Three sisters, one calling

During her confirmation classes at St. Paul Lutheran Church, Mary Ann (Nolte) Brockman realized she wanted to serve her community by helping others as a nurse.

To confirm her insight, she joined Bethesda Hospital in downtown Cincinnati as a candy striper to experience first-hand what nurses did. Seeing how they cared for patients and visiting different hospital floors validated Brockman’s choice to become a nurse.

Unbeknownst to Brockman, two of her three younger sisters — Laurie and Terri — would eventually follow her in pursuing their Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) at the University of Cincinnati. While each one of them pursued a different career path, their passion for helping people impacted the many lives they directly or indirectly touched through nursing.

Mary Ann Brockman, BSN ’77

Mary Ann Brockman, RN, BSN '77

Mary Ann Brockman, BSN '77

Taking a high school biology class designed to educate future nurses gave Mary Ann Brockman an early taste of nursing school. Although two-year diploma programs were the usual route for nursing back then, Brockman’s parents had instilled the importance of a four-year degree in their four daughters (Kathy, the second oldest, became a dietitian). Those factors, combined with the availability of financial supplements for nursing students provided by President Ronald Reagan’s administration, made Brockman’s decision to earn her BSN an easy one.

Brockman commuted daily to campus with three nursing friends, coining the nickname “The Carpool.” Their commute enabled additional studying before exams, engaged discussions after exams, and bonding that created lifelong friendships.

“The four of us are still close to this day, as we shared so much back then,” Brockman says.

After graduation, the four friends joined Cincinnati Children’s and Brockman worked for a few years in the hospital’s long-term care unit. The desire to escape Ohio’s winters encouraged her move to Florida, which led to a position in the adult oncology unit at Sarasota Memorial Hospital, where opportunities in pediatrics were limited.  

“I almost quit every month for the first six months; it was so hard. Then I stayed in that same department for 35 years,” Brockman recalls. “I realized that helping people through the biggest crisis in their lives was my true calling.”

Mary Ann and the carpool friends

Brockman and the carpool friends

In 1996, Brockman became the head nurse at the hospital’s outpatient chemotherapy clinic, where she worked until retiring in 2016.

“Our department was losing money from referrals for uninsured patients,” she recalls. “But the BSN program prepared me with a broader vision of how to help patients and be a nurse leader. I developed a program that allowed nurses to apply for chemotherapy drugs for free and showed hospital administration the costly consequences of not providing outpatient care.”

When asked for advice for current nursing students, she is excited:

“The sky is the limit; there are so many opportunities! Explore all options available and don’t be afraid to try different things.”

Laurie Casey, BSN '82

Laurie Casey, BSN '82

Laurie Casey, BSN '82

Laurie (Nolte) Casey started her academic career at the UC College of Arts and Sciences but quickly realized nursing was her calling, inspired by the impact her older sister Mary Ann had on people’s lives.

After graduation, Casey worked as a registered nurse at Providence Hospital in Mount Airy before joining the teenager unit at Cincinnati Children’s. She took a few years off to focus on her two children, then leveraged her nursing background as a utilization reviewer for insurance companies until her retirement at 59 years old.

 “She was always interested in an alternative angle of nursing,” her younger sister, Terri, says.

In May 2023, Casey passed away at age 62.

Terri Rutz, BSN '84

Terri Rutz, RN, BSN '84

Terri Rutz, BSN '84

Despite concerns about how challenging the nursing program would be, Terri (Nolte) Rutz wanted to be a nurse for as long as she can remember.  

“Mary Ann was such an influence on me, I remember ironing her uniform while she studied for exams, I wanted to support her as I could,” Rutz recalls.

Like her two older sisters, Rutz earned her BSN from UC. After graduation, she moved with her husband — a graduate from the UC College of Engineering and Applied Sciences — to Mississippi, where she worked as a pediatric nurse. A few years later, they returned to Cincinnati and Rutz joined the Emergency Department at Cincinnati Children’s, then transitioning to inpatient care until deciding to stay home with her children.

In 1990 her sister Kathy, who taught healthy eating habits to pregnant women, encouraged Rutz to join in evening childbirth classes throughout Cincinnati. Those classes piqued Rutz’s interest in natural childbirth, leading to her becoming a doula. Over the following 10 years, Rutz helped more than one hundred women as a certified childbirth educator, doula and as a mom-baby visiting nurse.

“That’s what is so fun about nursing, there are so many different avenues you can take,” Rutz says.  

Rutz with First Lady Nancy Regan

Rutz with First Lady Nancy Reagan at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson, Mississippi

After becoming a certified lactation counselor and an International Board-Certified Lactation Consultant, Rutz rejoined Cincinnati Children’s as a consultant in their inpatient lactation program, progressing to full-time employee and later becoming that program’s coordinator until retiring in 2023.

“It’s funny that the reason that made me leave Children’s years ago — ensuring I was properly breastfeeding my child — is what brought me back,” Rutz says.    

Rutz’s has also impacted babies and new mothers by co-leading a grant that funds complimentary meals for mothers of NICU babies, so they are available to pump or breastfeed whenever needed.

While the three sisters followed different routes within nursing, they shared the passion and drive to help others. Regardless of the path chosen, nursing allowed each one of them to leave their mark and impact their patients and communities.

Polaroid of Mary Ann, Laurie and Terri with Family
Polaroid of Mary Ann, Terri, Kathy and Laurie at Christmas

All photos provided.

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Three sisters, one calling

June 3, 2024

While the three sisters followed different routes within nursing, they shared the passion and drive to help others. Regardless of the path chosen, nursing allowed each one of them to leave their mark and impact their patients and communities.