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Close to home: ‘Inexplicable love of what you do’ makes writer’s wife a nurse

Photo submitted to Times Observer Mindy Cotton’s nursing school graduation photo.

Over 15 years ago, a high school junior job-shadowed a nurse on the Critical Care Unit at Warren General Hospital.

Flash forward to 2020 and that nurse is working where?

The Critical Care Unit at Warren General Hospital.

But the thought of a career in nursing went back far further for Mindy Cotton (Writer’s note: Yes, she’s my wife.)

“I was young, probably elementary school,” she said.

Photo submitted to Times Observer Mindy Cotton, right, and her husband, Josh Cotton, the article author.

She explained that her babysitter – Sarah Klenck – was in nursing school and proceeded to marry a cousin.

“(I) used to beg her to tell me about all her patients,” Mindy said. “It was just very intriguing to me, taking care of people.”

It wouldn’t be until those high school years when she settled on pursuing nursing.

But it didn’t happen immediately.

“My mom liked the idea of being a nurse so that made me feel like I did want to,” Mindy said, “which was probably about the only rebellious thing I did as a teenager. (I’m) not sure I even ever told her that.”

Mindy graduated from Youngsville High School in 2004, which was right around when the Warren County School District rolled out a new, extensive graduation project.

“One of the easier things to do was to job shadow someone,” she said. A good friend’s mom, Jane Abbott, was a CCU nurse.

The job shadow was “one day. I was just hooked on it. The minute I left there, (it was) deeply resonating that that was what I wanted to do and that was where I wanted to work.”

Knowing where she was headed, she took anatomy and physiology and statistics in high school because they had been recommended for people pursuing nursing. (Writer’s note: I asked Mindy out for the first time via a note in that statistics class, so I think the course worked out well for both of us!)

Pitt-Titusville was on the cusp of starting a nursing program so Mindy took non-nursing classes there for a year before being admitted to the first class of that program.

College was “stressful” in a “very intense program.”

“I cried a lot,” she said.

“Being that no one in my immediate family had been to college, I had no idea what to expect going into it,” she said, calling it a “huge learning curve.

“I didn’t want my parents to go into debt for my education so I had to figure all that out on my own.”

With her Associates Degree awarded in 2007, Mindy applied two places — Warren General and Corry.

“In retrospect, I shouldn’t have had blind faith that I was going to get in” at Warren General, she joked. “I think I applied to Corry almost as an afterthought. My goal was pretty specific.”

Hired at Warren General, Mindy worked nights on the medical surgical floor for most of her first eight years there.

“There were only a couple opportunities to actually move to CCU” during that time, Mindy said.

“I felt the responsibility of being a CCU nurse was very high,” she said. “I didn’t want to get in over my head.”

(Writer’s note: What she didn’t say, though, was that the CCU nurses who knew her knew she would make the move eventually.)

13 years into her career, what keeps her coming back?

“It’s just an inexplicable love of what you do.”

She explained that she tried working in maternity but responded back to her old floor to answer a code.

“Every nurse has their area that they love,” she said. “This is my home and this is what I wanted to do.

“I can’t even explain why you keep going back. It’s a calling. For those 12 hours a day, those people are your family and you do your best.”

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