Giovanna “Jenny” Todisco said she was trying not to be emotional during what was anything but a normal work day this past Tuesday.
Todisco, 78, has been a staple in the Care New England system for 59 years, working in the labor room for 20 years followed by a longer stint in triage in the emergency room. However, Tuesday was Todisco’s last day as she put six decades of nursing behind her and started her retirement.
It was the final time she got to greet her friends at work, and the last occasion on which she would get to talk with the patients who made her career even more memorable.
“I always enjoyed the patients,” Todisco said during a phone interview with the Sun Rise on Tuesday morning, during her last shift at Women & Infants Hospital. “Some patients are a little difficult, but I enjoy taking care of them. I feel like I’m giving them hope and I feel like I get close to my patients. I use my emotions to try to calm them down. It’s the patients that are really special. I enjoy being close to my patients.”
Her day wasn’t going to end like any other, though. What Todisco didn’t know during her interview was that staff had planned a surprise ceremony for her in the afternoon to honor her service and dedication to the health care industry.
It had become like clockwork for the veteran nurse, who loved every moment of her time caring for patients in the labor room or in the ER. She spoke fondly of her decades working in the labor room, saying it was a “great experience just to see childbirth and how patients tolerate the delivery.”
She said one of her most cherished memories – outside of the plaque she was presented when she achieved 50 years of nursing – was when one patient named their child after her.
“It was really, really special,” Todisco said. “I took care of her in the labor room and when she had her child, I found out when she came to the ER. ‘You’re the nurse I named my daughter after.’ They took pictures and everything. It was very, very nice. I have a lot of special memories here.”
Todisco, a Johnston resident, grew up on Federal Hill in Providence and had her first spark of inspiration when she joined a group for future nurses at Mount Pleasant High School. She graduated from Our Lady of Fatima Hospital School as a licensed practical nurse in 1960, and she was able to grab hold of a job shortly after.
She never let go of it.
“I volunteered here in high school,” Todisco said. “The supervisor of nurses saw me here and she said, ‘When you get out of nursing school and graduate, you will have a job. And sure enough, when I graduated, I have a job here. I was 19 years old when I came here.”
Todisco saw more than friends at work every day, too. Her daughter, niece and daughter-in-law all work at Women & Infants as well, and she always brought her daughter coffee in the mornings.
“It’s special,” Todisco said. “It feels very special. We enjoy each other, they enjoy me and I think I cheer them up a lot.”
As for the women on her team to whom she has grown so close over the years, they are already planning trips together for Todisco’s post-retirement life.
They’re not wasting any time, either. Todisco said they were taking a trip to Federal Hill after her final shift Tuesday.
“I’m going to go on trips with the girls that work here,” Todisco said. “We’re planning a cruise next year. We’re very close knit, so we go out with each other and do things like that.”
When asked what advice she would offer a newcomer to the industry, Todisco kept her words of wisdom short and sweet.
“Just do your job, be happy and try to do the best you can, because we’re all here for you,” she said.
Todisco said she is sad to retire, but added that she is feeling healthy and happy to start a new chapter.
“[My coworkers] were a little shocked because I said I’m not going to leave until I leave feet first,” Todisco said with a laugh. “You want to stay here with the girls and work, but you have to retire some day. So today’s the day.”