By Robbie McKay Lincoln News • March 26, 2020
MILLINOCKET – A veteran RN known for wearing her nursing cap every day has retired from service at Millinocket Regional Hospital.
Judy Knowlton retired at the end of February after a long and distinguished career in the Katahdin community. She was recently honored at a gathering to wish her well as she explores new horizons. Katie Mackin, Marketing Coordinator for MRH, said that Knowlton has had a big impact on the area.
“She’s touched a lot of lives here in the community and was part of the delivery of many babies who still reside here in the community; some of which work here at MRH,” Mackin said.
“Judy was an upstanding professional in every sense of the word. In fact, she was the only nurse who wore her nursing cap every single day—which was often how patients identified her,” said Mackin.
Knowlton began her esteemed career at MRH 43 years ago in the obstetrics unit. When that department was discontinued, she transferred into the Operating Room. Laurie Jamo, Director of Perioperative Care, had high praises for Knowlton, acknowledging her service to the MRH organization.
“She has also been a dedicated member of the Surgical Staff for many years caring for pre and post-operative patients. She is well known for her professionalism and genuine care she has provided to our patients,” Jamo said.
Knowlton received her degree in 1976 from EMMC’s School of Nursing. She began her career with MRH in 1977 after working at Eastern Maine Medical Center for six months after her graduation.
Knowlton became a local legend because of her respect for her profession which she exhibited in the wearing of her Nurse’s cap. She said in a recent interview that her cap had elicited many responses over the years, particularly among youngsters.
“I would walk by and I could hear them asking what that lady had on her head,” she said with a chuckle.
For Knowlton, the cap was a symbol of the hard work and excellence of the profession it represents. She explained that the tradition dates back to Florence Nightingale when caps were worn to identify caregivers to those in need. It is also interesting to note that the stripes and designs of the hats were varied across the educational institutions that awarded the degrees. Each stripe on a cap was an indication of the students’ progress, year by year. When students graduated, a thick black band identified them as registered nurses.
Knowlton found herself in an interesting conundrum, however, as time passed. She actually had to contact former classmates to see if they still had their caps; and if so, would they be willing to part with them to allow her to wear the cap she so respects. Thankfully, they responded positively.
Knowlton looks back on her career with gratitude and cherished memories.
“I have been blessed to work at MRH…it has been a distinct privilege for me,” she said. “I’ll miss the people,’ she said.
In looking forward to her retirement and the opportunities it affords her, she said she plans on “doing whatever I want to do.”
For those who are concerned about the Covid-19 virus, she offered these words of encouragement.
“This, too, shall pass,” she said.
When asked if she would return to service if called, Knowlton replied instantaneously.
“Oh, of course. Absolutely,” she said.
And if she does reactivate, it is a given that the nurses’ cap will once again bring smiles to those who catch a glimpse of it and the highly respected professional wearing it.
About Millinocket Regional Hospital
Millinocket Regional Hospital (MRH) is a 25 bed Critical Access Hospital nestled at the base of Baxter State Park that provides vital healthcare services to those who live, work and play in the Katahdin Region. Beyond the friendly staff and award-winning patient care, MRH provides an impressive range of specialty and general services; with a recent expansion resulting in the addition of eight new specialties and a Walk-In Care facility. In 2018, MRH was awarded the Press Ganey ‘Guardian of Excellence Award’ for exceptional patient experience; a nationally-recognized symbol of achievement for hospitals who consistently perform within the top 5%. Providing jobs to approximately 250 people, MRH is the largest employer in the Katahdin Region and a crucial economic driver within its community. For more information, please visit www.mrhme.org or www.facebook.com/MillinocketRegionalHospital