Nurse retiring after 49 years: Life, death and sleepy docs

Her advice to new nurses: "Treat every patient just like you would treat your grandmother or someone else you are close to.”

Retiring Sanford Health nurse Pat Halverson in a photo of her early in her career and today

Pat Halverson’s 49-year career as a nurse has taken her from Minnesota to South Carolina and back to the Midwest at Inwood, Iowa, and Sioux Falls and Canton in South Dakota.

Along the way, she provided care in pediatrics to surgical units, obstetrics and oncology before transitioning to management roles at Sioux Valley Hospital, Fellowship Village and Sanford Canton-Inwood Medical Center.

“I enjoyed working in all of the different places and different environments, which provided a wide array of experiences,” she said. “I especially enjoyed meeting all of the people over the years –- patients, families, co-workers -– who have added such variety to my life.”

Looking back at her varied career, Pat recalled many unique experiences.

As a young nurse in the 1970s, she worked at the Medical University of South Carolina. At the time, there was a lot of racial tension. “The RNs at this hospital were almost all white while the nursing assistants were almost all black,” she explained. During one shift, Pat was the only white person on duty. Being from the North, it was a new experience for her. “That caused kind of a strange feeling, but I got along with everyone and enjoyed experiencing a whole new culture.”

While working on the obstetrics floor in Detroit Lakes, Minnesota, Pat remembers “catching” only one baby because the doctor did not make it on time. The experience was not a new one, however. “I had done that once before in Ivanhoe (Minnesota) when the doctor we called for the delivery went back to sleep without putting his phone back on the hook.” Pat ended up calling the police to go wake him up. “What an exhilarating experience for me,” she said. “Not so much for the mom!”

Those and all the other normal birth experiences hold a special place in Pat’s heart. “It is so hard to describe the feelings I had whenever I was present for the birth of a baby,” she said. “It was always amazing, exhilarating and it never got old.”

Cared for staff

At the opposite end of the life spectrum, Pat has found fulfillment in helping people die. “At the other end of life, it is sad yet very satisfying to know that I was there for the patient and family to relieve pain, give comfort and support the person in any way that I could in their final days or hours,” she said.

During both the joyous and difficult times, Pat has leaned on her faith. “The Lord feels closer at these special times and I was privileged to be present to provide for the needs of all involved,” she said.

When her career path took her away from direct patient care and into an administrative role, Pat did not leave the caring behind.  She said, “When I got into leadership, I missed the patient care but realized I was now caring for my staff and trying to get them what they needed to take excellent care of the patients that came to us.”

‘Bloom where you are planted’

As she prepares to step away from her formal career of caring, she reassured anyone thinking of entering a nursing profession. “I always encourage people who are thinking about going into nursing because it has been so satisfying for me,” she said. Two of her granddaughters have taken her advice and are currently studying to become nurses.

And, for the new nurse, Pat offered some advice. “Take every opportunity to learn new things so you can feel competent in your skills,” she said. “Treat every patient just like you would treat your grandmother or someone else you are close to.”

Her final advice can be applied to anyone. “Bloom where you are planted,” she said. It is her favorite saying and she explained it further, “Grow and flourish wherever the Lord plants you and if he transplants you, grow and thrive in the new place. Life is too short not to try to make the best of every day.”

There is no doubt Pat will be making the best of every day in her retirement. “I hope to have a little more time to relax though that is not always in my vocabulary and, of course, have a little extra time with family.” Some of that time will be spent at the family cabin in the Black Hills. “I do also hope to find some meaningful work a couple days a week,” she said.

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Posted In Faces of Sanford Health, Family Medicine, Location, Network:Canton-Inwood

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