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Unexpected calling: Pat Pritchard remembers the days when she thought she would only work for a few years as a pediatric nurse. Now, after 21 years working for Pediatric Partners in Waldorf, she sees her line of work far differently.

“I came here in July of 1991, and I originally had no plans of becoming a pediatric nurse,” Pritchard said. “I was working in a hospital right out of nursing school … and my old pediatric nursing instructor was working here as a nurse practitioner. I happened to bring my daughter in to be seen as a patient, and she asked how I liked my job. I said ‘Oh, I hate it,’ and she told me they had a nurse of 20 or so years getting ready to retire, and so she said I should come and interview. I didn’t want to do pediatrics, but I knew the schedule would be good. I could put the kids on the bus, and it was near home, so I decided to stay for a few years. Then it just ended up being my niche.”

Changing paths: Nursing was not even Pritchard’s original career path. After working as a secretary for various organizations, she decided it was time for a change. She attended nursing school through the College of Southern Maryland, at the time still Charles County Community College.

“I worked in an orthodontist’s office for eight years or so, and I decided I really wanted to be a dental hygienist,” Pritchard said. “As I was in school getting the prerequisites for dental hygiene, I realized if I went with that, all I could really do was clean teeth. I decided to go with nursing so I could have more of a choice in fields.”

Moving forward: Pritchard’s desire to pursue a second vocation was motivated in part by wanting to expand her horizons.

“I knew I wanted formal training in a different field, and I always wanted to be involved in some career that was about taking care of people,” she said. “Whether physical therapy or dental hygiene or nursing, I wanted to be more involved. And I also wasn’t a desk person. I needed to be on my feet more often than not.”

A typical day for Pritchard entails meeting patients every 15 minutes, sometimes double-booked if it’s during busy times like flu season or physical examination season for sports. Usually, the office sees 40 to 60 patients a day.

Caring freely: Despite her initial hesitation to enter pediatric nursing, Pritchard said the career change has proved to be immensely satisfying.

“I’d say not a day goes by where I don’t feel like I’ve helped somebody,” she said. “Every day, I answer questions for new moms, I give advice … whether to moms of sick kids or new babies. It’s definitely the most rewarding part of the job.”

Pritchard said she thinks the most challenging aspect is trying to figure out how to best work with different personality types in parents and children.

“Every time you walk into the room, it’s a little bit different because you never know how the parent or the child is going to react,” she said. “You have to size it up. Every encounter is different, every single one, depending on the parent and the patient. Oftentimes with the parents, you see them at their worst. Their child is sick, they were up all night, they’re missing work … and their children are nervous about coming in. I just try to be as matter-of-fact about it and make it not a big deal for them, whether it’s dressing a wound, giving a shot, taking a throat culture. I just remind them it’s not a big deal, and I don’t build up the stress.”

After spending so much time there, Pritchard said one of the most interesting parts of her job is seeing parents she once saw as patients come in with children of their own.

“I saw them when they were kids, and now they’re 27, 28 and having their own children and bringing them here,” Pritchard said. “I can say, ‘Look, I did this to your mom, too’ and I’ll pull the charts and show them. I love it when the kids grow up … and then come back with their own kids.”

Lindsay Renner

Got an idea for someone to profile in On the job? Send your suggestions to Angela Breck at or 7 Industrial Park Drive, Waldorf, MD 20602. Call 301-764-2847.