University News

Margaret Fitzpatrick, RN
[Download Print-Quality Image]

WIU Alumna to Address Medical Questions, Sign Books April 20

April 17, 2009

Share |
Printer friendly version

MACOMB, IL - - Margaret Fitzpatrick, a Western Illinois University alumna, returns to her alma mater Monday, April 20 to talk about her nursing career and her highly praised book, "What to Ask the Doc: The Questions to Ask to Get the Answers You Need" (RN Interactive, Inc., 2003).

Her presentation, which complements the 2008-09 University Theme "Health and Wellness: Challenges and Responsibilities," will be held from 7-8 p.m. Monday (April 20) in the University Room of the Union Grand Ballroom. A book sale, book signing and reception will follow. Fitzpatrick's presentation is open free to the public.

The presentation will be of particular interest to nursing and pre-nursing students, campus and community nurses, other health care educators and providers and anyone interested in learning the best way to find answers to medical questions, said Janine Cavicchia, director of Western Illinois' Women's Center, a co-sponsor of Fitzpatrick's visit.

Fitzpatrick is a registered nurse and a trauma nurse specialist with experience in the fields of in-patient hospice care, surgical intensive care, emergency and trauma care and school nursing. As an RN she has worked at major academic medical centers in Chicago such as Northwestern Memorial Hospital and Advocate Christ Hospital, the busiest trauma center in the state of Illinois, where she was awarded the MVP award in 2002. The Mayor and City Council of Chicago also honored Fitzpatrick in November 2002 for actions related to her work as a school nurse. Always learning, Fitzpatrick is currently finishing her master's degree in anesthesia this spring.

The concept for the book came from Fitzpatrick's work in emergency and intensive care units.

"After working with so many patients and families in the SICU (Surgical Intensive Care Unit) and ER, I came up with the concept for the book and asked two colleagues - - Linda Burke and Daryl Lee - - to help me write it," Fitzpatrick said. "We started writing out questions for patients and their family members because they were asking (the doctors) general questions and getting general answers and they weren't getting much satisfaction out of that. We made lists of the questions we heard in ICU and the ER. The more research we did, the more we learned that people ask more questions when they buy a car than when they are having surgery."

"What to Ask the Doc" addresses more than 70 healthcare topics, ranging from diabetes to fever to hysterectomies to congestive heart failure to Alzheimer's. Each topic includes 10 to 20 suggested questions, cross-references, tips and links to additional resources.

"Rather than giving advice, this book empowers people," Fitzpatrick said. "We feel it is better to give people the important questions so they can have a meaningful conversation with the doctor. When you know what questions to ask, your confidence increases and so does your peace of mind."

After the book's release, Fitzpatrick had a whirlwind of media interviews, appearing on national television and book discussions and signings. She was interviewed on the Today Show and CNN Headline News; and she was featured on ABC 7 News Chicago, WTTW Chicago Tonight and World Talk Radio. The book reached the ranking of No. 6 bestseller on Amazon.

Fitzpatrick, the youngest of 16 children born and raised on Chicago's South Side, earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in philosophy from Western Illinois University in 1985.

"The reason I went to Western is because I had a sister at both Northern and Southern and I wanted somewhere different. No one in my family had attended WIU and that appealed to me," she said.

"I consider my time there a gift because I was aware of what a great indulgence it was to spend four years reading philosophy and history. I knew I would never have a time like that again," Fitzpatrick added. "The 1980s were a time when students were concentrating on business degrees and law enforcement. Going to college for most of them was like a vocational school rather than a time to study unusual and interesting topics. People always asked me 'Philosophy major? What are you going to do with that?' I would respond 'Anything I want!'"

Following graduation, Fitzpatrick worked with social service agencies in Chicago, first with teenage mothers and then with homeless mentally ill people. In 1989 she started her own business, a successful after-school program for latchkey children. Five years later, when her own children were in pre-school, she went back to school and earned her Bachelor of Science in Nursing at Rush University.

"Nursing was always in the back of my mind as an option, and when I was with Healthcare for the Homeless I worked with some extraordinary nurses who really showed me what a great opportunity nursing is to be a part of a patient's life and to make a difference," Fitzpatrick said. "I have always felt that nursing is a privilege."

Sponsors for Fitzpatrick's presentation include the Women's Center, the University Theme Committee, the Provost's Office, the Council on Student Activity Fees (CSAF), Beu Health Center, the Office of Human Resources, "Western Well" Health and Wellness Program for WIU Employees and McDonough District Hospital.

Posted By: University Communications (
Office of University Communications & Marketing