2021 NAO Award Winners

Q&A: Linda Kautza Procci ’72, MSN’74, PhD and Emily Hansen Schumacher ’10, DNP’18

The University of Wisconsin–Madison Nurses Alumni Organization (NAO) is proud to announce the 2021 NAO Award Winners. Linda Kautza Procci ’72, MSN’74, PhD, has been selected as the 2021 Distinguished Achievement Award recipient, and Emily Hansen Schumacher ’10, DNP’18, CPNP, APNP, has earned the 2021 Outstanding Badger Nursing Award.

Throughout her 39-year career, Procci had numerous progressive leadership and management roles in complex, academic, tertiary, and integrated health care organizations in the Los Angeles area. She has also volunteered for a variety of boards and committees in Los Angeles and at UW–Madison for almost 30 years. Schumacher is currently a pediatric nurse practitioner in developmental pediatrics at UW Health. She also mentors nursing students and is an active clinical preceptor. Both recipients are exceptional nurse leaders who exemplify the qualities recognized by these awards.

Describe how your nursing education has influenced your career or life path.

headshot of Linda Kautza Procci
Linda Kautza Procci ’72, MSN’74, PhD
2021 NAO Distinguished Achievement Award

PROCCI: I was very fortunate that after graduation in 1972, several faculty members suggested I proceed directly into the master of science in maternal/child health program. I was going to be in Madison for two more years while my husband was completing his residency in psychiatry. I learned how to think [critically], interact successfully in a complex environment, be articulate, describe processes for change, and use evidence to create a successful argument for decision making. Couple this with the foundation as a specialist in nursing and as a generalist in health science, and I was prepared to facilitate and lead interdisciplinary teams. I sought positions that used these skills and thrived in major medical centers’ operations.

SCHUMACHER: When I was applying for registered nurse (RN) jobs as a new graduate, organizations were impressed with my UW–Madison degree. They knew the excellent reputation and rigor of the program. Receiving my degree from UW–Madison helped me get my first-choice job in pediatrics at UW Health in their RN residency program. While working towards my doctor of nursing practice (DNP), I had the opportunity through UW to participate in an advanced training program for graduate students in different health care disciplines called LEND (Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities). I would not have had this opportunity if I wasn’t a UW student; ultimately, completing this training helped me land my dream job at the Waisman Center as a pediatric nurse practitioner in developmental-behavioral pediatrics. I also met my husband at UW–Madison (in Organic Chemistry) and we spent a lot of time studying together at Ebling Library during our undergraduate years!

Do you or did you have a favorite role/position that was significant to your nursing career?

PROCCI: I loved them all—I’m not sure I can pick! But, my years at Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles pulled everything together for me. As vice president of operations, I was able to work in partnership with the physician chairs of the various departments. Together, we could leverage and excel in the highest quality care, pursue cutting-edge research, educate, and train the next generations of physicians, nurses, and all the other disciplines. We could also ensure the spread of evidence for superb outcomes across Los Angeles, the state, and the nation — like the Wisconsin Idea!

headshot of Emily Hansen Schumacher
Emily Hansen Schumacher ’10, DNP’18, CPNP, APNP
2021 Outstanding Badger Nursing Award

SCHUMACHER: Although I only worked in the UW Pediatric Emergency Department (ED) for one year, this had an impact on my perspective of nursing and health care. The people I worked with in the ED demonstrated the epitome of teamwork and hard work. I learned so much in that year about critical care, health care system issues, and how to help patients navigate health care. I think every RN should work in an ED to have an appreciation for what is done there! My role right now as the pediatric nurse practitioner in the Autism and Developmental Disabilities Clinic at the Waisman Center is my favorite. I have excellent co-workers and enjoy the independence and challenge of my job.

How are you currently engaged with the School of Nursing? Why do you stay involved?

