Could you spend your entire career working with your spouse? Would you leave your current job to work with your spouse … again?
Dr. Kathryn Bohn and Dr. Thomas Nielsen have spent more than 27 years working – and living –together as ER doctors who were also married. In 2010, Dr. Bohn left emergency medicine to become Medical Director for the Bloomington practice of Illinois Vein Specialists (IVS), a multi-state comprehensive vein treatment center. This decision meant she and her husband were no longer coworkers.
Dr. Nielsen recently announced he is joining his wife in private practice at IVS, maintaining a medical and meaningful partnership.
As Emergency Room physicians, Dr. Bohn and Dr. Nielsen served on staff at the same time at the same area hospitals for more than two decades. Much like the storyline in a prime time medical drama, these two doctors first met while working together in a hospital in Springfield, Illinois. In the early 1980s, Dr. Nielsen was teaching medical students when Kathryn Bohn joined SIU’s School of Medicine. “She had a great smile. And, she was easy to talk to,” Dr. Nielsen recalls. So, after finishing rounds on Easter Day 1982, Dr. Nielsen asked his student what she was planning to do with her free time. She shared her parents were coming to visit and he asked if he could join them for dinner. The rest, as they say, is history.
Ironically, medicine was Dr. Bohn’s second career, and one she almost didn’t pursue. After graduating from college with a bachelor’s degree in biology, she became a high school biology teacher. She considered medical school during her bachelor’s program but was discouraged from applying for a program because she was a woman. After teaching for 5 years, she went back to pursue her master’s degree in biology. During that time, one of her research partners decided to take the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT). Dr. Bohn volunteered to help him study and, 8 weeks later, sat for the exam successfully herself. Shortly afterwards, she interviewed at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine and was accepted for admission.
New beginnings for an experienced partnership
Having served for 27 years as an emergency room physician, Dr. Nielsen announced this summer he plans to leave emergency medicine to join his wife at the Bloomington practice of IVS. His career change represents an opportunity to help patients improve their quality of life through a comprehensive vein treatment program.
Dr. Nielsen knows he’ll miss helping people in the practice of emergency medicine and really appreciates the opportunity to care for the many patients he has treated in the Bloomington- Normal and surrounding area. Joining Illinois Vein Specialists will allow him to use his skills to continue to make a difference in patients with vein disease.
The career change also has family benefits. For the first time ever, Dr. Nielsen will have more traditional work hours which – after a 27 year career in emergency medicine – will be a significant change in itself. And, Dr. Nielsen will be able to see someone special each day at work: his wife, Dr. Bohn.
“It’s been weird not working together these last few months,” shared Dr. Bohn. “When we worked together in the ER, we could both be busy with our own patients and understand each other’s work challenges. But, we could also remind one another to pick up milk or make sure an appointment is covered for our daughter. It will be nice to be together again.”
The teacher becomes the student
This career change represents a reverse of their early years. “When we met in 1982, Tom was my teacher. Now, I’m his,” shares Dr. Bohn.
To prepare for medical practice at IVS, even experienced doctors such as Dr. Nielsen and Dr. Bohn completed additional highly specialized training in Phlebology, the branch of medicine that specializes in vein disorders. While both doctors already hold Board Certification in Family Practice and Emergency Medicine, both will also take the Board Certification exams for Phlebology as well.
Dr. Bohn completed her training in 2010. Dr. Nielsen has completed his training with Dr. Stephen Rivard in Barrington, IL in 2011. In addition, Dr. Nielsen has observed the practice of Phlebology with his wife at IVS in Normal, IL, and has completed an additional Fellowship program in Phlebology. “It has been wonderful also learning from my wife and having her as a mentor in addition to Dr. Rivard,” Dr. Nielsen says.
Changing Times and Changing Names
The decision whether or not a woman should change her last name at the time of marriage is significant. According to About.com, about 3 million women each year change their last name to their husband’s when getting married, representing about 90 percent of all brides.
However, this means about 10 percent of women getting married today choose to keep their maiden names. For some this is due to personal reasons, but for others, it’s professional.
Through open communication and mutual understanding of each other’s profession, Dr. Bohn and Dr. Nielsen were able to successfully navigate this situation decision prior to marriage. But, having different last names didn’t come without its challenges in the 1980s.
Secrets to their success
With a 50 percent divorce rate across the nation, it’s unique to see a couple who has managed to maintain a happy home and professional life together. The doctors both describe mutual respect and understanding of career and home pressures as what allows them to be together again at work successfully.
“From the start of our relationship, we worked together as professionals and recognized each other’s expertise,” Dr. Bohn offered. “We understand each other’s workload and work stresses, and we understand each other’s home life demands.”
They also understand what it takes to help each other be successful. For example, it was actually Dr. Nielsen’s idea for Dr. Bohn to maintain her maiden name. Prior to marriage, the doctors discussed the possibility of continuing to work together during married life and the challenges of having two “Dr. Nielsen’s” in the same office. In the early 1980s when the couple married, Dr. Nielsen’s fear for his wife is she might soon be referred to as “Dr. Nielsen’s wife” rather than being called a doctor in her own right, so the decision was made to be joined in marriage but maintain different last names.
Dr. Bohn and Dr. Nielsen see their professional partnership as an opportunity to provide even more comprehensive services through IVS. The addition of another highly trained doctor to the practice allows more scheduling options for patients and allows for the practice to maintain personal relationships with their patients. Initially, the doctors plan to treat patients together, allowing patients to build relationships with both doctors while receiving outstanding treatment. Patient care and satisfaction remains at the heart of their practice.
Even after 27 years of marriage, there’s still a twinkle in their eyes when they look at each other. Mutual respect and understanding also look a lot like love. From watching them together, it looks like Dr. Bohn and Dr. Nielsen are truly happy to be working together again.