Third-generation Lithuanian-American Joan M. Naumovich is a home health nurse for Alternacare, and former Patient Advocate/ Director of Patient Relations at St. John’s Hospital. She began her medical career in high school as a volunteer or “candy striper” before earning her R.N. and then serving many years as a bedside nurse, always at St. John’s.
Joan got a lot of satisfaction from her “healthcare ministry” helping patients navigate an increasingly complex medical system, which often involves a daunting number of specialists and a dizzying array of high-tech tests and treatments. She says, “The changes that are taking place in this industry are coming at an incredibly rapid pace.”
The third of 10 children born to Leonard and Jean Naumovich, Joan says her grandmother Josephine Deresker Naumovich immigrated from Lithuania in the early 1900s. And, like so many of us, Joan faced surname mutilation by teachers all through school at St. Aloysius Grade School, Ursuline Academy, then St. Louis University, where she earned her B.S. in nursing. She laughs: “It is amazing how many ways there are to put the 9 letters in Naumovich together to create a variety of sounds.”
Joan’s long career at St. John’s charted many dramatic changes in the hospital experience:
“I always knew I wanted to be a nurse, even in my younger years. I worked as a candy striper at St. John’s Hospital when I was a freshman in High School. My job was to stand at the end of the long (un-air conditioned) hallway looking for call lights to come on. I would go ask the elderly people in the four-bed wards what was needed, and then find a nurse to help them or offer them water or powder their backs.
“After obtaining my RN license, I worked as a bedside nurse for many years at St. John’s and saw a lot of changes. In the oldest wing of the hospital, there were no bathrooms in the patient rooms and nurses had to carry bedpans down the hall into the hopper room for disposal. On the orthopedic unit, elderly people with fractured femurs were kept on bed rest in skeletal traction for weeks prior to surgical repair. Patients having total hip replacements were in the hospital for 10-14 days. A carpal tunnel procedure entailed a 3-day stay and if you suffered from back pain you were put on bed rest in pelvic traction for a week.
“Doctors could smoke at the nurses’ station, we charted in blue ink for day shift, green ink for evening shift and red ink for night shift. And of course, all nurses wore white.
“My role as Patient Advocate/ Director of Patient Relations today is to ensure that our patients and families have an exceptional and healing experience. I am called to intervene on a wide spectrum of issues that patients and families may encounter before, during and after their stay with us.”
Joan’s two daughters, Katie and Missy Dodd, come from a double-Lithuanian background. Their paternal great-grandmother was Springfield-area Lithuanian Marcella Yuscius. Joan has a fond memory of Grandma Yuscius assessing Katie as an infant in diapers and pronouncing Lithuanian words that sounded like “subikis paklis,” which she translated into English as, “butt like a stove.”
Sounds like a keeper for some of life’s special moments.