Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Continuing a career in caring at age 82

The year was 1963 when Barbara McNagny graduated from a nursing degree program, intent on finding a job as a nurse.

Back then, the year wasn’t especially noteworthy. But now, 53 years later, it is: Because 82-year-old Barb can still be found nursing right here at CoxHealth. “It keeps me participatory in my society,” says Barb. “And it makes me functional. It gives me a reason to come in and perform and to make someone else’s life better.”

Nursing wasn’t the only career Barb considered in her younger years. “I actually wanted to be an airline stewardess, too,” she says.

However, that plan was derailed by a trip that made her airsick. “I decided I better not be an airline stewardess if I was going to end up being the guy getting sick in the bag,” she says with a laugh.

Her life’s journey was also a bit varied: She was born in Chicago, and moved to Indiana as a child where she grew up on a farm. After high school, not going to college wasn’t even an option. “I really wanted a degree,” recalls Barb. “It mattered to me.”

Because of that desire, she began studying nursing in Fort Wayne, Ind., but dropped out of the program because she didn’t think the school had high enough academic expectations for its students. “I must say, it took a little courage to withdraw,” says Barb. “But I thought, ‘I’m not going to get an education here.’”

After some time out of college – including a stint living in Long Beach, Calif., where she went to the beach daily before getting a job selling silver in a local department store – Barb decided to re-enroll in nursing school.

This time, she chose Columbia Presbyterian in New York City. “I absolutely loved the place,” says Barb, recalling its location on Broadway and 159th Street in the heart of the Big Apple. “When you sat in the cafeteria, you looked out at the George Washington Bridge all the time.”

Studies weren’t the only thing on her mind at the time: In the same time frame, she also got married and had her first child, a daughter named Lili. After graduation, the next few decades were spent taking care of her family – including two other children, Phil and Emma, who came along – with some part-time nursing thrown in at local doctors’ offices.

But when the family moved to Ava, Mo., in 1975 “to get away from the world,” Barb re-entered the workforce full time. Part of those years was spent at the hospital in Mansfield, where she did a little bit of everything to help keep things running smoothly.

“I had to be the only RN in the building at night,” she says. “I had to do all of the labor and delivery. I mixed my own IV antibiotics.”

After leaving the hospital, she spent time at other Springfield health care facilities before making the switch to CoxHealth in 1989. She began as a floater but then settled at Cox North in nephrology and on L600, which at that time was the diabetic floor, before transferring to Cox South.

After partially retiring in 1998, she came to Meyer Orthopedic and Rehabilitation Hospital in 2006 and she’s been there ever since. “I really enjoy working here,” she says. “I am a caretaker. You just are who you are. And I like to take care of people.”

Even though she’s been here for 25 years, Barb has no intention to retire any time soon. “As long as I feel competent, I’ll keep working. And I won’t do this a day after I don’t feel that way.”

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