‘I loved my patients’

Published 9:49 pm Monday, November 27, 2017

Retired nurse recalls nearly 40 years spent at A.L. hospital

Retired nurse Jean Skaar continues to advocate for the Albert Lea hospital after a nearly 40-year career at the facility.

Following her graduation from nursing training in the Twin Cities, Skaar worked as a graduate nurse at Naeve Hospital in 1967.

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Skaar, who married her husband, retired Albert Lea High School teacher and wrestling coach Neal Skaar, in August 1967, worked for one year at a clinic in Decorah, Iowa, before returning to the community the following year to work at the hospital.

She worked in the hospital’s intensive care unit on an on-and-off basis from 1968 to 1988, taking some time off to raise her four children.

In 1988, Skaar began work in the post-anesthesia unit, where she worked until she retired in 2014, a department she said was her favorite to work in despite its high-pressure environment.

“That was the best part of my career, I think,” she said.

To Skaar, patients were her No. 1 priority as a nurse.

“I loved my patients, and I loved taking care of people doing the best job I could,” she said. “That part I always enjoyed.”

A Save Our Hospital member, Skaar takes issue with the Mayo Clinic Health System’s transition of most inpatient services to Austin.

“I just think it’s unconscionable what they’ve done,” she said. “I can’t believe what they’ve done. It just appalls me. And that’s why I am involved with this group. And I’m very proud of a lot of these people. I mean, they are really working hard and putting out a lot of money. We’re trying to fight Goliath — this is what we’re trying to do.”

To Skaar, practicing medicine in a small community allowed her to know her patients.

“I knew a lot of the patients, and it meant something to them, too,” she said.

“I know I had several people say that they just felt good knowing that I would be there to wake them up when they came out of surgery, so that was kind of heartwarming to think that they felt more comfortable having me there.”

As a nurse, Skaar’s philosophy was advocating for her patients, a message she shared with her fellow nurses.

“I would tell younger nurses, ‘Just be a patient advocate. That is your job. Being popular, that is not your job. If the doctors don’t like you because you speak up for the patient, so be it.’ But, as I found, since you are a patient advocate, the doctors respected you more. Just be a patient advocate, and that’s what patients need.”

Skaar said elderly people need to have an advocate for them, and she lives out her belief by helping her 97-year-old mother in retirement.

“You just have to advocate for people,” she said.

Skaar said her career is a part of her lifelong mission to help people.

“I just enjoyed being a nurse,” she said. “I’ve just taken care of people my whole life, so it’s what

I enjoy doing. I used to take care of little sick animals when I was a child, so I think it was what I was meant to do.”

About Sam Wilmes

Sam Wilmes covers crime, courts and government for the Albert Lea Tribune.

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