PROCCI: From 1974 to 2006, my connections were limited to feeling proud when asked where I went to school, and to the few faculty members with whom I remained in contact. In 2006, I was somehow informed of a Tea for Signe Skott Cooper, the faculty for the History of Nursing class in my sophomore year. Later, when I was at the University Affiliate Program at Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles, [Cooper] had been very kind in taking my calls as I was writing grants to educate school nurses as students with disabilities were being mainstreamed in public schools. With her assistance, I was successful and I thought I should give back to the school that gave me my foundation.
After I gave a small donation, Dean Katharyn May visited me in LA and asked if I might chair a Capital Campaign Committee that eventually resulted in the groundbreaking for Cooper Hall in 2012. I was hooked — and must say addicted — to the thrill of seeing this come to life. Like the thrill I get in working with teams moving in the same direction, old friendships blossomed and new friendships were made.

After working for 40 years, and now retiring eight years ago, UW–Madison continues to give to me generously through meaningful projects and programs to be involved in. I am the first nurse to serve on the Wisconsin Foundation and Alumni Association Board. I have served on the Wisconsin School of Business Advisory Board. I continue to serve on the Board of Visitors for the School of Nursing, as co-chair of the Alumni Engagement Committee, and on the NAO board.

SCHUMACHER: I stay involved because I want to pay it forward. My experience at UW–Madison and in the School of Nursing can be largely credited to those before me who spent their time, expertise, effort, and money to support the mission of the School of Nursing and the students. I currently serve on the board of the NAO. I am an active member of the Badger Nurse Network as well as the Alumni Engagement Committee and the new Young Alumni Subcommittee. I have enjoyed participating in “A Shot at Getting Connected” (a Badger nurse networking event), student mock interviews, and other mentoring opportunities. I also taught a community health course at the School and then led a three-week clinical immersion trip to Malawi for nursing students in 2018. This was an amazing experience and spending time with these students was unforgettable—I continue to stay in touch with those students!

What advice would you give to recent graduates?

PROCCI: If a door or opportunity presents itself, take it. Explore the many career options that exist. Your true passions will become known, and they may be something [different from] what you imagined when you first graduated. I did not imagine that my career would be in medical center operations! Remember — you must be a lifelong learner.

SCHUMACHER: It sounds cheesy, but don’t lose sight of your goals and dreams. Nursing is an incredible and unique career that allows you to work in almost any setting, with any population, and make an impact. When I was pursuing my DNP, I completed a training program at the Waisman Center called LEND (Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities). This training was life-changing and I knew I wanted to work at the Waisman Center as part of a multidisciplinary clinic in developmental pediatrics. Susan Heighway was my preceptor, and she was an incredible nurse practitioner (NP) who retired a few years ago. Once she retired, I investigated the opening of her job and was heartbroken when I found out they wouldn’t be hiring another nurse practitioner. A few years passed by and I worked in-patient pediatric hematology, oncology, and neurosurgery and in the pediatric emergency department at UW. I also taught community health at UW and brought a group of undergraduate nursing students to Malawi. Then I was in the cafeteria one day and overheard the medical director of the Waisman Center talking about how they wanted to hire an NP! I introduced myself to her on the spot, applied for the job, went through two rounds of interviews (while on maternity leave!), and was hired. I’m now celebrating two years in this incredible position this month!

What advice would you give to current nursing students?

PROCCI: Relax! You are smart and talented, otherwise, you would not have been accepted into one of the finest universities and schools of nursing in the world. You cannot know the minute details of every disease or treatment, but you can apply the concepts to everything. Your first supervisor and team will know you need training to perfect your technical skills. You will have life preservers — and preceptors there to help you!

SCHUMACHER: Try it all and get involved! My first rotation in nursing school was at the VA, and it was a challenge for me. I remember doubting if nursing was the career for me. Later, I was able to reflect on that experience and learn from it — this wasn’t the population I was best suited to work with. Every rotation helped confirm what I liked and what I didn’t. Also, join clubs and activities! You will make lifelong connections that might also help you in your future career. There is no other time in your life when you will have the opportunity to participate in the plethora of activities that UW–Madison and the School of Nursing have to offer.