Ann (Rogaleski) Watt ‘89 traces her interest in nursing to her childhood. First, from accompanying her father for medical visits after he was diagnosed with cancer. And second, when her parents dissuaded her from going to art school to pursue an interest in photography. “They said, ‘Do something practical.’”
Nursing fit the bill for the Deerfield native, as did Fitchburg State’s heralded program. “The school was close enough that I could return home because my father was ill, and it was an affordable school with a highly rated program,” she said. “I just thought it was the perfect fit for me.”
A long and eventful career followed, and one that Watt has chronicled in detail in her recently published memoir, When Being a Nurse Was Fun. Though the title promises a fun read - and there are plenty of amusing stories in its pages - it does not shy away from some hard human truths.
For example, she recalls observing a procedure during a clinical rotation while still in school. “I passed out in the angiography room, and I broke my jaw and many of my teeth,” she said. “That was so traumatic. I thought, ‘Am I going to get kicked out of nursing school? How am I going to talk?’ Somehow I got through that month and continued on with my nursing career. You’re not just in an isolated bubble when you’re in college. Life goes on around you, and if you have the motivation to continue on in your career, you’re going to make it. I hope that’s inspirational to people.”
Many of Watt’s stories are rooted in the collegiality and community that emerges among her fellow nurses over a career that included upheavals in the industry, from the rise of HIV/AIDS to hospital mergers and the emergence of telehealth.
While she loved her career in nursing, Watt continued to harbor creative interests, including writing a book. In fact, she was meeting with a publisher about another book idea when the suggestion of a memoir was proposed. Writers should write what they know best, she was told. “I was a nurse for 32 years and thought, what do I know better than that?”
“When Being a Nurse was Fun” was the byproduct, and it’s one Watt feels will resonate with nurses at all stages of their careers, whether they are students just getting started, or seasoned veterans of the profession.
Seeing the book project to publication feels like the culmination of a long-held dream, she said. “It was an amazing feeling, a day you almost think is never going to arrive,” she said. “From the day you drop off your manuscript to the editing to the cover design, you’re just so anxious to get it out there.”
Watt has now become a seasoned marketing professional, selling her book at venues like the Big E in Springfield, and is eager to continue spreading the word about her publication even as she embarks on her next writing project. In the meantime, she enjoys gardening and hiking the region’s 4,000-foot peaks.
“Regardless of what I write, I want it to be positive and inspirational to people,” Watt said. “There’s so much negativity in the world. The naysayers don’t have to buy it. I write about who I am and what I like to do, and just tell other people to pursue their own path.”