Responding to the COVID-19 pandemic takes an enormous amount of resources. At Mayo Clinic, it's often been all hands on deck. And then some, thanks to 130 retired nurses returned to their profession to help with various efforts to respond to COVID-19.
The focus now is on COVID-19 vaccination clinics, and offering as many people as possible the opportunity to be vaccinated for COVID-19. And those extra hands are coming in, well, handy.
The News Center checked in with three retired nurses ― Maureen Bahr, Linda Haeussinger and Roberta Sloan ― who are back on duty at the COVID-19 vaccination clinic in the 41st Street Professional Building in Rochester.
Haeussinger: I retired from Olmsted County Public Health Services in 2015 after 40 years. I started working for Mayo that same year as a supplemental flu vaccine nurse.
Sloan: I worked at Mayo from 1986 through 2019, first in Pediatrics at Saint Marys Hospital from 1986 until 1989, and then in the Outpatient Chemotherapy unit, which is now at Gonda 10E.
Bahr: My first nursing job was in the Mayo Clinic Blood Donor program in 1973. Later, I moved to Radiology, until I retired in 2014.
Haeussinger: When my flu clinic supervisor, Tammy Schmit, offered our group of flu nurses the opportunity to work at COVID-19 vaccine clinics, I readily agreed.
Sloan: When COVID-19 hit only three months after retirement, I felt guilty and a bit helpless that I, as a nurse, was not able to help. As 2020 progressed, it became obvious that this virus was not going away easily. So when the letter arrived in the mail to recent retirees asking for our help, I was happy to say yes. Following all the guidelines in preventing the spread of disease was easy for me, and the vaccine effort would be a major part of the solution. I wanted to be part of that.
Bahr: I always liked working, so after retiring, I came back to the school flu clinic several months later. Tammy Schmit is the supervisor of that area, and she is the head of the COVID-19 vaccine nurses, so it was easy to come to this area and work with so many of the same colleagues administering COVID-19 vaccines.
"I'll always remember the Neonatal ICU nurse and mom who cried with tears of joy as I was injecting her. ... My greatest enjoyment is knowing that I am making a difference to many, many people in this pandemic."Linda Haeussinger
Haeussinger: This has been a remarkably historic experience full of emotion — both excitement and trepidation. I'll always remember the Neonatal ICU nurse and mom who cried with tears of joy as I was injecting her. I am very grateful and happy to be involved and to be useful as a practicing nurse in retirement. My greatest enjoyment is knowing that I am making a difference to many, many people in this pandemic.
Bahr: I enjoy my co-workers and patients alike. Everyone who comes for a COVID-19 vaccine is generally happy and grateful to be here getting the vaccine, so that's wonderful. It really feels like we are part of a special group.
Sloan: It's been a great experience. I most enjoy seeing the feelings of relief, joy and gratitude expressed after receiving their vaccines, and I make sure to thank each of them as well for getting their vaccine and helping us through this global health crisis.
Haeussinger: This pandemic has limited my desire to travel, but that is nothing compared to the gratitude I have that my loved ones have not suffered the disease.
Sloan: Being isolated from family and friends last year was not pleasant, but my family and I have remained healthy, and for that, we are grateful. Knowing that over half a million Americans have died from COVID-19 and that families are suffering from bereavement, and the mental health effects of isolation and loss of income is so hard to watch. But that is what makes this vaccine so important.
Bahr: I had COVID-19 very early last year, and luckily, I was not very sick. I was part of a few Mayo studies, and I donated convalescent plasma every month for several months. That, too, was special, knowing that I was personally helping patients with COVID-19 somewhere in the country.
Along with Haeussinger, Bahr and Sloan, 73 other retired nurses are helping with Mayo's COVID-19 efforts in Rochester. And 47 nurses have returned across Mayo Clinic Health System, along with nine at Mayo Clinic in Florida and four at Mayo Clinic in Arizona.
"We are indebted to these retired Mayo Clinic nurses for their selflessness in responding to the call to help during the COVID-19 pandemic," says Ryannon Frederick, Mayo's chief nursing officer. "These nurses have devoted their entire lives to helping others, and they have never stopped. We can"t thank them enough for lending a hand and sharing their expertise when we needed it most."