For Eleanor Herbel and Margaret Tice, being a nurse has meant providing personal care over the long term.
The two Marion County nurses retired recently after combining for nearly a century of service in their profession.
Herbel, who lived in Tampa for most of her working career before moving to Hillsboro a year and a half ago, was employed at Goessel and Hillsboro. She was feted with a retirement reception June 20 at Salem Home in Hillsboro.
Tice celebrated her final day at McPherson Hospital just over a week ago after nine years there. She worked at St. Luke Hospital in Marion for 30 years prior to that after a three-year stint in Wichita.
Eleanor Herbel said she initially wanted to be a music teacher before changing her career direction.
Raised in the Lehigh area, she graduated from Lehigh High School in 1956, then went to Bethel College for six months before entering the nursing program at Bethel Deaconness Hospital in Newton.
Herbel credits her interest in nursing to her job as a nurse aide for physician A.K. Ratzlaff in Goessel’s small hospital.
“I had some friends that were going into nursing, too,” she said. “It was something that fell into place for me. I worked in Ratzlaff’s office after I was married.”
Herbel took several years off from her profession to raise her family of four children. She and husband Willis met through a Lehigh neighbor.
The final 32 years of Herbel’s nursing career were devoted to caring for the elderly at Salem Home in Hillsboro.
“When I went to work as a nurse at Salem, I did it for someone on maternity leave,” she said. “It was a six-week stay, but I stayed there ever since.”
Herbel said she’s witnessed many changes in elder-care during the past three decades.
“When I started working there, most of the elderly were bedfast,” she said. “There were a lot of bedsores and a lot of wounds because people weren’t getting up.
“I have seen the transition to today, where now it’s like a family and people are treated much better. It’s a much healthier situation today for the elderly.
“I have really enjoyed that transition.”
Herbel said the social aspect of retirement-home living has greatly improved, too.
“I have seen some really good things happen there—playing games, programs and giving people something to look forward to,” she said.
For a time, Salem included a unit for Alzheimer’s patients.
“That was a new experience for me and an awesome one,” she said. “I’m glad we were able to do that here for a while.”
Herbel said being a nurse has been more of a calling than a job.
“I think it is something you build on,” she said. “God gives us the love for this kind of thing. I feel like I was directed into this, and feel like I have helped a few people over the years.”
Herbel said she is happy to be enjoying retirement and to be able to pass out cookies and M&Ms to her 21 grandchildren who visit them on Elm Street.
Herbel said it’s ironic that she and Willis moved to Hillsboro so recently. Had they made the move sooner, she could have been spared the 20-mile drive from Tampa to Salem all those years.
“But it was worth it,” she said. “I’ve had so many special memories and experiences.”
Margaret Tice said she became interested in nursing as early as the sixth grade, inspired in part by an aunt who worked in the profession.
Tice said, for her, nursing was the best of the predominant career options for women at the time.
“Women back then were teachers, secretaries or nurses—and I didn’t want to be the other two,” she said with a laugh.
After graduating from Hillsboro High School, she went to Tabor College for a year before entering the nursing program at Grace Hospital in Hutchinson.
After receiving her diploma in 1966, she worked at Grace for a few months before taking a job in intensive care at Wesley Hospital in Wichita.
She met her husband, Martin, while in Hillsboro; they were married in 1967. Three years later, they moved to Marion, where she began working at St. Luke Hospital.
“In Marion I was a floor nurse for 10 years, then I was director of nursing for 10 years, then I went out to Home Health for 10 years,” she said. “It was a good variety.
“I really enjoyed the Home Health part, going into people’s homes—until the government regulations restricted what we could do. It took the fun out of it. As a nurse you want to do more. (Regulations) sometimes tie your hands.”
Tice said nursing has gone through many changes since her early days at Wesley.
“When I went to Wesley, it had an 11-bed intensive care unit, and I did everything from pediatrics to cardiac surgery to general surgeries,” she said. “Now it’s very specialized.”
Technology has changed considerably, too. Tice cited IV procedures as one example.
“We didn’t have the good needles we have now,” she said. “We had straight metal needles. You’d do an IV, take it out in three hours and restart it in the evening if you needed to. Now there’s plastic (shunts), and you can leave it in for days.
“That was a big change.”
Tice said she has enjoyed nursing for the most part.
“The hours aren’t what people would call their ideal, with weekends and nights,” she said. “But it’s a bit flexible also, and you can aways find a part-time job if you want to.
“There’s a lot of variety in nursing,” she added. “I liked medical surgical the best. Intensive care was fun, but at that time we generally did general nursing—hands-on patient contact. That’s what I loved the most.”
Tice said she is still learning what “retirement” means, but she enjoys quilting and plans to do volunteer work. She said she and Martin enjoy traveling and keeping up with their nine grandchildren.