A small group of about 15 staff members, along with Ruth Sturch – the clinic supervisor, waited in a small room on Thursday, April 30, for the arrival of Sue Ledesma. The occasion was bittersweet. Sturch had to receive Sue’s identification badge and keys. Sue was retiring.
As the 27 plus year veteran nurse walked in for her final work related duty, colleagues awaited her. Being careful to observe social distancing guidelines, those who had gathered waited their turn to greet her. Expressions of appreciation and admiration as well as love and support filled the room.
Ledesma accepted their gestures with the same quiet demeanor that she had always displayed while performing her daily duties.
“They just don’t make them like her anymore!” Sturch later told a reporter.
Saying goodbye for a final time is never easy, especially with those whom you consider to be almost like family.
Ledesma’s career in
nursing spans back to 1975. Her 45-year journey as a practical nurse threaded its way through several institutions both in Oelwein and Independence.
She was the third oldest child of eight siblings. At the age of 10 their family moved to Oelwein from Dubuque. Her father worked at the Northwest telephone company. Ledesma remembers that her father “was committed to the community, and I thought I would do the same.” She has always maintained that commitment to the local area.
Not long after settling in the area, her interest in the medical field began to sprout and deepen. As a young teen in junior high and high school, she volunteered to work at the Oelwein hospital. She eventually gained a Certified Nurse’s Assistant qualification as well while at the hospital. It was a natural fit for her. The experiences helped her grow and develop a deep sense of compassion and care for the patients under her care.
After graduating from high school, she set her sights on studying nursing. She enrolled at Hawkeye Tech in Waterloo, where she graduated in 1975 with a Licensed Practical Nursing degree. Soon after she obtained her licensure in the state of Iowa.
The positions that she held in the late 1970s prepared her to take on increased responsibilities in the surgical medical and obstetrics units located in the Oelwein Hospital in the early 1980s. She worked there until 1988. Desiring a change in work hours led her briefly outside of the hospital for about four years. During that time, she worked at a local physician and a chiropractic office in Oelwein.
She returned to the Oelwein hospital in August 1992, where she took a nursing position in the Oelwein Family Medical clinic, a position she retained until her recent retirement.
As the years rolled on, she was witness to a lot of changes within the medical field in the form of technological advancements. The development of Magnetic Resonance Imaging machines was a big change that she recalls. The increased use of computer technology was also causing big changes in the medical field. Within the past 10 years, she has seen a shift to electronic medical records from the old paper medical records and charts that were previously used. There “were different systems out there” that she needed to become acquainted with.
As she accumulated increased experience and knowledge, she was called upon to help newly added staff members in their orientation training. Along the way, she gained the respect and esteem of her colleagues.
She states, “I would get phone calls from those seeking medical advice” from time to time by family and friends who viewed her as being knowledgeable in such matters.
Ruth Sturch has worked with Sue for more than 16 years. During the last seven of those she was Sue’s supervisor.
Sturch said, “She was a dependable, flexible, and caring colleague to work with and was always available to work in any of our locations as needed.”
The Oelwein medical center Site Administrator, Jill M. Groth, summarized Sue’s character and work ethic by saying: “Words like steadfast, diligent, and patient-focused come to mind when thinking of Sue. She has a great rapport with each and everyone she interacts with, regardless of background, age, or role. We all have been fortunate to know and work with her and wish her the best in her retirement.”
Regarding future retirement plans, Sue shared that she and her husband hope to do some traveling once things settle down with the COVID-19 pandemic situation.