Parents usually sit in the audience rooting on their sons and daughters as they walk the graduation stage and accept their diplomas. But this May, Julia Plotke will be right next to her daughter Abigael during the University of Colorado College of Nursing commencement ceremony and also graduate. Julia will earn her master’s degree in Innovation in Leadership and Administration in Nursing and Health Care Systems and Abigael will receive a Bachelor of Science in Nursing.
“We did the math one night to see how many classes we had left to take and realized we are graduating together,” said 22-year-old Abigael “Abby” Plotke. “We are so excited! It was a lucky way of the universe that we get to graduate together.”
Julia once thought she would be a clinical psychologist. In 1993, she earned a bachelor’s in psychology from the University of Wisconsin. But after a couple of years in the field, she wasn’t a fan. So, she sat down and made a list of what she loved to do: help people, teach, work in science. It all added up to being a nurse. Julia decided to go back to school and received a Bachelor of Science in Nursing through an accelerated program. Julia worked as a registered nurse for 20 years in Chicago and had four children. Then, she and her husband, a retired Chicago police officer, moved to Colorado for better quality of life.
Once in Colorado, Julia took a job in the trauma center at Sky Ridge Medical Center. She also started to work on earning a master’s degree by taking courses occasionally, but it was slow-going with four kids and a job.
When it was time for her oldest daughter Abby to go to college, she told Julia she wanted to get into health care. But Julia was worried Abby only wanted to be a nurse because she was one.
“I told her to take lots of different classes in college and learn about everything. I didn’t want her to decide to be a nurse just because that’s what she saw me do,” said Julia.
But Abby’s destiny was already determined at 19 when she saw her mom take care of a foster child who had fallen off his bike and scraped his knee.
“The boy was so scared. My mom had been an ER and critical care nurse for about 20 years. She told him, ‘I’m a nurse and I’m going to help you.’ It was a really neat experience to watch that. I want a career where I can make someone feel safe and comforted and make healthcare a good place,” said Abby.
Julia rose in the ranks at Sky Ridge and is now Director of Trauma Services. She writes policies and procedures, teaches residents and attendees, and oversees trauma patients with doctors from entry to discharge. Her Master of Science will help her be a better leader and manager in multiple health care settings.
Abby graduated from the Colorado Mountain College in Steamboat Springs, then attended one year at the University of Colorado in Colorado Springs before entering the College of Nursing on the Anschutz Medical Campus. She’s known since she volunteered in the emergency room at Sky Ridge in college that she wants to work in the intensive care unit.
“I’ve always loved it. My mom has always loved it. We both love critical care and helping people. I also enjoy cardiac and neuro nursing,” said Abby.
Abby’s ultimate goal is to be a flight nurse, working outside the hospital, flying high in a helicopter helping save the lives of people suffering massive heart attacks, hurt in car accidents, and a million other unforeseen emergencies. Abby says she “may” get her master’s degree one day like her mom, but for now, she wants to enjoy being a nurse.
Abby still lives at home and will see her mom there and at Sky Ridge.
“We won’t be working side-by-side, which is a bummer. But it’s also good because I don’t want my mom to be my boss,” said Abby.