Dr. Susan (Schmidt) Ohnoutka ’92
My job title at Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital is Internal Medicine Hospitalist and Medical Director of the Madonna Rehabilitation Specialty Hospital – Omaha. My job involves treating patients that have had very extensive and complex medical issues in acute care hospitals that essentially still need to be hospitalized, but their recovery is going to be very extended. We provide care to these patients so they can be discharged from the regular hospital sooner and start on their rehabilitation needs while also taking care of their complex medical needs at the same time. Some examples of patients I treat include people who are still on ventilators and need to be weaned off slowly; patients that are recovering from significant trauma injuries or head injuries; organ transplant patients; cancer patients; and many other chronically critically ill patients. It’s a challenging but very rewarding job. I see patients that come in so weak they can’t breathe on their own or can’t even lift a fork to their mouth. Patients stay with us an average of 25 days, so by the time they leave I often get the opportunity to see them go from this profound weakness and critically ill to walking out the door.
Education after high school:
Nebraska Wesleyan University, graduated with a B.S. in Biology in 1997
University of Nebraska College of Medicine, graduated with an M.D. in 2001
University of Nebraska College of Medicine Internal Medicine Residency, graduated in 2004
What led you to become a physician?
I started college majoring in physics because I loved my physics class with Mrs. McKinley when I was a senior. I planned to pursue some sort of engineering profession. However, after exploring careers more and taking more classes during my first 1 1/2 years of college, I decided I wanted a career that had more social interaction and helping others in some way, but still science-oriented. I then switched my major to biology and decided to go to med school.
What has been the biggest challenge about working in the medical field during the pandemic?
In my situation, working in a rehabilitation hospital, one of the biggest challenges has been keeping the virus out. My patients are so medically fragile. If they would get this virus, it’s a very good chance they would not do well. We have had very strict rules for visitors. For a few months in the spring and summer, no visitors were allowed at all. This was extremely detrimental to my patients’ progress. They had been in the hospital sometimes for weeks to even months. They weren’t able to see family in the acute care setting or in our hospital, as we tried to protect them from Covid. I did see some patients just lose the will to get better or to live, as they couldn’t be with their family. Now, I am treating more post-Covid patients who come on ventilators and are very debilitated from the effects of Covid.
Do you have a favorite memory from your time as a student?
I would say my favorite memory is going to state cross country as a team in Kearney, especially the year we won state runner up. It was so much fun to hang out as a team overnight in a hotel and then to have a great race the following day. I also enjoyed going out to Standing Bear Lake for cross country practices and going to track meets. In school, I have great memories of being in Mr. Harshman’s weight lifting class and physics class my senior year, which involved a lot of learning but a lot of fun with my classmates.
Favorite teachers as a student?
That’s a tough one to narrow down. I had a lot of good teachers. I will say Mr. Sather and Mr. Harshman will always have a special place in my heart, both as teachers and coaches. They were both very impactful on my life.
What advice would you give current students who want to go into medicine?
The best thing you can do if considering any health care profession is to shadow. There are so many different areas of health care, that it’s a good idea to get a taste of them all. This gives you an idea of not only what they do, but what their lifestyle is like. For example, it’s good to know that if you go to medical school, you know going in that you are very unlikely to have an 8 to 5 Monday through Friday job. You will work holidays, nights, and weekends. Also, hard work and dedication can get you farther than anything else. You don’t have to be the smartest person in the room to go to med school, you just have to be very committed to studying! But once you get through all the training, it is really rewarding to have an intellectually challenging career and also have such a huge impact on people’s lives.
Immediate family members:
John (husband), also a physician
Kate (17), Jana (14), Owen (11)
My brother, Don Schmidt, graduated in ’87, also an internal medicine physician
My mom, Juanita Schmidt, was a fifth grade/remedial reading teacher at Bennington for 21 years