Nurse retires from Cedars-Sinai after 50 years

Independent Staff Report

LOS ANGELES — Last week nurse Patsi Saoud took off her scrubs for the last time and retired after 50 years on the job at Cedars-Sinai.

In 1971, Saoud moved from New York to California to join Cedars of Lebanon, which would merge with Mount Sinai to become Cedars-Sinai.

“My sister had gotten married and lived in Los Angeles for two years when I came to visit her,” Saoud said. “It was in the middle of winter and the temperature was around 85 degrees and I decided this is where I would like to be. It’s an adventure for me.”

For 49 of her 50 years at Cedars-Sinai, Saoud worked as a cardiac surgery nurse in what is now known as the Smidt Heart Institute.

“I think it’s phenomenal that Patsi stayed so long; it shows a real dedication to patient care,” said Dr. Joanna Chikwe, professor and chair of the Department of Cardiac Surgery in the Smidt Heart Institute and the Irina and George Schaeffer Distinguished Chair in cardiac surgery.

When Saoud started at what was then known as Cedars of Lebanon Hospital, the cardiac surgery team was doing one to two heart surgeries a week. Today, the Smidt Heart Institute is recognized as a world leader in all areas of heart surgery, from aneurysm repair and heart valve replacements to heart and lung transplants, and performs more than 30 procedures a week.

“At Cedars-Sinai, we’re really blessed that many of our nurses have stayed decades in their role, and while it’s always heartbreaking to see them leave, it really is a testament to their level of dedication to patient care,” Chikwe said.

Saoud has touched countless lives during her decades at Cedars-Sinai, both in Los Angeles and around the world.

During her career, she volunteered for medical missions in Cali, Colombia, and Macau, China, where she trained nurses and medical doctors on how to prepare an operating room for surgery. For 14 years in a row, Saoud also traveled to Ecuador to assist with surgical pediatric care.

At Saoud’s retirement party, colleagues called her a valued mentor to new cardiac surgery nurses.

“I know her as one of the pillars of cardiac surgery here at Cedars-Sinai,” said Daniel Saculles, a clinical nurse specialist at Cedars Sinai. “She probably has the largest wealth of knowledge of cardiac surgery that I can think of.”

While her last day at the hospital was July 30, her legacy will continue to inspire future generations.

“Patsi is a living legend,” said Alfonso Chicas, executive director of perioperative services. “She really is the go-to person for us with almost everything related to cardiac surgery. She knows and understands the rich history and culture within our cardiac operating rooms.”

Prior to making the decision to retire, Saoud attributes her near perfect attendance record to work ethic, passion and her family at work.

“I love the camaraderie, I love the friends that I’ve made,” Saoud said. “I’ve met many lifelong friends here. It’s just a very warm, friendly place to work. I would recommend it to anyone.”

After 50 years of waking up before the sun is out, Saoud looks forward to starting the next chapter of her life without alarm clocks and plans to take dance classes and head back to school to take astronomy and physics courses.

But she thinks back fondly on her time at Cedars-Sinai.

“I don’t believe that the grass is greener anywhere else,” she said. “Cedars-Sinai to me was the best hospital in the city. And why go anywhere else?”