Five years ago, Judith Zedreck, DNP , was walking through a Nordstrom when a woman called her name. Though Zedreck hadn’t seen her in many years, she recognized her as Patty, the mother of a premature infant she had cared for back in her early days as a staff nurse in the neonatal intensive care unit at Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC. And now here she was, telling her that her baby, who had been so tiny and fragile, was all grown up. “Elizabeth got married,” Patty told Zedreck, with the sound of a miracle in her voice.
And here’s the second-best part of that encounter: Patty opened up her wallet—not to show Zedreck a picture but to pull out one of the “Dear Mommy” notes that Zedreck had been in the practice of writing after an overnight shift to let the parents know how things in that touch-and-go world had gone. “She said that when Elizabeth got married, they talked about those notes and how much they meant to her,” Zedreck, now a professor in the Department of Acute/ Tertiary Care remembers. “And you know, they were just nothing. I mean, it took me 30 seconds to write those notes. But that was a lifetime for that mother.”
Zedreck’s commitment to education is such that she actually completed her Doctor of Nursing Practice degree in 2013 while she was the interim chief executive officer/chief operating officer at Allegheny General Hospital. “I went back to school not because I didn’t have enough to do but because I really thought it was the best thing to do,” she says. “I wanted to be sure that I was in a structured learning environment so that I knew what the trends were and what were best practices— not only evidence-based medicine in clinical settings but also in administrative settings.”
One of Zedreck’s earliest roles was as a clinical educator. After a career that took her to the highest levels of administration, she is thrilled to be back in the classroom. “The respect and the pride for nursing, for me, are just phenomenal. I love to be in that environment,” she says. “There’s no time you’re in the Victoria Building that you’re not proud to be a part of that. And it’s not just about teaching and training. It truly is about the profession and how we’re advancing it.”
First published in Pitt Nurse magazine, Fall 2014