Pamela Occhetti-Sholund is a nurse who takes dedication to her patients to a new level and will not be deterred, even by gunshots.
“A lot of people work in health care, but when someone has a passion for it, they stand out,” said Mary Haynor of Horizon Home Care & Hospice in Brown Deer, explaining why she nominated Occhetti-Sholund for a Health Care Heroes Award. “It’s her compassion and attention to detail. It’s as though Pamela was meant to do this. She has a commitment to serving people that you don’t often see.”
Occhetti-Sholund is a Horizon case manager who is in the field, visiting patients and providing nursing care in private homes. This is her second stint in nursing, as she left the job about 20 years ago to raise seven children. Occhetti-Sholund’s supervisors give her the most difficult patients because, they say, she has an ability to interact and reach them. In one instance, Occhetti-Sholund taught a very elderly gentleman to manage his own intravenous line.
“She’s thorough, which shows in how she teaches people about their treatment. Her concern for their care is deep, you can feel it,” Haynor said. “She acts like each person is the most important person she’s going to see, and it’s as though that may be the last person she’ll ever see. That’s how she provides care. If I had to pick my nurse, she’d be someone I’d like to take care of me.”
Since her return to nursing, Occhetti-Sholund has even put her life at risk while serving her patients.
“In the last year, we almost lost Pamela two times,” said Haynor, referring to shots being fired once while Occhetti-Sholund was tending to a patient and again while she was leaving an appointment. “Pamela was at a patient’s home, and a jealous ex-boyfriend fired a round into the home. Everybody hit the floor, and Pamela crawled GI-style to a phone to call police.”
A bullet went through a sink where just moments before, Occhetti-Sholund had washed her hands.
A month earlier, Occhetti-Sholund was leaving an appontment when a gun fight broke out next to her car.
“It was actually very frightening,” Occhetti-Sholund said. “The detective who interviewed me said, ‘Do you come here often?’ And I said, ‘Yes, I’m here everyday. And he asked if this was going to change anything, and I said, ‘Absolutely not.’ I feel there’s a need for what home care nurses do.”
The 53-year-old Occhetti-Sholund got her start in nursing when she was 21 years old, graduating from LPN school at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and then returning to Waukesha County Technical College for her associate degree. After working several years at the old Milwaukee County General Hospital, Occhetti-Sholund left to raise her children and help take over the family business.
Returning to the profession after a 20-year break, Occhetti-Sholund has branched out of the traditional hospital setting to home health care, where she’s noticed some similarities and some changes in the field of medicine.
“The diseases are pretty much the same. It’s just that the technologies are different and people get well faster, but there’s still a need,” she said. “I think home care is one of the highest callings because we’re going to people’s homes during a very vulnerable time in their life. They’re sick and they’re scared, and we’re taking care of them and helping them manage their illness. We’re getting them through it.”
Occhetti-Sholund recently saw a former patient who has recovered from ovarian cancer.
“I was with her through all her chemotherapy,” she said. “She had an I.V. for many, many months, and I saw her weekly and sometimes every other day. Now she has completed her treatment, and she’s healthy and back to work and happy. To actually help someone get well again and be normal and live their life the way they want to is what it’s all about.”