After Washington state Sen. Maureen Walsh outraged nurses and others when she said that they “probably play cards” at work, an Athens Daily Review reader asked for a nurse's perspective.

Karoline Klemer, an Athens native, works at UT Health here as a registered nurse. She attended Athens High School and Trinity Valley Community College and received a bachelor's degree in nursing at The University of Texas at Tyler.

“I have always loved helping others and nursing gave me the opportunity to help people every day,” she said.

She began her career at what was then-ETMC in Tyler in orthopedics before transferring to Athens. Six months later, she joined the obstetrician unit.

“Several of our nurses have been there as long as I have,” Klemer said. “There is a very low turnover rate here. We laugh with our patients. We cry with them.”

Klemer has been with the hospital for 20 years. She said that when patients have issues, the staff does its best to reassure them that even when the situation is more difficult, they have the ability to take care of them.

And on the rare occasion when medicine is simply unable to handle the situation, they offer comfort, compassion and keepsakes.

One of the biggest challenges she faces is striving to make sure she has done enough for her patients and their families.

“Have I done everything to make their experience the very best it could have been?” she said. “Will they ever realize how much they have touched my life? I pray I have touched them in the same way.”

Klemer occasionally checks in with her patients on her days off. She helps new moms as they learn to nurse and enjoys when they bring the babies up for visits. One of her former patients became one of her best friends.

“I love my patients. I love them entrusting me with their care. I love the relationship we build together.”

Nurses hit the floor running from the moment they arrive at work, developing plans of care, explaining what to expect throughout the day, pain management and educating the patient. Nurses' demanding schedules and need for keeping up with details makes it hard to find time to eat or even go to the bathroom. Asked about her opinion on the controversial statement Walsh, she takes such comments with “a grain of salt.”

“I love this town,” she said. “Our small community has always felt more like a second family to me.”

Klemer's family is the most important part of her life, she said, but she loves her work. With three children, she jokingly said that spare time is non-existent.When time allows, she likes sports activities and scrapbooking.

She and her husband, Tycen, have three children — Kaitlin, 18; Kole, 14; and Robert, 8.