Longtime nurse: No desire to retire
Kankakee resident Marian Wulffe lives by the motto, “I love what I do, and I do what I love.” For her, that’s nursing.
Just shy of her 80th birthday, Wulffe continues to work in her profession — now as a coach for nursing students at Olivet Nazarene University.
At the university, she described her job as “sharing the tricks of the trade and providing moral support.”
This week, with students and faculty, Wulffe celebrated her 60th year in nursing. She retired the first time at 72. She had worked for years in the intensive care unit at Riverside Medical Center.
Wulffe, who has a master’s degree in nursing, now helps students in the nursing school’s “virtual learning center,” where students get hands-on training. The center is made up of beds with dummies underneath covers.
“Nursing has made up a big portion of my life,” Wulffe said during an interview in the center. “I owe it all to the Lord. That’s my whole focus. The Lord has helped me to survive.”
The Kankakee native started her career at St. Mary’s Hospital in Kankakee during a time when nurses and doctors used paper charts, not computers, to measure patients’ progress.
Asked about what’s changed about the nursing profession in the last 60 years, Wulffe said the opportunities are greater, noting the increased demand for nurses nationwide.
“The job opportunities are astronomical. I tell the students: Choose what you like. If you don’t like your work, you’re not going to be good at it,” Wulffe said.
Nursing, she said, is not only administering medications and other tasks, it is also about communication.
“What a nurse says can affect a patient. It doesn’t take much to increase a patient’s anxiety. Watch what you say and how you say it,” she said.
The same year Wulffe became a nurse, she married Orville Wulffe, an Army veteran and building contractor, who died in 2014. They had two sons, Lawrence and Matthew Wulffe. One of her grandsons, Daniel Wulffe, followed her footsteps into nursing.
Nancy Pyle, an assistant nursing professor at Olivet Nazarene, said students like Wulffe.
“She is their grandma,” Pyle said. “She’s very good at helping students practice their skills. She’s also a good listener for them. Professors know our students are getting professional help with their skills. Nursing is hard. She is someone here to love on them.”
Wulffe will celebrate her 80th birthday May 31. While many her age are no longer working, she plans to stay on the job.
“I have no intention of retiring as long as the Lord lets me get up in the morning,” she said.