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For love of nursing

Woldruff has seen changes, love in years as public health nurse

May 22, 2019
Amy H. Peterson - Staff Writer ( , Estherville News

"I have two loves in nursing: geriatrics and mental health clients," Linda Woldruff said in an interview last week.

Woldruff is closing out 36 years with Emmet County Public Health with most of that time spent visiting patients in their homes and supervising other nurses doing so.

Woldruff said, "I always wanted to be a nurse." She graduated in 1963 from Iowa Lutheran Hospital's School of Nursing, married Alan Woldruff, and worked in Omaha and Northwood before the couple moved to Estherville in 1982 with a house full of teenagers. After a stint briefly filling in at Rosewood Manor that stretched to a year, Woldruff wanted to get off the evening shift and began working with Emmet County Public Health in 1983.

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As a home health nurse, Woldruff takes patients' vital signs, changes wound dressings, and, in large part, monitors the patients' medication setups.

"It's so important that patients take their medications correctly. We also assess the situation: are they eating, are they safe at home? A lot of what we do as well is connecting them with other resources," Woldruff said.

Mental health continues to be a passion of Woldruff's. "We do medication management for mental health patients, too, and often we're a source of connection they have in the community. I related to them, I wanted them to feel comfortable enough to call me if they're having problems. We rely on a lot of community resources to help mental health patients."

The state of Iowa's struggles with mental health care has affected Woldruff's job.

"The mental health system is struggling. Medicaid is struggling. It affects the way we provide care," Woldruff said.

For all the struggles, however, Woldruff said, "I have loved my job. I've had a wonderful career here."

The federal government's changes also had an impact on Woldruff's position.

"Government regulations have increased our paperwork significantly. They've increased the tasks you have to do that are not patient care related. If I do a hospital admission that takes an hour, I would have two or two and one half hours of paperwork afterward," Woldruff said.

Until June 18, Woldruff's home care services were covered by Medicare. However, for a small agency that does not have multiple administrative assistants to file the mountains of paperwork, meeting Medicare's requirements was not sustainable for Emmet County Public Health.

In June 2018, the Department stopped billing Medicare. This caused the home care patient load to drop so that Woldruff went from full time to 12 hours a week. The timing was somewhat expedient for her as it allowed a year of semi-retirement. However, the Department was not caring any longer for homebound patients or high medical needs.

"It became more of a maintenance kind of care," Woldruff said.

Woldruff has carried a philosophy of nursing through 36 years: "We can't make everyone well, but we can assist them in living the best quality of life in their home."

Over the years, medical advances and technology have helped Woldruff and her team care for patients longer than before.

"Because of home care, people can remain in their home while they're sicker with more complex medical needs than they could 35 years ago. There's no place like home to recover and to live at any stage of life," Woldruff said.

Woldruff gave a shout out to other services the Emmet County Public Health Department provides:

The Department is part of the county-wide emergency preparedness team. "We are part of the emergency management drill each year. We have wonderful partners in emergency preparedness," Woldruff said.

The Department also plays a big part in immunizing the community with clinics every week.

In the past, Woldruff was part of the team that made home visits to new mothers who had just returned home after having a baby.

Woldruff's advice for remaining as healthy as possible throughout a lifetime involves a holistic approach.

"I encourage people to remain socially and mentally active. Reading, exercising if able, staying as physically active as you can and stimulating your mind are very important," Woldruff said.

Staying physically active is easier said than done for someone who doesn't feel great, Woldruff said.

"I try to encourage and motivate patients. I'll tell them, 'I'll walk every day and you walk every day and we'll keep track of how much we walked and report back to each other next time I'm here,'" Woldruff said.

Keeping the mind busy after retirement is a major task of staying well, and one Woldruff plans to pursue for herself.

"Read something every day," Woldruff said.

In addition to the body and the mind, the spirit is important.

"I don't get much into religion, but I tell patients to 'nourish your spiritual life. Find your faith.'"

Woldruff has had the opportunity to bestow wisdom along with medical care because increased human longevity has allowed her to have longer relationships with the patients she sees.

"I developed close relationships in this job," Woldruff said.

Home care is different from hospital care because Woldruff said she considered herself a guest in each home she visited.

"As I talk about it, I'm going to miss this!" Woldruff said.

Woldruff expressed thanks to the community. "Our agency has good support for health in our county," Woldruff said.



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