Mary Hoffmann recognized early in life the special calling of those who care for patients.
“At the age of 14, I worked as a candy striper – a volunteer nurse’s aide – at Jewish Hospital for the summer,” says Mary, now an Inpatient Renal Coordinator in the Chromalloy Dialysis Center.
“I was only able to fill water pitchers, deliver mail and perform various errands, but the nurses had quite an influence on my decision to become a nurse. The care the nurses provided was exceptional and I quickly learned that they were really on the frontline of providing care to the patients.”
Putting Theory to the Test
In high school, Mary loved science. She took every science course offered. During her senior year, she decided to do a “work study” to test her theory that nursing was right for her. After her daily classes, she worked at a nursing home in Sunset Hills, Missouri, from 3-11 pm.
“I felt immensely satisfied with the work caring for patients. I went on to nursing school the following fall at Deaconess College of Nursing.”
Mary came to Washington University 20 years ago as a Research Coordinator at the Aids Clinical Trial Unit in the Department of Medicine. She transferred to the Chromalloy American Kidney Center and subsequently accepted a position with Dr. Anitha Vijayan to study acute tubular necrosis. After the end of the study, Mary worked for the Washington University Kidney Translational Research Center with Dr. Sanjay Jain.
Learning Goes Both Ways
Mary finds working together with the patient, family members and the medical team very rewarding, and she enjoys stepping up to the challenge of meeting the needs of patients who have complex social and medical issues. “Most patients just want to go home, so the discharge plan is very important. You want them to be able to stay in a home environment or in a facility where they will be near family and friends.”
Part of her current position involves working with fellows, residents, house staff, social workers and case management. “It is a two-way street. I learn from them every day and I help educate them regarding dialysis issues.”
Caring Doesn’t Stop at Work
“Currently, my father is in a nursing home with end stage Parkinson’s Disease, and I enjoy helping out with activities or serving drinks or meals in the dining room if they are short of help.” Her father points out that she does not have to help – that it is someone else’s job. “But I do not see it that way,” she says. “I always tell him it is a labor of love, and I enjoy helping out.”
Mary often takes her black labrador retriever, Basil, to visit the residents of the nursing home. Basil was an unplanned addition to the family. After losing two 13-year-old Labs, the plan was to not get another dog. One day, however, Mary’s husband, Jim, tagged along with their daughter Whitney to Camp Chaos, an organization that takes in homeless, pregnant dogs. Whitney had just purchased a home and she wanted to get a puppy.
“There were nine puppies available – all from a litter born to a mother who had been dropped off,” says Mary. After receiving a text with a picture of the litter, Mary jokingly responded, “Bring them all home!” Whitney adopted one of the pups. So did her Jim.
“The residents of the nursing home respond very positively to having pets around,” says Mary. “Basil is very gentle, and his personality is very well suited for the visits.”
Passing it On
It is not surprising that Mary’s love of science and learning was passed to her children. Her son, Justin, and his wife Samantha, are both pharmacists in Springfield, MO; her daughter Lindsey is an aerospace engineer at Boeing; and her daughter Whitney is a High School teacher in Sullivan, MO.
Mary’s husband worked for Schnucks Markets for 40 years and is now retired. When not traveling in their RV, they enjoy season tickets at the Fox. Mary and Jim will be celebrating 40 years of marriage in 2019 and are planning a trip to Europe – minus the RV, of course.