Sr. Maurita Soukup

PhD, MSN, BSN, BS, RSM, RN, Alumnus CCRN

Sr. Maurita and heart

Sr. Maurita’ s early life was solidly grounded in faith, family, and friends and the generational traditions, strong work ethic, and caring service to others that reflect on her Iowa upbringing.  First graduating from a diploma nursing program and gaining experience as a critical care RN, she discerned a calling to religious life. Inspired by the Sisters of Mercy and their fourth vow of service and its charism of mercy to “God’s dear poor,” Sr. Maurita related that the Foundress of the Sisters of Mercy in Ireland, Catherine McAuley had exchanges with Florence Nightingale.  Comprehending and integrating these interconnections into a life-ministry construct compelled her to a greater life purpose.

In this way and for many, nursing was both a profession and a ministry, or way of ministering.  Sister found her early passion in critical care and became a highly regarded expert in cardiovascular nursing. Her string of credentials is, at times, a source of conversation. To Sister Maurita, each has its own story, complete with learning opportunities with outstanding professors, state-of-the discipline that did not recognize credit transfers from one program to another, and opportunities to learn from interdisciplinary scholars who had their own lens on scientific rigor, research methods, critical thinking, and an exposure to varied theories, such as systems thinking.

A native of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Sister Maurita earned her diploma in 1964 at Mercy School of Nursing in Cedar Rapids and a BS degree in biology in 1970 at Mount Mercy College. Three years later at Marycrest College in Davenport, she earned her BSN, followed by her MSN at the University of Alabama-Birmingham in 1975. It was in 1989 that she completed her DNSc (later reclassified as a PhD) from the Catholic University of America in Washington, DC. Just this year, she was awarded an honorary doctorate in human letters from Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska.

In her more than 50 years of ministry, she held critical care nursing positions in a number of Midwest hospitals; she served as adjunct faculty at several universities. Career highlights include co-founding the open-heart program for the city of Cedar Rapids, becoming the Founding Director of the Eastern Iowa Heart Institute, inaugurating the Center for Advanced Nursing Practice at Bryan LGH Medical Center, followed by opportunities as a Critical Care Clinical Nurse Specialist at the Iowa Health Hospital at Mercy Medical Center and Vice President of The Iowa Heart Hospital, both in Des Moines, Iowa. Each position was graced with energy, state-of-the-art knowledge generation and commitment to the rapid uptake of best practices, and analytic approaches to improve the patient experience.

Life commitments to caring for her family in Cedar Rapids opened a new door for Sister Maurita. At this juncture she undertook special health projects and ministries linked to her religious order, used her research and consultant expertise for system-level health systems, and co-ministered to individuals and families during the epic flood of 2008.  

In the past decade Sister Maurita has used her accumulated knowledge, skills, and abilities to serve in board governance positions ― she holds positions on the boards of MercyOne-Mercy Medical Center in Sioux City, Mercy Medical Center in Mason City, Mercy Hospital New Hampton, Mercy Medical Center Des Moines, and Mercy Medical Center Cedar Rapids. Beyond hospital-based boards, Sister serves on the Board of Mercy College of Health Sciences and regional boards for MercyOne Iowa and Nebraska Trinity Regional Health System in Des Moines and Common Spirit (formerly CHI) CHI-Health NE/IA System in Omaha, NE.  What links these divergent board roles?

“As a board member, my contributions always center on the board governance and its respective responsibilities, including its roles in delivering exceptional patient care. I address issues of human values rooted in mission, the meaningful use of information technology to drive decision-making, a healthy work environment, and ensure that professionals are accountable for practice.”  Sister reflects, “Nurses on Boards are not limited to their patient care perspective ― that is a grounding for the perspective that nurses bring to the board, but as a board member I continuously reflect that my role and contributions are beyond operations.  It is to ensure that the mission is lived and harmonized with the overall clinical and fiscal health of the organization and to build a preferred future for what is needed in the changing needs within communities and beyond.”  To this end, Sister Maurita is frequently appointed to board committees such as quality and safety, finance, ethics, compliance, audit, credentialing, and strategic planning.  

Sr. Maurita claims that her involvement in nursing’s professional organizations have been instrumental in her readiness to assume responsibilities on boards. Her involvement with Sigma in particular began in 1975, when Sr. Maurita was inducted into Sigma’s Nu Chapter at the University of Birmingham. Entrusted with carrying out its mission to support learning, knowledge, and professional development, Sigma led with a global orientation to influence universal health. Sister’s ministry from and for the heart was advanced as a Cardiovascular Clinical Nurse Specialist, where she applied the CNS roles as practitioner, researcher, educator, administrator, and change agent in various positions within and external to Mercy-based organizations. Wherever she resided, she remained steadfast to local Sigma chapters, particularly by supporting the scholarly endeavors of peers and upcoming leaders. She notes, “[Sigma] is a gift to nursing. It creates a community of individuals dedicated to collegial contributions to science, leadership, and practice ― it affirms us all.”  

Beyond Sigma, she has participated in and witnessed board functions with the American Association of Critical Care Nurses, the American Organization for Nursing Leadership, the National Organization of Clinical Nurse Specialists, the Iowa Donor Organization, the Iowa Hospital Association, the American Heart Association, and the Catholic Hospital Association.  She was the first recipient of the Dr. Teresa Christy Award for integrating practice, education, and research by the Iowa State Nurses Association, named a Nurse Visionary by the University of Alabama-Birmingham, an implementation grant recipient from the Pew Charitable Trust and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to Redesign Health Care, and the honorary doctorate previously mentioned.

“Life is about using one’s gifts to benefit others. It is equally about accepting the gifts of others.  And by gifts, I mean talents, skills, abilities, values, perspectives, and energy.” She concludes with this simple thought: “Nursing is offering mercy to others. Each of us are instruments of healing. I’ve been graced to have found multiple ways to extend this charism of nursing over a career that includes [Sigma]. It is a journey from my heart.”