Day in the Life of a Male Nurse

Day in the Life of a Male Nurse

La Crosse Tribune (La Crosse, Wisc.)

January 04, 2010

Jan. 4—Dick Berendes chose nursing as a career when it wasn’t a popular choice for men.

He was one of the first two men to graduate from the licensed practical nurse program at Western Technical College 40 years ago.

“I was not a great student in high school, and I had no career path, but I applied for the nursing program to see if I could get in,” Berendes said. “And to my surprise, I got in.”

The Norwalk native soon discovered he had great people skills and loved caring for patients.

In the back of his mind, Berendes thought about a career in nursing because he saw his father, Richard, enjoy his work for more than 25 years as a nursing assistant at the Tomah Veterans Administration Medical Center.

“My dad loved his job, and he told us tons of stories,” Berendes said. “The people he worked with were important to him, and he loved taking care of people.”

The 63-year-old Berendes, who recently retired after 34 years at Franciscan Skemp Medical Center, was one of the most beloved staff members and served in many positions during his tenure.

He first worked in orthopedics and urology for 21/2 years before entering the RN program at Finley Hospital School of Nursing in Dubuque, Iowa.

“I didn’t think much about being a man doing what was once mostly women’s work,” Berendes said. “Patients never fussed about me being a man.”

Berendes returned to Franciscan Skemp in 1975 and worked in physical rehabilitation. He then was director of nursing and later administrator of St. Francis Nursing Home before it closed.

“I loved working with old people,” he said. “At the nursing home, you got to know the people.”

He said it was especially difficult when he was part of the administrative team to close the nursing home and downsize home health care.

“I did some hard things that had to be done, and all that still hurts,” Berendes said.

Berendes was administrator for elder services, home care and hospice care and supervised some regional clinics. He oversaw the emergency and urgent care departments and helped with the merger of the departments with the construction of a new area.

In his last position, Berendes was administrator of patient care/nursing care. As an administrator, Berendes said he had the opportunity to help bring quality nurses and staff to Franciscan Skemp.

“I was able to keep a human face on stuff,” he said. “People are people, not parts.”

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