Nurse celebrates 55 years at Sanford Health

Carol Wieneke is the second most tenured active employee and the most tenured active nursing employee.

By: Jane Heilmann .

Carol Wieneke
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The year was 1963. Gasoline cost 29 cents a gallon. The average yearly salary was $5,800, and a new home was around $12,000. It was a very “newsworthy” year as well -– a new thing called ZIP codes were implemented, the polio vaccine could be administered in a lump of sugar, Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “I have a dream” speech, and by the end of the year, President John F. Kennedy would be assassinated.

In southwestern Minnesota, Carol Wieneke was having a big year, too. She graduated from licensed practical nurse (LPN) nursing school in August and got married 12 days later. In mid-November, a friend told her that the local doctor in Luverne, Minnesota, 14 miles away, needed a nurse to assist him. Carol was interested. She met with the clinic’s part-time bookkeeper, who asked if she could start right away. There was no interview or resume. Her starting salary was 90 cents an hour.  She said yes. Fifty-five years later, she’s still there at what is now Sanford Health.

Wieneke’s nursing career was always in the clinic, and over the years she’s moved to four different buildings and worked with a multitude of doctors. She has a lot of good memories. If there is one regret, Wieneke says, it’s that she did not keep a journal of her early days as a nurse.

“I’ve always had good working partners,” she says. “I’ve learned a lot from all of the doctors. And I’ve outstayed pretty much all of them.”

Cared for docs when they were kids

In fact, she’s worked with generations of doctors. She remembers giving shots to a current physician when he was a baby and babysitting another.

“The whole medical field is just so amazing. Back in the days when I started, a clinic office visit was $3, and OB (obstetrics) care and delivery was $90. We didn’t have MRIs, or CTs or ultrasounds. Even the lab work was very simple. Just a few tests. It’s just incredible how things have progressed.”

Wieneke’s job has changed a bit over the years, too, as medicine as changed. One of her proudest achievements was starting the triage program in the Luverne clinic, which she ran for 10 years. Today, it is used as a model for other clinics and remains a highly efficient part of clinical staffing.

After triage, Wieneke served as an outreach nurse for a number of years, and in 2011 she started in picture archiving and communication system (PACS) scheduling, where she works today. PACS handles scheduling for all hospital-based procedures, ensuring the prior authorizations are done, and the patients are educated on the various preps, tests and procedures.

And after driving in to Luverne for work for over 40 years, Wieneke now lives five blocks from the clinic.

“I live where it’s really handy. No more driving in the winter.”

She says she doesn’t have any current plans to retire.

“I really do like my job. It’s not like I ever had a goal to stay for a certain number of years.”

Within the Sanford Health enterprise, Wieneke is the second most tenured active employee and the most tenured active nursing employee.

“I want to thank my family for always supporting me. They know how much my nursing career means to me. I’m sure God put me in this place for a good reason, and now it’s in his hands how long I continue.

“As I tell my co-workers, as long as I can do my job and remember my password to get into the computer every morning, I think I’m doing pretty good.”