Nureses Legacy - Cathy Desanti, BSN, MSHS, Case Manager, Neuro Telemetry Unit, Citrus Memorial Hospital
After 41 years in a successful career, some people might think about retiring. Not Cathy Desanti. The Nurses Appreciation Legacy Award winner sometimes feels like she’s just getting started.
Case manager in the Neuro Telemetry Unit at Citrus Memorial Hospital (CMH) for the last 10 years, Desanti has worn many hats as a nurse. She’s been a floor nurse, supervisor and director at hospitals in New York and Massachusetts, a home health nurse, a hospitalist, and a medical investigator for an insurance company. And although nursing was a natural fit for her, she had to face a few obstacles to get there.
“Growing up in a large family, the second of seven children, I had more experience than most with the doctor’s office and hospitals,” she said. “My sister was born with a congenital disability, spina bifida, and my dad was a pharmacist, so the hospital and pharmacy were familiar settings. My grandmother called me ‘blood and guts,’ because I didn’t shy away from the many medical emergencies of our family—cuts, bruises, puncture wounds, measles, chicken pox. You name it, someone in the family had it!”
Along with her “blood and guts” experiences, it was “Cherry Ames” who got Desanti into nursing. The heroine of 27 novels, Cherry Ames held many different nursing jobs (student nurse, Army nurse, flight nurse, cruise nurse, dude ranch nurse, etc.) and solved mysteries and captured criminals, a la Nancy Drew. But one small detail threatened to derail her goal.
“My high school guidance counselor cautioned me against studying nursing since I received a C in high school chemistry,” she said.
Taking his advice, Desanti enrolled in a liberal arts college, but after two years of general studies, she knew she needed to follow her original plan. With the support of her parents and siblings, Desanti applied to nursing school. In 1978, she earned a bachelor’s degree in nursing from Syracuse University in New York, at a time when BSN degrees were rare.
“A job like Cherry Ames is what I wanted for myself,” she said. “Helping people, challenging work, no two days alike, and a variety of settings that would allow me to explore the healthcare field didn’t seem like too much to ask. I was fortunate to be able to transfer between related positions by trusting my interests, skill set, and experience. I feel that each role prepared me for the next job.”
In 2009, tragedy struck when Desanti’s youngest brother, Matt, a nurse in Citrus County, was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer. Desanti and her husband moved south to help her brother, who died a short time after.
“My love and commitment to family brought my husband and me to Citrus County,” she said. “Working at CMH has kept us here.”
As case manager, Desanti works with physicians, patients and family members to coordinate a patient’s care after discharge from the hospital. She arranges for placement in rehabilitation or skilled nursing facilities, or for home health care and home medical equipment if the patient is going back to their own residence.
“Case management was another new nursing opportunity for me,” she said, adding that she earned national credentials, CCM (Commission for Case Management) credentials in 2012.
“I just want to help people at difficult times in their lives,” she added. “I take whatever skills and experience I’ve gained to the bedside and try to focus on keeping the patient at the front of any actions I do, listen to what’s going on, and try to be respectful and responsive to their needs. I have them help me make a plan for discharge.”
Desanti takes pride in her family, her work – and receiving this award.
“The longevity of my career makes me eligible for this honor but doing work I truly care about made the years fly quickly,” she said. “Working alongside dedicated medical professionals, making a difference in the lives of our patients and community in so many ways, for as many years has been a dream come true.”
Desanti and her husband, Jim, recently celebrated 35 years of marriage. Their two daughters live in the Washington, D.C., area.
Her career goal now is to “cross the finish line strong. But I’m not there yet.” She completed a master’s degree in Health Sciences at George Washington University in 2017.
“My life motto, or ‘north star,’ has always been to work hard, give my best, keep learning, and if you get knocked down, get back up! I have had some of the best and worst days in this business, but I choose to show up and maintain a positive attitude,” she said. “That, along with a sense of humor and a piece of chocolate, makes each day a good day.”
As to retirement?
“A news story last week shared details about the oldest working nurse,” Desanti said. “She is a surgical nurse who works two days a week for social connections and some extra cash. She is 94 years old! I am quite sure that will be me.”