Retiring after 50 years in nursing
Nursing can be a difficult field. Men and women who serve as nurses in hospitals might see some gruesome things, or have a patient who might make their day just a little bit better with a corny joke.
That was the case for Faye Arlt, 76, who spent 50 years of her life helping others as a nurse, now ready to retire. Friday was her last day of work, planning to spend the rest of her years with her family.
When Arlt was 14 years old, her sister-in-law was a nurse’s aide at St. Joseph’s Hospital, and she decided she wanted to try it. She spoke with Sister Mary, when nuns ran the hospital, and asked if she could work in the pediatric department. Arlt said Sister Mary’s reply was “You’re not old enough yet.” She did mention to Arlt that one of the supervisors in the auditing department was pregnant and would soon need a babysitter. That was how she got her babysitting job.
Years later, she got married, had three children, and decided they needed a little extra money. Starting as a nurse’s aide in the surgical department, Arlt helped those in need for two years. Before Trinity bought St. Joseph’s Hospital, it was split into east wing and west wing. The east wing was ear, nose and throat, and for “minor sugeries.” The west wing was reserved for “major surgeries,” such as having a gallbladder removed, “back when that was a major thing.”
She said she took a break from work for six months after her oldest daughter started first grade. Arlt went back to work as a nurse’s aide when she was 23, taking classes for CPR, taking temperatures and checking blood pressures. Rubbing patients’ backs and cleaning their faces and hands were among the many responsibilities she had day and night. “It was so busy!” Two nurses, an aide and orderlies oversaw 43 patients at a time sometimes.
Five years later at age 28, Arlt got a call from her sister-in-law, who said, “You always talk about wanting to go to nurse training one day.” After the women got off the phone, she went to talk to her husband of 60 years, Ernie, about what her sister-in-law had said. He replied with “Yeah, right.” Arlt knew it would be something they would have to work out, having three kids to take care of.
She also spoke with her parents and two other nurse friends about the advance she wanted to make in her life. They all helped her the best they could, and she “wouldn’t have made it without them.”
While she was gone in Devils Lake for nursing school five days a week, one of Arlt’s friends would pick up her three children, Carla, Jeffery, and Allyson, from school, who were 6, 7, and 9 years old respectively. The Arlt children went to the same church and school as the friend’s children so they would be dropped off at Arlt’s parents’ house, where dinner was ready upon their arrival. Arlt’s husband picked them up from their grandparents’ house and took them home to do homework and take baths before bedtime.
Arlt said the program she was in went a whole year, living with her sister and her three kids in Devils Lake. She went home every Friday night and “zoomed down the highway” to get back to her family. There was one weekend, however, that she was not able to make it home, so her husband and children went down to visit her instead.
She also made it through the program with the help of another nurse who helped her study when they were on night shifts. After a lot of hard work and determination, she graduated from the nursing program in 1972 to become a licensed practical nurse (LPN).
She worked at St. Joe’s until Trinity bought it, then she moved over to Medical Arts as Dr. Teri Hurley’s office nurse, then worked as a Doctor for You nurse. She recalled a time when a woman called and said that her 32-year-old husband was having chest pain after helping some friends move. Arlt asked the wife if she would mind if she called the husband and the wife said “no.”
Arlt called the man and asked what kind of pain he was having, where it was located, and if it had moved anywhere else in his body. She didn’t like the answers he was giving her so she told him to go to the emergency room, better to be safe than sorry. They took him to the cath lab and found out that he had a blockage that was causing the pain. She was glad the couple decided to go in.
Some 46 years later, she retired from Trinity and had absolutely no plans to ever work again. She and Ernie were going to go down south in the winters, they had joined a Good Sam Club, and had “good plans” for their lives. The flood of 2011 ruined that for her. Her house was occupied by the Mouse River, and Somerset Court allowed them to park their fifth-wheel camper in their parking lot. Learning that Arlt was a nurse, they asked her if she would like to work for them. She accepted their offer and had been happily helping the residents of Somerset for the last eight-and-a-half years.
There wasn’t just one thing that she enjoyed more than another when it came to being a nurse. She “loved every minute.” An instance where a very rude man had called to yell, holler, and swear at her over something that wasn’t her fault was one of the few times she was upset. She told him that he had no right to talk to her that way, it wasn’t her fault, and she was going to hang up on him unless he could talk decent to her. She ended up hanging up on him. He called back an hour later and was very nice after that.
A lot of patients are very appreciative of the nurses who take care of them when they are very sick or injured. Arlt enjoyed talking to different people, hearing interesting stories and helping everyone she can. She cherishes the time she spent with her residents and the conversations they shared.
After retiring from her beloved job, she plans to spend some time with her daughter Carla Brown out by Lake Audubon, and with her other children, including her youngest, Shelby.
She did have some words of wisdom to share with young and aspiring nurses: “Love and enjoy what you do!”
Before returning to finish her lunch of grilled cheese and soup, she had one more story to share. In the days when nurses wore white uniforms and white caps, a man came into the ER complaining of “chest pain, sweating profusely, very pale, and eyes with the look of doom.” Another nurse hooked him up to a monitor and he flatlined very shortly after. Arlt called a code and the other nurse put the paddles on his chest and brought him back right away. Arlt asked him if he knew where he was. The man looked around and said “Well, after the life I’ve led, if I’m not in Heaven, I’m in a hospital.”
She said that the years she spent as a nurse were very exciting times.
(Prairie Profile is a weekly feature profiling interesting people in our region. We welcome suggestions from our readers. Call Regional Editor Eloise Ogden at 857-1944 or call 1-800-735-3229. You also can send email suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.)