While he hasn’t practiced medicine in a few years, Jim Gruver says, “Once a nurse, always a nurse!”
Jim, who has lived at Lutheran Hillside Village, a Lutheran Senior Services (LSS) Life Plan Community in Peoria, Illinois, for nearly seven years, is one of several retired nurses in the community.
Jim’s road to becoming an RN wasn’t a straight line. He got his first taste of the medical field while serving in the United States Air Force from 1962-66. He worked as a surgery technician, essentially an operating room specialist. “I liked that work, and really enjoyed being in surgery,” he said.
After leaving the military, he went to work for Caterpillar in Peoria, Illinois, but was laid off in the early 1970s. He did a variety of things after that. “I had some life changes about the age of 50. I decided to go ahead and go to nursing school like I should have,” he said. “I went back to what I loved.”
While returning to school at 50 was a challenge, it was well worth it. He enjoyed his studies and appreciated the opportunity at a new chapter. Jim spent the next 15 years working at Proctor Hospital and later Peoria Day Surgery.
His focus was largely on surgical floors, helping patients recover from things like appendectomies and knee replacements. “What I loved most is the fact that I was helping people get well or get over an operation. I felt like I made an accomplishment every time I discharged a patient!”
Lutheran Hillside Village is home to more than a dozen retired nurses and Jim enjoys reminiscing with them. “Once a year the community has a Nurses Luncheon where we get together and talk about our careers,” he explained.
Each nurse has their own unique story, but there are some things they all have in common. “Once people find out you were a nurse, they tend to ask you questions. And what they’re really trying to get is a diagnosis. I say, ‘Well, sounds like you need to talk to a doctor, and I’ve got RN after my name not MD!’” he laughs.
Reflecting on his nursing career, Jim said, “The best job I ever had was being a nurse! I would do it all over again. Only difference is I would have made the choice earlier.”