The Schwartz Family
The Schwartz Family
Carol Monheit Schwartz, Nu’68, Julie Ginsberg, Nu’96, GNu’99, and Amy Seymour, Nu’02, GNu’05
For Carol Monheit Schwartz and her daughters, it is family and nursing that binds them–but so does Penn Nursing. Carol graduated from the School’s BSN program in 1968, eventually inspiring her daughters–Julie Ginsberg, Nu’96, GNu’99 and Amy Seymour, Nu’02, GNu’05–to follow in her footsteps and beyond. While they have each had different educational journeys, the Schwartz family has learned to lean on each other for mentorship, advice, and support.
Where are you currently working? What was your general career path?
Carol: After I graduated from Penn Nursing in 1968, I joined the staff of a small community hospital to gain clinical experience. Once my children were born, I stepped away from work until a friend of mine from the hospital, who became a school nurse, suggested that I become a substitute school nurse. I enjoyed this and returned to school to earn my certification. I retired a few years ago, but during the pandemic, I connected with the Medical Reserve Corp of Montgomery County where my husband and I have been assisting with vaccinations for the county. It’s been a wonderful opportunity to meet and help a lot of people in our local community.
Julie: My first degree was in Biology from Tufts University. I graduated from the second-degree BSN program in 1996 and the Pediatric Primary Care MSN program in 1999. I earned my DNP from the University of Pittsburgh in 2021. I currently work at CHOP, where I have been for most of my professional career, apart from several years when I worked in a primary care private practice in Center City. At CHOP, I’ve done several different things: I worked as an allergy nurse and nurse practitioner, pediatric primary care nurse practitioner, and in the last eight years, I’ve been in a non-clinical role supporting the CHOP Nursing Department. I have taken on a clinical nurse specialist type role as an ambulatory nursing practice specialist, and in the last year I have worked as the Evidence-Based Practice Specialist in the Center for Pediatric Nursing Research and Evidence-Based Practice at CHOP.
Amy: I was also a second-degree student at Penn Nursing, as I explored a couple different programs before deciding to go into Nursing. I graduated with my BSN from Penn Nursing in 2002 and my MSN in 2005 from the Acute Chronic Nurse Practitioner Program. I started my career as a staff nurse at CHOP, and when I graduated with my Masters degree, I was a nurse practitioner at the Seashore House. In that role, I worked in the Rehab Unit, and I was one of three nurse practitioners who cared for children with traumatic brain injuries. My husband and I then moved to Seattle, where I worked at Seattle Children’s as a nurse practitioner in the Neuro-Developmental Outpatient Clinic. I switched my nursing path and joined the anesthesia department, seeing kids pre-operatively and assisting them in recovery. I took a bit of time off after my kids were born and then followed my mother’s footsteps to become a school nurse at The Day School at The Children’s Institute in Pittsburgh, which supports children with disabilities.
Did you always want to pursue a career in nursing, particularly in your current field? How did your passion develop?
Julie: My mom was a nurse, but I had in my mind that I would go into college being pre-med. I quickly changed my mind. As I approached graduation, I learned about the nurse practitioner role, and this opened a whole world of opportunities for me. I knew that was what I wanted to do, so immediately following my undergraduate graduation, I started my second-degree nursing program.
Carol: I grew up with a father who was a doctor and a mother who wanted to be a nurse but, at the time, she was not allowed to go to nursing school. They always spoke about the hospital, and when I would tag along with my dad in the hospital, I thought it was so cool. I became a candy striper, and I loved it—that just increased my interest in nursing. While attending Penn Nursing, I worked as a nurse’s aide at the Seashore House over the summers. That experience really showed me that nursing was right for me.
Amy: Unlike my mother and sister, I took a very roundabout way to find nursing. Growing up, I did not like the sight of blood and didn’t want to have anything to do with it. But I knew that I always loved working with children with disabilities, so I thought about becoming a teacher and completed my Masters degree in education. When I started to teach, it didn’t feel like the right fit. I knew that I had an innate quality of wanting to help others, so I decided to try nursing and hoped that it was the right decision. It was, without a doubt, the best decision.
What is the most satisfying part of your work?
Carol: Being able to help people, whether old or young , has always been fulfilling for me. As a school nurse, I found it gratifying to collaborate with school staff and families of the children to provide a supportive environment for optimal health and learning to occur. My husband was an anesthesiologist at CHOP. He participates in surgical missions to Guatemala to repair cleft lips and cleft palates. I got to go along as a recovery room nurse, something I had never done before. We’ve done several missions, and each one has been incredibly gratifying to be able to help these families.
Julie: It means a lot to be able to work with children and families to help them achieve their health potential. As a nurse, I feel it is my role to help serve as a problem-solver and a mentor to patients, their families and fellow nurses.
Amy: Like what Julie shared, one of the things that you learn in nursing school is that you’re not just treating the child, you’re treating the family unit. Whatever setting you are in, there’s so much information when you’re taking care of a child who has special needs or illness. I tend to think of myself as the person who answers questions and makes the family unit feel comfortable and informed.
What is it like being in a family of nurses? Have you all had similar experiences, or have your experiences differed?
Julie: Well, we have a shared language within the nursing field. We do collaborate in some ways—when my mom was starting at the community vaccination clinic after being retired, we talked about the logistics of giving vaccinations. Sharing our own experiences and lessons has been incredibly helpful.
Carol: I would agree. When I look at what I learned in school compared to what Julie and Amy learned, it is totally different today. Obviously nursing and health care has evolved, so they both were mentors to me when I started as a school nurse. I used to call Julie and ask, “What do I do to deal with problems such as food allergy? How do I set up care plans?” And then Amy and I shared a patient at one point—one of my school students was in the Rehab Center, so we were able to collaborate on a plan for him. It’s been great.
Amy: Before I went into nursing, I remember having nothing to say at the dinner table. I wanted to be able to join the conversation, and once I started nursing school I could jump right into those discussions.
What is one piece of advice you would offer to current Penn Nursing students or young alumni?
Amy: Trust their gut, and if they think something’s going on they should have enough confidence to talk to the team, talk to their charge nurse—I really think nurses are the core of care. Nurses are in the trenches, and know what the patients and families need. When I was in Seattle, I worked at the University of Washington teaching new nursing students. An important piece of advice I always gave them was to never be afraid to ask questions. I’ve been in my current job for just about a year, and I ask questions every day. Your questioning attitude keeps kids safe. It keeps you safe.
Julie: I would echo what Amy said, and I would add that it is important to focus on mentorship—I have been lucky to have had significant mentors in my own life. Many of my mentors have been nurses, some have been physicians or other people. I think it is so incredibly valuable and important to have somebody who is a good mentor for you, whether you ask for that formally or someone just becomes your mentor.