National Nurses Week honoring retired nurses called back to work

Published: May. 6, 2020 at 6:08 AM CDT
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Beth Sommerfeldt and Barb Uselman were enjoying their free time in retirement like many do when they retire, but when the COVID-19 pandemic struck the only place they wanted to be was back at work helping people.

UW Health called on retired nurses to help answer the phones of the new COVID-19 hotline. When Beth and Barb got the call they were more than willing to answer and go back to work.

The two answered questions, discussed people's symptoms and sometimes were just a caring voice on the other end.

"I know what it's like to be in a busy emergency room but usually that happens for maybe an hour or two but to have it go on for your entire shift, for entire days, day and night, my heart goes out to them," Sommerfeldt said.

Beth graduated from UW-Madison's School of Nursing in 1981 and began her long career in health care in Madison until she retired in 2018. When asked what she thought was one of the fundamentals of nursing she answered, "compassion."

Compassion is a trait that Barb Uselman agrees is something that most nurses, "have in their soul."

Uselman graduated from UW-Eau Claire's School of Nursing in 1978 and began her long career in health care until she retired in 2017. Uselman has two other nurses to celebrate this week in her family. Her younger sister Sandy and her daughter are also nurses. Uselman's daughter graduated from UW-Madison's School of Nursing this year.

"Nursing encompasses I think like I said so much more than just attending to the physical needs of the patient. It's a deep sense of concern and compassion for patients who are really strangers in some way. And a nurse I think has to be a good listener, cheerleader and coach," Uselman said.

UW Health is rolling back on the number of retired nurses they called to work, but Beth and Barb said they were so glad they got to help when they were needed.