If you live in Luverne, Minnesota, odds are you know LPN Carol Wieneke.
“I can’t even walk downtown without everyone knowing me,” she laughed.
Even if you don’t live in Luverne, you still might know her.
“My kids would say, ‘Is there any place we can go that you don’t know somebody?’ One of my daughters was a teenager; we went up to the Mall of America. She said, ‘Nobody is going to know her there!’ Well, yep, there was somebody there,” chuckled Wieneke.
She’s the friendly voice that patients hear whenever they call to schedule procedures.
“My most gratifying thing is when I do talk to someone, I identify them. When they’re done talking, they will say, ‘Thank you, Carol.’ I know they connected with me. I like to hear that,” said Wieneke.
Ask anyone — Wieneke is the staple of Sanford Luverne.
She’s been there for 57 years.
“I came in, did an interview with a finance employee, and was asked if I could be here tomorrow. So, I was there tomorrow, and I’m still here,” she said.
She’s stayed at Sanford Health this long because it feels like home.
Her co-workers, care coordination assistant Vicki Nelson and LPN Cheryl Groen, are a big reason why.
Wieneke has worked with Nelson for 44 years, and Groen for 11. All three have worked at Sanford Luverne for over 40 years.
“We’re always there for each other,” said Wieneke.
“We’re close friends. They know me better than some of my other friends,” Groen added.
In September, Wieneke’s husband passed away. She needed Groen and Nelson more than ever, and they were there for her.
This week, Nelson is retiring from Sanford Luverne after 44 years.
“I’m going to miss her. After 44 years, I am going to miss her,” Wieneke said with a lump in her throat.
It may be a tearful goodbye, but Groen says she feels comfort because Nelson is leaving for a good reason.
“I am happy for her because of why she’s leaving — to enjoy her life with her family, and those grandkids. They mean so much to her.”
It’s simply in Nelson’s nature to help those in need. She’s done it for 44 years at Sanford, and she’ll be doing it in retirement.
She’s temporarily moving up to the Twin Cities to be with her children and grandchildren. She has two grandkids. One is 3; the other is a newborn.
She said her son told her that they needed a babysitter, and her grandkids just want to see their grandma.
“I guess I just feel like right now they need my help. Twist my arm, take care of my grandkids, you know?” she said with a laugh.
“They have a 3-year-old, and he was my first grandchild, and he and I have a very, very close connection. I just can’t wait for when he comes home from day care, to go outside with him, play games with him, and just spending time with both of them.”
Throughout the years, Wieneke, Groen and Nelson have learned to love each other. They all say it hasn’t always been easy, but what binds them together is their love for their patients, and helping people.
“You just dedicate yourself to it, if you can dedicate yourself to that (helping people), you enjoy your job,” said Wieneke.
As Nelson clocks out for the final time, her wish is that everyone can remember the importance of connection.
“Really take the time to get to know your co-workers. Maybe they are having a bad day or something. Cut them some slack, and be kind.”
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