Mary Horn
Cedar Rapids, IA

What makes University of Iowa College of Nursing alumna Mary Horn’s journey into professional nursing so remarkable is its consistency. Not only did she realize that she wanted to go into nursing at the very young age of 5, but early on, Horn, who earned a Bachelor of Science in Nursing in 1967 and a Master of Science in Nursing in 1997, also discovered her desire to specialize in pediatrics. That clinical practice bond is just as strong for her today at the young age of 72.


It all began when her little brother was born at St. Luke’s Hospital in Cedar Rapids. As she waited in the car for her mother and newest sibling to be discharged, she had a vivid realization.


“I remember looking up at the hospital and thinking that the people in that building knew things that I wanted to know,” Horn says. “I never wavered in my desire to be a nurse.”


Fast forward roughly 15 years to Horn’s first job at the Public Health Nursing Association of Linn County—where she discovered how much she enjoyed working at the association’s well-baby clinics—furthering her connection and path toward pediatric nursing.


Before Medicaid, many children did not get preventative care and immunizations. Several clinics depended on local doctors to provide care, which proved to be unreliable.


“Around this time I heard about the new pediatric nurse practitioner (PNP) role, and as it turned out, the University of Iowa had just started a course of study and four of us from the larger public health agencies in Iowa were admitted,” Horn says. “After receiving our PNP certificates, we became the first nurses in Iowa to provide care for children as nurse practitioners, including care that was provided to hundreds of kids in Linn County. We truly felt we were pioneers and that what we did to prove our worth would affect the future of nursing—little did we know how far it would go.”


Horn was later employed in the mother-baby care postpartum unit at St. Luke’s. For 10 years she helped develop a model for nursing care that is still used today.


“We truly changed the way obstetrical care was provided in Cedar Rapids. One of the changes I am proud of is that I created the role of certified lactation consultant. I took the training myself to help make a statement about how important that kind of nurse could be,” she says. 


Horn eventually went back to her PNP roots and started working for a private pediatric office. By this time the medical landscape had completely changed as nurse practitioners could now have their own clients, bill insurance, and write prescriptions. At 64, she earned her nurse-midwife certificate, and at 72 years young, she is still “in love with nursing” and has no plans to retire.


“I am just not ready to see my dream come to an end. My career clearly demonstrates that education leads to opportunities that make a difference for people and for yourself,” she says. “Always consider your education an ongoing process. Keep learning so you can take your career to the next level.”