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Plenty of changes for HL nurses in more than 30 years of service
Monday, July 9, 2012

By Jennifer Kotila
Staff Writer

HOWARD LAKE, MN – Nursing is a field that is constantly changing, and three longtime employees of the Good Samaritan Society - Howard Lake (GSS-HL) have consistently had to adapt during their collective 108 years as nurses.

The nursing home in Howard Lake opened in 1971, and two employees have been there nearly the whole time.

Charlotte Zimmerman has worked at the nursing home for 39 years, and Joyce Heuer has been there for 37 years. Another employee, Sue Roufs has been at the GSS-HL for 20 years, but has been a nurse for 32 years.

Roufs and Zimmerman recently decided to retire. Heuer, who was a full time employee for more than 20 years but now works part time, has not yet decided when she will fully retire.

“What do you do all by yourself – sit at home and do nothing?” Heuer commented when asked when she planned to retire.

Along with working at the nursing home, Heuer sometimes babysits her two grandchildren, Robert, 7, and Elizabeth, almost 2.

At this time, she is a ward secretary for GSS-HL, making appointments for the residents, setting up their transportation and charts, answering call lights, and assisting the residents.

Originally from the Rogers and Corcoran area, Heuer moved to Howard Lake when she got married in 1967.

Heuer’s son, Randy, was 5 years old when she began working at the nursing home. She appreciated that her job was close to home.

In those days, one did not need to be certified, but trained on the job to be a nursing assistant. When certification was finally required, Heuer was able to test out to receive her certification, she said.

Heuer has enjoyed working with the residents and the staff at GSS-HL throughout the course of her career.

“Some residents are said to be difficult, but not here,” Heuer said, noting the friendly nature of the staff. “[The staff] likes to joke around a little bit, have fun with the residents.”

Zimmerman, who is originally from Buffalo, started her nursing home career right out of high school as a nursing assistant at the Wright County Retirement Center, which is now known as Park View, in Buffalo.

She then went into the licensed practical nursing program at Anoka Technical College, and came to work at GSS-HL.

Although she was hired as a LPN, she started off working as a nursing assistant for two to three months until her license came through.

Zimmerman noted that the Howard Lake nursing home opened in 1971, and she began working there in September 1972.

LPNs are responsible for many things, from charting to resident assessments, to administering shots and completing Medicare charts.

Being a nurse creates opportunities for learning throughout one’s career, Zimmerman noted. “There’s always something new, something different,” she said.

However, “residents are the main core, getting to know them,” she added. “They stick to you like glue.”

Roufs, whose maiden name is Painschab, is from the Waverly area. She began her nursing career at St. Mary’s in Winsted as a nursing assistant. She then worked in Arlington for 12 years before starting at GSS-HL.

Nursing was not Roufs’ first career choice, and she spent a couple of years in the insurance industry after high school.

“I never would have thought to go into nursing,” she said.

It was Roufs’ sister, Patty Antil, who encouraged her to go into nursing when her children were young, in 1976.

Roufs went to school to become a LPN after her children were older.

“I really enjoy the smallness of [GSS-HL]. There are so many local people there as residents and staff, which makes it a more homey atmosphere,” she said.

Both Roufs and Zimmerman noted that after retirement, they will miss the staff, residents, and residents’ families.

“I will enjoy being able to return and visit. I hope to do some volunteer work at the nursing home – take more time to be able to sit and visit,” Roufs said. “I couldn’t do that when I was working.”

Both plan to catch up on hobbies, catch up with family and friends, and enjoy gardening, camping, and traveling.

Changes in nursing over the years

Over the past several decades, the nursing field has seen its share of changes, and Roufs, Zimmerman, and Heuer have been there through many of them.

For instance, before disposable bed pads and underwear, cotton flannel baby receivers were used for bed pads.

“There was a lot of laundry,” Zimmerman said, noting that the receivers also had to be wrung out by hand.

Gloves, which are now mandatory when caring for patients, were just being introduced in the 1970s.

A big issue that occurred in the nursing industry in 1974 was the use of restraints.

“People thought it was just awful, but it prevented people from falling,” Zimmerman said. “Over the years, physical restraints became taboo.”

Today, restraints are in a chemical form, and there are alarms to alert nurses if a resident is trying to get up and should not.

When the women first became nurses, if something happened to a patient, it was simply noted in the patients’ chart.

Now, if something happens, the incident reports which need to be filled out are six pages long.

However, something which has made nursing easier, is lift machines to help move patients, Heuer noted.

Before the newer battery-operated, hydraulic lifts which are available now, there were manual lifts which had to be pumped to the right height by hand.

Dining in nursing homes is also something which has affected nurses.

When the Howard Lake nursing home first opened, family-style dining took place.

At the time, nothing was thought of it, but the nurses agree today that it was not very sanitary.

Nurses also used to use syringes to feed those who could not eat solid food or refused to eat.

“I hated that, force feeding the residents,” Heuer said.

Although it was difficult to learn and get used to, the use of computers is something that has made nursing easier in terms of charting, Roufs noted.

“It’s taken some getting used to, but it’s been good, as well,” Roufs said.

Another thing which has changed is the type of resident who stays at a nursing home, Roufs added.

The nursing home used to be simply where someone came to stay because they needed supervision, and would never be going back home.

“Today, we actually see people going home after coming in for a short time,” Roufs said. “That’s nice to see.”

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