Two medical emergencies—each involving University of Wisconsin Oshkosh College of Nursing (CON) alumnae—happened within weeks of one another in 2018. Brenda Lowrance ’89, on vacation in Arizona, and Raeann Schroeder ’84, going about her everyday life in Sheboygan, unexpectedly found themselves in the heat of two very serious situations.
Both women, with decades of nursing experience, were quickly able to switch from everyday life to “nurse mode” and administer life-saving care to the individuals facing peril.
Lowrance, of Phoenix, Arizona, performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and saved the life of a man who was struck by lightning in Grand Canyon National Park. Schroeder, of Sheboygan, saved the life of an 85-year-old woman who fell in her home and was incapacitated for eight days.
Shelly Lancaster, a CON associate professor, assistant dean and director of pre-licensure programs, also is an alumna of the college. She said that in situations like these, having a nurse present to perform life-sustaining measures, manage resources and organize care can be the difference between life and death.
“A nurse’s scope of practice and licensure is not defined by geography,” she explained. “Our practice follows us wherever we are physically present.”
Brenda Lowrance ’89
Lowrance and her husband were vacationing on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon National Park last August.
The two were sitting on the porch of their cabin, watching a thunderstorm roll in, when they heard a loud crack followed by shouts and screams not far in the distance. A man had been struck by lightning.
Without hesitation, Lowrance switched into “nurse mode,” ran to the scene and immediately began performing CPR on the unresponsive man.
Two other nurses quickly joined the scene, and an automated external defibrillation (AED) device was used to shock the victim’s heart back into rhythm. He was flown by helicopter to a hospital in Las Vegas and was eventually discharged after two days.
Lowrance, a native of Oconto Falls, received recognition in the Oconto County Times Herald last December.
Raeann Schroeder ’84
Schroeder was doing chores for a family friend, Barbara Braden, when she found herself switching into “nurse mode.”
Braden is an elderly woman living in Sheboygan with no immediate family in the area. Schroeder has been not only a friend to Braden but also a helping hand for nearly 10 years.
One day in September, Schroeder stopped by Braden’s house to move her trash bins to the road for garbage pick-up. When she saw the bins were empty, she knew something was wrong. She ran to check the mailbox and saw it was overfilled with mail.
Connecting the dots, Schroder found a way to enter the house and discovered 85-year-old Braden lying face-down on the floor. Braden had fallen and was incapacitated for eight days, though she was coherent and conscious when Schroeder found her.
Schroeder immediately called an ambulance and began assessing the woman’s condition. Braden survived the event with no major injuries. She is eternally grateful to have such a knowledgeable and caring friend in Schroeder.
Schroeder’s story was reported by the Sheboygan Press in November. She was later named one of Sheboygan’s “2018 people of the year.”
The value of liberal education
Selflessness and perseverance are two words used to describe CON students and alumni. Baccalaureate-prepared nurses have a broad understanding of the world around them, which fosters the critical-thinking skills necessary to work through challenges, Lancaster said.
Nursing students at UW Oshkosh are exposed to a variety of complex healthcare situations through hands-on clinical experience and lab simulations. Additionally, the majority of CON students volunteer or work in a healthcare setting while they are in school.
These experiences provide a rich foundation and prepare them to manage healthcare emergencies calmly and effectively. Time, experience and exposure to such situations also play into the success of CON alumni.
CON has graduated more than 7,000 nurses since records began in 1970. On any given day inside or outside of work, CON alumni are faced with challenges that involve their medical expertise. Fortunately, UW Oshkosh alumni are well-prepared.
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