Sister Nora Mary Curtin, RSM: A Simple Decision, a Lifetime of Service

For Sister Nora Mary Curtin, the decision that would dictate the direction of the rest of her life was made inside an Irish schoolroom. “I was at the Sisters of Mercy Secondary School in Abbeyfeale, Co. Limerick, Ireland, when Sister Mary Grace from the Sisters of Mercy of Auburn visited,” Sister Nora recalls. “She shared a bit about her life and the Sisters’ mission and ministry and asked if any of us were perhaps called to a religious vocation. During the previous year, I had been praying and discerning whether or not God may be calling me to religious life, and on that day I decided that this Mercy Auburn Community may be a good fit for me. I ended up joining the community shortly before my 18th birthday. It was really quite simple. I tell people that the biggest decision in my life was made in the simplest fashion!”

That was about 50 years ago, and Sister Nora has been a tireless and dedicated member of the community ever since. She graduated from Sacramento City College with her RN degree in 1973 and went on to work at both Mercy General Hospital and Mercy Medical Center Redding. In 1978, Sister Nora arrived at Mercy San Juan Medical Center and three years later, decided it was time to further her education. Sister Nora attended the University of San Francisco and got her BSN and MS degree in Nursing, and was delighted to be assigned back to Mercy San Juan when she graduated. “From the moment I arrived here, Mercy San Juan has been filled with welcoming, friendly people. It’s truly the culture here, to accept everyone and support each other.”

Sister Nora has served as Manager of Mercy San Juan’s Neuroscience Unit since the unit began in 2009. She oversees a team of approximately 75 staff members. “I am so fortunate to work with these people,” Sister Nora says. “Everyone is so dedicated to their work. About 40% of the registered nursing (RN) staff studied and passed the national exam to become neuro-certified (CNRN). And many others are working toward that goal as well. They are remarkable!”

Beyond the dedication of the staff, Sister Nora also points to Mercy San Juan’s world-class technology as setting its neurological care apart. “It is amazing to see the resources we have now for treating our patients. For example, you look at patients who have suffered a stroke, fifteen years ago there may not have been much we could do for them, but now we have a variety of treatment options. Technology such as telemedicine and the Elliott robot—funded by the generosity of Mercy Foundation donors—help to provide critical care. Today, many stroke survivors recover and go on to live healthy and productive lives. The outcomes are truly miraculous.”

Through the many changes she has seen in health care over the years, Sister Nora says one thing remains a constant —connecting with people. “It is gratifying to connect with the many volunteers and grateful patients who give generously of themselves to support our health care ministry. That is what makes my day—connection! I so enjoy talking with the patients and with their loved ones—listening to them, calming them, helping them. It all makes you feel like you have done something incredibly meaningful. This work is very rewarding, and I truly enjoy it.”