Cathy Fandel found her calling

DeWayne Bartels
Cathy Fandel and Gail Craig look over some paperwork.

For Cathy Fandel nursing is a passion.

Fandel, a Peoria resident, has devoted 36 years of her life to the profession, 27 of those years at the Metamora office of Dr. Glen Sidler.

There, she assists the doctor with his internal medicine practice. But, her duties go far beyond nursing.

She said it is not unusual to find her emptying garbage cans or counseling patients on matters that have nothing to do with medicine.

Before coming to Sidler’s office, Fandel worked as a nurse in the ICU at Methodist Medical Center in Peoria.

“I loved the work. I was more one-on-one with patients. But, I had to work weekends and nights,” Fandel said.

That, she said, was not conducive to raising a family. She sought office work as a nurse and found Sidler.

“A lot of people might think this is boring after working in the ICU. It’s not boring. We see everything imaginable here,” Fandel said.

“I could almost write a book. We’ve done CPR here on patients several times. We had a fellow come in here recently. He was bleeding from a head wound. This is their first stop.”

When Fandel got into the profession it was one of a few wide open to women.

“When I graduated high school women went to secretarial jobs, teaching or nursing. They were not hiring teachers then. My typing and shorthand skills were not up to par. I decided to try nursing,” Fandel said.

She had no real passion for the profession as she entered nursing school at Methodist.

“I found though that I did well. I liked it. I’m an over-achiever. I graduated valedictorian of my class,” Fandel said.

Fandel said what has kept her engaged in the profession is the personal relationships she is able to forge with patients.

“You get the opportunity to make the patients a part of your extended family,” Fandel said.

“I know their voices when they call without having to ask their names. They know me. That makes this work very interesting. I guess I have been a nurse so long, and learned so much from Dr. Sidler it’s become who I am. I can’t separate my work from who I am.”

Gail Craig, the office manager, chimed in at that point.

“She is not just a nurse. She is a counselor. The patients will call in here before coming to see the doctor to make sure Cathy will be here,” Craig said. “She’s their comfort zone, their advisor.”

Fandel smiled.

“That’s a lot of pressure,” she said. “But, it’s also what makes my work so satisfying.”

However, every aspect of her work is satisfying. Paperwork, she said, is the worst part of her job.

“Privacy laws have brought more paperwork, but not improved patient care,” she said.

“Despite the emphasis on paperwork patients don’t change, diseases don’t change and the mission of medicine doesn’t change. It’s just now we have to jump through more hoops for insurance companies.”

To those who might consider nursing as a career Fandel said it offers many paths to satisfaction.

“But, it’s not glamorous like they portray on TV. You’re going to be in the nitty-gritty of things. You have to work hard and really want it. The compensation is not great. You are not going to get rich,” Fandel said.

“But, when you are working with an ill person and help them get better there’s a great deal of satisfaction in knowing you are doing something important.”