by Traci Chapman – Writer/Photographer
For Stein, nursing has always equated to knowledge – before she realized she wanted to be a nurse, she knew she wanted to teach. Her 36-year nursing career has incorporated both, a path set in a way by her grandmother, who at one time was dean of women at Oklahoma City University.
Graduating first from Duke University, Stein then moved on to earn her master’s in nursing at Marymount University in Arlington, Virginia. While there, Stein taught and worked as a pediatric nurse before the family decided to make a move – to Oklahoma, where her husband studied to be a physician’s assistant, himself totally reinventing his career.
The move was a positive one for Stein, as well, who forged strong ties through work with Oklahoma Nurse’s Association, an association that would lead her to one of her greatest passions – Oklahoma Medical Reserve Corps.
In June, Stein was honored for 12 years of service to OKMRC, where she worked as education coordinator for a decade and nurse volunteer unit coordinator even longer. Also a member of OKMRC’s Stress Response Team’s executive board, Stein was recently named the first-ever recipient of the Marci Widmann Spirit of OKMRC Award.
Ironically, it was an award which Stein herself suggested creating, a way to honor her long-time friend and fellow OKMRC volunteer, Marci Widmann, who died last fall after an illness.
“We thought, ‘what can we do to keep her (Widmann’s) memory alive,’” Stein said. “There are so many things she did for the Medical Reserve Corps – Marci would do anything, no matter what it was, she just did what was needed without question or complaint.”
The Widmann spirit award was not the first Stein received as a result of her OKMRC work. In 2016, Stein received OKMRC mentor’s award; that year she was also one of 20 nurses honored by Oklahoma March of Dimes and given the organization’s public health and ambulatory care award.
“Loren Stein, like the others who won these awards, is a testament to the caliber of nursing professionals across Oklahoma,” said Laurie Applekamp, Central Oklahoma March of Dimes market development executive director. “All nurses can make a difference; these have gone far beyond any regular professional expectations.”
Stein received the March of Dimes honor, to a great extent, because of a program she started at OU’s nursing college, one associated with the work of the Medical Reserve Corps, she said.
“It’s an externship – 10 weeks, 10 hours a week – that gives nursing students the chance to study emergency preparedness, response and recovery,” she said.
In 2015, Stein started the pilot program; over the next two years, interest in the externship exploded, this year gathering 23 participants from OU, University of Central Oklahoma, Southwestern Oklahoma University and Northwestern Oklahoma University.
OKMRC was far from her only professional love, though. Her desire to teach led her not once, but twice, to University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center Fran and Earl Ziegler College of Nursing. After first working there when her children were young – from 1998 to 2003 – Stein would return to OU’s nursing school in 2009, as project director for NIP-IT – Nursing Initiative Promoting Immunization Training.
Made possible by a collaboration between OU College of Nursing and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, NIP-IT is a web-based immunization and vaccine prevention curriculum designed specifically for nursing schools. At OU, the program was made available thanks to a two-year grant, Stein said – something that made a difference to students and patients alike.
“We felt it was very necessary, we felt it was very successful,” she said.
Currently an OU nursing professor, Stein teaches juniors psychomotor skills – essentials like hand washing, taking vital signs, administering injections, drawing blood, inserting IVs, catheters and gastric tubs and much more.
“It’s basically all the clinical skills needed,” Stein said. “It’s a chance to show how much nursing has to offer, how it has so much you can do across the lifespan and across the continuum of wellness.”
Through it all, Stein’s happy professional experiences mirrored the same contentment in her personal life, she said – her husband and three adult children, and her smallest “children,” new canine adoptees Molly and Norm.
“I think if you do something you love it gives you everything you need to make your life happy and fulfilling,” Stein said. “It always comes back to people – both personally and professionally – and what a difference they can make in your life and you in theirs.”