Special delivery: Covenant honors Wittig

Special delivery: Covenant honors Wittig

Presence Covenant Medical Center has long chosen to honor one nurse each year with a clinical excellence award. Given for commitment, compassion and skill in the nursing profession, the award this year went to Cristy Wittig, a labor and delivery nurse and lactation consultant who's helped many hundreds of new moms during and after the births of their babies.

Here are 10 things to know about her:

1 She decided to be a nurse before she even got to middle school. When she was in third grade, Wittig's grandmother suffered a brain aneurysm and she went to visit her in a Chicago hospital and decided right then and there she wanted to take care of people. She didn't see the doctors at the hospital much, she recalls. But the nurses, "they were making sure the patients and their families got what they needed."

2 She is a 39-year-old lifelong Monticello resident and mother of three children (ages 17, 14 and 11) who has been a nurse for 16 years, the last 10 at Covenant.

3 She tells her own kids, "If you're not bleeding, you're fine." Wittig doesn't want to over-protect her children to the point that they don't get to live and experience the world. How's that's working? "I have really good kids," she says.

4 She got her associate's degree from Parkland College, then went on to get her bachelor's and master's degrees through online programs offered by the University of Wisconsin and Walden University that provided for clinical training in her own community. She did class work at night while her kids were sleeping, and clinical work during the daytime while they were at school, and has a few more classes she wants to take to complete her certification to become an advanced practice nurse.

5 Nursing and being a mother keeps her busy, but Wittig also teaches at Lakeview College of Nursing, enjoys gardening and deer hunting, and has a blast helping her parents with their concession stand business that brings corn dogs and lemon shake-ups to county fairs.

6 Wittig is a staff nurse in labor and delivery, works as a charge nurse as needed and is a lactation consultant helping new moms and staff with breastfeeding and education. She also helps with Facebook and in-person breastfeeding support groups.

7 Her interest in lactation grew out of issues she had nursing her oldest daughter, and coming to the realization that a new mom needs education on this subject.

8 Her most frightening moment in nursing: Delivering her first baby. She's helped with about 1,000 births at Covenant, but sometimes the doctor doesn't get there on time and the nurse has to deliver.

9 Hardest part of the job: When a baby passes away. After all these years, it's never gotten any easier to live through this and there are simply no words to comfort grieving parents. "All you can do is be there," she says.

10 Favorite times on the job: Seeing a brand new dad moved to tears and the way new parents can look at each other after the birth of their baby. "The miracle of birth, everybody knows that's a miracle," she says. "Seeing the mom and dad bond like that moves me."

Wittig's wisdom

For soon-to-be breastfeeding moms

— There is so much information out there online. Be sure you get evidence-based (proven by research) information about breastfeeding rather than just opinions.

— Discuss your plans to breastfeed with your doctor, midwife and the hospital in advance so you have a game plan for when your baby arrives and are prepared to handle any roadblocks that may arrive without resorting to supplementing with formula or feeling as though you are not providing your baby with adequate milk and nutrients.

For anyone considering going into nursing

— Prepare to work hard, and "know you will be there on weekends and holidays so other families can celebrate their health and happiness."

— Don't expect the big thank you, though you may get a smile, from patient families. Their attention and concern are centered on their loved ones who are sick.

— Know that an excellent nurse must be dedicated, available for patients and able to balance the demands of the job with home and family life.

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