‘You get very close to your patients; you feel like family’

Published 10:44 pm Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Woman’s nursing career started at Naeve, spanned decades

A retired nurse who worked during seven decades at the Albert Lea hospital is still leading efforts to help the community.

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Bev Grotsun’s journey in Albert Lea began when she started at Naeve School of Nursing in 1956.

“My parents had some friends that lived in Albert Lea that made them aware of the Naeve School of Nursing,” she said. “I never knew of Albert Lea until I came in for nurses’ training.”

Grotsun graduated from the school in less than four years and recalled “very intense” training that included 40-hour work weeks in addition to classes for the majority of her nursing education. Science and general courses were taken at what was then Austin Community College.

Following graduation, Grotsun began work as a nurse at Naeve Hospital, spending her first year on a pediatrics floor. Following that, she spent about two years at home with her young family before coming back to work at the hospital in 1962, where she stayed until she retired in 2014.

Most of Grotsun’s working years were spent as a special care nurse. The last 21 years of her career were spent in the Cancer Center.

“For me, it was a big change, going into a new field of nursing with oncology, because of the whole scenario of drugs given, chemo drugs and all of the drugs given with it,” she said.

In 1999, Grotsun moved into a combined medical and radiation oncology unit.

“You give hope and courage, encouragement — especially in oncology,” she said. “I dearly loved that field of nursing there toward the end. You get very close to your patients; you feel like family to them.”

Grotsun recalled having Santa hats available for a couple who were having chemotherapy treatments side by side during their last Christmas season. Grotsun and her co-workers shared pictures of it with the couple’s family. 

“Even though it was a sad time, we made it a happy time at that time,” she said.

She briefly retired in 2010 before coming back two weeks later to work two to four days a month.

Grotsun recalled the evolution of health care delivery during her career, including advancements in the treatment of same-day surgeries and heart attack patients.

She called treating patients undergoing cataract surgery the most dramatic medical change she faced in her career, from patients facing strict bedrest to being allowed to leave the hospital the same day as surgery.

Grotsun also witnessed the introduction of more preventative measures for cancerous tumors that have resulted in increased quality of life for patients.

“Over the years, we didn’t have the technology that we have today,” she said. “That was a big change.”

Today, Grotsun is president of Naeve Alumni and Nurses Club, an organization that gives about $8,000 to $10,000 in scholarships annually from unsolicited donations.

Grotsun said she does not support Mayo Clinic Health System in Albert Lea’s unfolding plan to transition most inpatient services to Austin.

“It’s disappointing, really, because Naeve Hospital is my alma matter,” she said. 

Grotsun discussed how two independent hospitals are working together in Iowa in towns smaller than Albert Lea without having one inpatient unit.

“They think of their patients as extended family,” she said.

She said she derived pleasure from her career.

“First and foremost, I was honored and privileged to have worked all these years at Naeve Hospital,” she said. “My patients — I always enjoyed patient care, direct patient care, because it was just what I enjoyed doing. I love my patients.”

Over her career, Grotsun said her approach toward patients remained the same.

“You cared for that patient to the best of your knowledge,” she said. “You did everything for that patient.”

About Sam Wilmes

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

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