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Old 01-25-2009, 09:21 PM
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Default 82 year old RN still works 11-7 in the ER

A nurse for the ages

At 82, Dorothy Turner loves working the overnight ER shift


By Katya Cengel
January 25, 2009

She started working nights decades ago so she could be home during the day with her seven daughters. They are gone now, but Turner, who is 82, still works from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. four days a week.

Don't think for a minute Turner needs looking after; she is a nurse, and after 60 years in the field, she is still motivated to help people."And that's motivational to us that are feeling the burnout at such a young age," said fellow nurse Mitsy Kuhn, who is 27. "You see Dorothy and you're like, 'If Dorothy can do it, then I should be able to do it too, right?'
Turner's daughter Patsy Scheller enjoys telling the story of a 96-year-old patient who asked her mother why she was still working. Turner replied: "I'm here to take care of you. And I like what I do."

She has always enjoyed it. But it was a more practical reason than desire that pushed her into the field. The only child of a single mother, Turner became a "tray girl" at St. Joseph's Infirmary because the family needed money.
In high school, she spent weekends and afternoons delivering food to the patients. Turner liked the nurses and the variety of people she met at the hospital. After high school, she entered the infirmary's school of nursing. The day after she graduated from the program, she began work at St. Joseph's. "She loves nursing," said Westbay. "She thinks she would just like to die in the hospital … right there in the emergency room in the place she's loved all her life."

Scheller recalls her mother coming home in her starched white uniform. "We learned a lot truly about life, people, from Mom's stories," she said. Once, Turner told the children about another child, who had tried to take her life, which prompted her to tell them, "You can always talk to me," said Scheller.

Although she frequently spoke of it, Turner never forced her daughters into nursing, said her eldest daughter, Kathy Miltenberger. Instead, she encouraged them to find something by which they could support themselves.
Something like nursing, where you can find a job no matter what town you end up in, recalled Miltenberger, who ended up in Dayton, Ohio, where she works as … a nurse.

"I just took it for granted I would be a nurse," she said. "I don't know why; maybe because of the stories I heard."
Scheller also went into nursing: "It's just what we did."
Turner has outlived two husbands. Of her five surviving daughters, four are nurses. Five granddaughters also entered the field.

Turner worked in the nursery, in pediatrics and in a few other areas before deciding that the emergency department was where she wanted to be. It is a type of nursing unlike any other, said Martin, who also is an emergency room nurse, where you never know what's going to happen or who is going to walk through the door. It's an adventure, she said, which is perfect for Turner, because, "She's best in the face of adversity.

"She doesn't take any guff from anybody."
Not even the devil, as Martin recalled in a story about a man who came into the emergency room with syringes sticking out of his neck.
"He said, 'I'm Satan.'
"And she said 'Sit down, Satan, these people are in front of you.' "
Turner smiled when the story was recounted during one of her recent shifts.
"I know him very well," she said. "I even know his first name."

But she doesn't know the name of the baby she delivered in the 1970s when the interns on duty were sleeping. She doesn't even remember if it was a boy or a girl. But Westbay remembers how much Turner used to like helping with emergency room deliveries when women came in too late to go to the labor room. "Dorothy loved that; seeing those new babies and helping with them," she said.

Although younger than Turner, Westbay is down to working just one day a week. Most of Turner's peers have long since been replaced by younger nurses. Turner says they help keep her "hip." A couple decades back, she even got multiple piercings in her ears."I'm trying to stay young," she says. "I don't want to grow old. I hate old people … you know how slow they are?"

Arthritis may have robbed her of some quickness, but she still leads the class in the ACLS course they take every few years, said Georgia Watson, night shift assistant nursing manager in the emergency room. Turner has adapted to many changes in nursing, said Watson, from the days when she had to sharpen injection needles to the days of disposable needles. And she has embraced them all.

Her current goal, said Watson, is to become a computer expert. But it's more than her enthusiasm that makes her a great nurse, said Watson; it is her compassion and empathy, two things every nurse fears losing with age. Coupled, of course, with a no-nonsense attitude, said emergency room doctor Doug Ettin.

As a night-shift triage nurse, Turner is responsible for evaluating patients and making sure she sends the person with pneumonia back before the person with the sniffles, said Ettin. Her abundant experience aids her greatly, he said, but her white hair and wrinkles do what everyone in the emergency room would like to be able to do -- ease patients' fears.
When people come to the emergency room, they are anxious because they don't know what is going on. Turner is able to look them in the eye, like a grandmother, and tell them to calm down, said Ettin.
"And the majority of time, people listen; they calm down," he said. "When they come back (behind the partition for consultation), they understand that they're going to be taken care of because their grandmother just said it's going to be OK."
Reporter Katya Cengel can be reached at (502) 582-4224.


Photos by Kylene Lloyd, The Courier-Journal
Dorothy Turner leaves the hospital at the end of another night shift in the emergency room. After 60 years in nursing, she is still motivated to help people.


Dorothy Turner got a hug from nurse Tiera Gonzalez at the end of a shift. "I'm trying to stay young," said Turner, 82. "I don't want to grow old."



"You see Dorothy and you're like, 'If Dorothy can do it, then I should be able to do it too, right?'" said 27-year-old nurse Mitsy Katz, who chatted with Dorothy.



"She's best in the face of adversity. She doesn't take any guff from anybody."
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Old 01-25-2009, 11:00 PM
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that is so awesome...thanks for sharing i really needed that...been one of those days were u wonder why am i in this job and why am i going back to school to move forward in this field? th_4285
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Old 01-26-2009, 06:49 AM
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that is so awesome...thanks for sharing i really needed that...been one of those days were u wonder why am i in this job and why am i going back to school to move forward in this field? th_4285
Amazing. Truly amazing. A wealth of knowledge that lady must be!!!!

And I'm sure she could tell us some stories...
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Old 01-26-2009, 06:48 PM
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God love her, what an angel she is th_hug-2
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Old 01-26-2009, 07:58 PM
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awesome story just goes to show us that age "ain't nothing but a number"
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Old 01-28-2009, 11:53 AM
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What a great lady.....she is still kicking after all this. I keep thinking that I want to retire at 55 and what would I do??? But you know I think I would like to keep working but not at the pace that I am. I would love to find some nice office to work in or be a consultant for something. I mean with my years of correctional experience someone should want me.


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