Louann Rinke

Caring for kids

Fate led Rinke to Woodland Developmental Center

Before beginning at SC4, Louann Rinke had a decision to make. Either follow in her mother’s footsteps as a respiratory therapist or become a nurse. Her mother helped her make a decision in an interesting way.

Louann Rinke
Louann Rinke

“She allowed me to job shadow her, as a 29 year old, but she said the only way I could was if I would job shadow a nurse the next day,” Rinke said. “My mom was in California, so I flew to California and shadowed her for the day and then I spent the next day with a nurse and after those two days there was no doubt in my mind I would go into nursing.”

The Yale native is currently employed at Woodland Developmental Center where she works with children who have special needs and feels fate brought her to the job she loves. But the road getting her there wasn’t without its struggle.

Rinke, a mother of three, said she opted to come back to school at SC4 in 1992 because her husband was working a lot of hours and she wanted to alleviate some of their financial stress.

“I wanted to do this with the least amount of impact on children,” she said. “They still participated in their activities and I studied by dome light when they were at dance. I would put the kids to bed and study late into the night and then get them off to school in the morning and go to class myself. It was challenging and very stressful and I had to be extremely organized but the kids did really well through it and they learned a lot about study habits and determination.”

Rinke graduated magna cum laude in 1995 from the nursing program, and went on to complete her bachelor’s degree in nursing through University of Michigan-Flint, where she again graduated with honors.
\After graduation she took a position at Port Huron Hospital working in the NICU and then eventually moved to the pediatric floor. It was there that she came across a job posting for a school nurse at Woodland.

“I hadn’t at that point thought of leaving the hospital but for whatever reason the posting sparked my interested. I thought ‘boy I if I had more experience I might think about it so if it’s meant to be it will come up again.’ Three years later the posting came back again and it just felt like it was meant to be.”

Rinke said she works with students ranging in age from 3 to 26 and does a variety of things including working with moderately cognitively impaired older students teaching basic first aid, especially for injuries that can happen at home and in the kitchen. She also works with diabetic and asthmatic students to help them understand their diet and medications, and trains staff on new procedures, medications, seizures, asthma and allergies.

“People look at school nursing as not as intense as hospital nursing and look at it as more of Band-Aid nursing, but these children are medically fragile and have severe cognitive impairments. I have had children on ventilators, diabetic students who need insulin, children who have feeding tubes, I deal with seizures – in all reality, my hospital training prepared me to care for the students and families at Woodland.”

Rinke said she loves her job and feels she learns more from the kids she cares for than she could ever teach them.

“Working with the children at Woodland, you don’t ever take one day for granted,” she said. “These kids are strong and fighting through every day, and have such positive attitudes and smiles on their faces that you can’t help but be in awe of them. Woodland is nothing like you expect and everything you would hope for in a school with students who have special needs. We are helping children walk whose parents were told they would never walk through the MOVE program. We are helping children communicate and do things that have never been on their radar before. It’s a place of hope.”

Rinke said the nursing program greatly prepared her for her current position and mentioned professor Barb Bloink in particular for leaving a lasting impression.

“She was amazing in her ability to help you understand,” Rinke said. “She could explain things to you so it made sense and she had a thorough knowledge of the whole subject matter. I aspire to be half as fluent in nursing as she was and be able to impact somebody as much as she did me. She was an incredible teacher. If I had it to do it over I would do it the same way and wouldn’t think twice about going back to school. Both of my daughters went to SC4 and I have great respect for the college in general and the nursing program.”

Rinke also works as an adjunct professor in the nursing program.

What is Rinke’s advice for current students? “I was not a good high school student and I was afraid to go to college because I thought my being a bad high school student would define me as a college student but that was very false. It is all in what you want, It’s about your goals and determination. If you want it you can do it. I honestly can tell you, people told me I would never make it through SC4’s nursing program. Being the person I am, it drove me harder. But don’t ever think you can’t do it because you can certainly do it if you put your mind to it.”