Her journey began in 1978 at the now-defunct Akron General Medical Center School of Nursing. “I loved the program,” she enthuses. “We were hands-on from Day One. It was what I was looking for.” And nursing had always been in her blood — her mother was a nurse, too. But Constantine’s life took her in another direction for more than two decades before she found her way back to her beloved profession.
Fresh out of school, Constantine, a registered nurse, went to work at Akron General as a medical-surgical float nurse. Just a few years into her career, she got married and “immediately” found out she was pregnant. After deciding with her husband that she would stay at home to raise their child, Constantine began looking for a part-time position to keep her skills sharp. None was available, so she maintained the books for her husband’s garden center instead.
“Little did I know that my oldest child would be born with a genetic problem — neurofibromatosis — so it was a blessing that I could stay home,” Constantine says of her now-23-year-old son. “I was in and out of doctor’s offices and all over the country with him. If I was working [full time], I wouldn’t have been able to give him the care he needed.”
Constantine observes that her son’s condition “kept me in nursing. It’s a love deep down inside my heart. We knew someday I’d go back. We just weren’t sure when.”
Two more children followed. Constantine loved her life and family, but she realized she missed the daily interaction with patients and camaraderie with other nurses. So at age 47, she began a refresher course at Cleveland State University.
“It was like cramming four years of nursing school into one semester,” she laughs. “I was probably one of the students who had been out the longest.”
Constantine elected to do clinicals, an optional part of the course, because she had been out of a hospital setting for so long. But realizing that the nursing profession had changed since her days at Akron made her usual self-assuredness falter.
“I was a very good nurse, but going back, I didn’t have the confidence I could do this again,” she explains. “Everyone there said, ‘Cindy, you can do it!’ I don’t mind hard work and studying or staying late. I’m kind of a perfectionist, so I didn’t want to screw up.”
Now, with her youngest child preparing to begin college and her other children out of the house, Constantine is working at Lakeside 55, a University Hospitals surgical unit covering plastics, urology and ENT. She works three 12-hour shifts a week, perfect for a nurse getting back in the swing of things.
“I love being a floor nurse,” she says. “I love the thank-yous from patients and the results you get. The other day, the family of a handicapped patient said, ‘You don’t know how good it makes us feel to see him eating in a chair with a smile on his face.’ ”
It may have been a delayed start, but Constantine finally has the career she worked so hard for. “Everybody who has known me for the past 25 years says that I look so happy and fulfilled — not that I wasn’t feeling that raising my family,” she hastens to add. “But at age 48 and having Empty Nest Syndrome coming soon, I wanted to be there.”