonatal intensive care. I have thoroughly enjoyed the ride.

Find additional stories of Kaiser Permanente Extraordinary Nurse Award winners and much more at the Kaiser Permanente Nursing Pathways Nurses Week website.