Health care is a family affair for two generations of a Hokah, Minn., clan who credit their Catholic background for their gravitation to the healing arts.
The three daughters and son of Martin and Kathleen Scholze chose various jobs in the medical profession, and three still work at Mayo Clinic Health System-Franciscan Healthcare in La Crosse.
They landed in the medical field on their own, as their late father was a draftsman for the Trane Co. for 33 years and their mother, who lives in a nursing home in Caledonia, Minn., was a homemaker.
“Part of it is with our Catholic heritage, our background, we have a desire to care for people, to take care of people in need,” said Jenifer Schiltz, 53, of Caledonia, an RN and a surgery nurse supervisor at Mayo-Franciscan.
“Back when we were getting our education, we knew ongoing education was important,” Schiltz said. “At that time, nursing was thought to be a good job.”
That as proved to be true, the siblings agree, with Schiltz noting, “It’s a privilege to take care of patients who are vulnerable because of illness and unplanned hospitalization. They are trusting us with their care.”
Schiltz’s sister Sheila Bolduan, 55, also of Caledonia, is an RN in metabolic support services and a nutritionist, while their brother, Jim Scholze of Hokah, is an X-ray technician. The clan’s oldest, 57-year-old Michelle Rifenberg of La Crescent, was a medical technologist.
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They haven’t put all of their eggs in one basket, either. Rifenberg worked at Mayo and Gundersen Health System before becoming a Republican Minnesota state legislator representing Houston, Winona and Fillmore counties and now is a homemaker.
Sheila’s son Patrick is in facilities maintenance at Gundersen, and Jim’s daughter Taylor is a certified nursing assistant at Gundersen and a nursing student at Viterbo University.
What’s more, Sheila has two daughters who also are RNs at Mayo — Maribeth, a technician in neurodiagnostics and sleep disorders, and Anne Felten, in the family birthing center — and Jenifer’s daughter MaryEllen is a medical receptionist.
“With my job, I’m prepping patients for going home and helping them with nutrition. I see patients both in and out of the hospital, so I can see that the work I do has an impact on their recovery,” Sheila said.
Jim said, “In direct patient care, we develop relationships with patients — even if it’s on a short term.”
On the other hand, he said, “Patient care can be draining,” which is why he is a mentor in Mayo’s RISEN program, an acronym for Re-Investing Spirituality and Ethics in our Networks.
“RISEN recognizes the need of employees to take care of themselves,” which Jim said is an evolutionary change from when he began at Franciscan nearly 32 years ago.
RISEN and other programs are for “refreshing and renurturing employees as we do for the patients,” he said. “It’s health promotion for employees to keep their spirit going and make sure they have their energy up and mind clear to take care of the patients.”
Anne, 27, who recently transferred to the Family Birthing Center, said, “I have two little boys at home — 9 months and almost 2 — so I have that comfort level of caring for infants and working with their moms.”
Anne, who acknowledged that the fact that her mother and her aunt are nurses helped steer her toward the profession, said, “I enjoy caring for patients at bedside, nursing them and seeing them go home.
“One of the best parts of the job is when a patient thanks you and says you did a good job,” she said.
Maribeth, 28, said, “Nursing always seemed like a secure field — everybody gets sick sometimes. I was in limbo about the area I wanted to be in, but then they said, ‘There’s this department that works with the brain,’” which piqued her interest and pulled her into neurodiagnostics.
MaryEllen, 23, departed from her the path her mom, aunt and cousins chose, saying, “I didn’t want to go into nursing. I wanted to be on the business side. I wanted to be the link to help them get their care.
“I like to get the patient scheduled for what they need, and I want to understand basic, direct patient care so I can grow and expand to more,” she said.
Hospital skills often overlap with other tasks in everyday life, said Jim, who also is a baseball coach at La Crescent High School and for a summer youth recreation league and has been Hokah mayor, like his father before him, for 5½ years.
Asked what is hardest — X-ray tech, coaching or mayor — he interrupted with a laugh, saying, “Parents.”
“All three allow me to practice my service to people,” said Jim, whose wife, Kim, is recreational therapy director at Bethany St. Joseph Care Center in La Crosse.
With families who live close together, vacation together, and go camping together, Marybeth said, “It only seems natural that we work together, too. Our shifts overlap, so we get to see at least one of each other every day.”
The one snag is car pooling, because the job demands can send their schedules askew even if they are working the same hours.
“Part of the commitment to the patient is you can’t just walk away,” Jenifer said.
“You clock out when the patient care is done and your charting is done,” Anne said.
Sheila underscored that philosophy, saying, “Patient care comes first.”
It often comes at a price, too, she said: “Sometimes, you see a lot of sadness, and the outcomes aren’t always the best. You’re invested in the patients, and you feel their stresses and the families’ stresses.
“I don’t know that that’s a negative,” she said, “but you have to balance your life.”
She told of an incident that lifted her up to maintain that balance, involving a patient who had moved to a Southern state for the winter.
The patient needed nutritional support, so Sheila developed the plan and coordinated it with health care workers in the other state.
One day soon thereafter, the woman’s sister called.
“She said she had gotten sick that morning and died,” Sheila said. “I had never met the sister, but she said the patient talked about Sheila all the time. Her family appreciated that, and she thought I should know.
“She called me just a few hours after she died,” she said. “It really did bring tears to these eyes.”
“Part of it is with our Catholic heritage, our background, we have a desire to care for people, to take care of people in need,” Jenifer Schiltz, surgery nurse supervisor at Mayo-Franciscan.
“Part of it is with our Catholic heritage, our background, we have a desire to care for people, to take care of people in need,”
Jenifer Schiltz, surgery nurse supervisor at Mayo-Franciscan.