Tim Schickedanz is one of the best nursing students in the country. He recently won the grand prize among 1,633 students nominated for the 2004 Cherokee Inspired Comfort Award, which recognizes health care professionals who have helped others through exceptional service, sacrifice and innovation. Presented each year by Cherokee, a company that manufactures medical uniforms and scrubs, the honor includes a crystal award, a cruise to the Cayman Islands, a wardrobe of uniforms and other items. A cancer survivor, Schickedanz was diagnosed with Hodgkinís disease at age 9. After earning a bachelorís degree in political science from Texas A&M University in 1989, he changed direction and decided to try the medical field. He has been an emergency medical technician, a firefighter and a medical platoon sergeant in the Army. Currently studying for a bachelorís degree in nursing at UTA, he works weekends in the emergency room at Harris Methodist Hospital in Fort Worth and is also a medical platoon leader in the National Guard.
How did you react when you learned that you had won such a prestigious award?
What does winning the award mean to you?
I was shocked. Everybody kept it a surprise; my wife knew about it a week before they told me. In one of my classes, we were told that there would be a special announcement after class, but I just thought it was going to be the usual announcements of information for nurses and so on. But when class was over, reporters and photographers started coming in one door, and I thought, this must be an important announcement. Then through the other door came my wife, kids and parents, and thatís when it clicked.
Itís an honor just to be nominated. It shows me that Iím doing the right things, the things I need to do to be a successful nurse and a good nurseónot just a nurse.
What was it like for you as a child with Hodgkinís disease?
It was not a lot of fun. I have shut out a lot of that, probably suppressed it. I remember being really sick and in a lot of pain. They had given me two years to live, not one of those percentage chances, just two years. I used humor to take my mind off of it. I laughed a lot, my parents prayed a lot, and the doctors did their work. The three of those things combined to work out really well.
What made you decide to pursue medicine as a career?
Iíve always wanted to be on the front lines and help other people. People who come to the emergency room are at a crossroads. I want to be there at that crossroads to help guide them in the right direction. Thereís a saying that goes something like, ďThe fate of the wounded largely depends on the skills of the first pair of hands that touch them.Ē Iíve just always wanted to be that first set of hands.
Does the fact that you are a cancer survivor help you in this area?
It played a big role. I was helped out by medical professionals when I was a kid, and now I want to pass some of that on. But I donít think that I could do oncology nursing or pediatric nursing. It would just be too personal.
How do you spend your days now?
Iím going to school full time. I started working on my B.S.N. in the spring of 2004, and I should finish in December of 2005. I work weekends in the emergency room at Harris Hospital in Fort Worth. My wife, Kate, and I have three boys: Sean, 6; Kiernan, 2; and Wayne, 1. Itís been a lot of fun watching them grow.
What are your plans?
After finishing my degree, I plan to get my trauma nurseís certification. Iíll probably continue to work in the emergency room until I canít lift a patient. Being a flight nurse is also a possibility, but I need a lot more experience for that.
— Jim Patterson