“I take care of them as I would have my own family members taken care of,” says VCU Medical Center labor and delivery nurse Mary Ann Ott. (Photo by Ash Daniel)
A great bedside manner comes naturally to Mary Ann Ott.
Since 1985, she’s been a fixture in the labor and delivery unit at VCU Medical Center, and her natural empathy and compassion have served generations of mothers and their offspring well.
“I take care of them as I would have my own family members taken care of,” she says.
Her skills are greatly appreciated by her co-workers, with several nominating her for this year’s Special Honors as Nurse with the Best Bedside Manner. Her biggest booster is her boss, Dr. Susan Lanni, director of labor and delivery at the hospital.
“She is, in a word, incredible,” says Lanni, who has worked with Ott since 1998. “What I personally love about her is that she instantly bonds with patients on their level. She has a knack for knowing exactly what they need, emotionally and physically.”
Ott is wholly in her element, and thrives in labor and delivery. Difficult patients? No problem: Moms may be abusive and difficult because they are scared and in pain. It’s her job to help them, tend to them, and put them at ease.
“I couldn’t be mean; what’s done is done, and I just care about patients,” she says. “People say, ‘Thank you,’ and I can go home and feel like I did a good job.”
Ott and her husband, Alan, moved to West Virginia from Ohio after graduating from college, then moved to Richmond a year later. She worked as a nurse at a community hospital in West Virginia, but it just didn’t feel right, she says.
Richmond felt like the home it’s become. It’s where they’ve raised their family of five children. A daughter, Emily, has followed her mother’s career path and is a nurse in the neonatal intensive care unit at VCU.
Ott earned her master’s degree before starting a family. Her husband worked weekdays, and they were able to make their schedules work around their family. “It’s been a perfect career for me,” she says. “I tell students [that] nursing is so phenomenal for having a family, for having a career.”
Her skill set is masterful. Lanni notes that Ott, who is affectionately known on the unit by her acronym, MAO, was the first nurse at VCU to earn Clinical Nurse V level. That’s the highest level in a nursing ranking that rates factors such as experience, continuing education and collaborative efforts.
Ott enjoys a perspective gained from her years on the job. She especially enjoys working with residents, watching them grow professionally.
It’s appropriate that a place where families are literally born is also a family in itself. Like any family, the labor and delivery staff is attuned to one another. Ott says that if she’s walking fast, doctors tell her that they become worried that something is amiss. Once she was running, for no reason, and looked to find that five doctors were running behind her.
“I can’t ever imagine working anywhere else,” Ott says.