Tag Archives: nursing

Passion, Purpose and Flexibility

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Shirley’s long-time passion was downhill skiing. She’s standing next to a framed collection of patches from all the mountains where she and Marvin skied during much of their 65- year marriage. Marv passed away a few months after they moved into Vista Prairie at Goldfinch Estates in Fairmont, MN. Now 90, Shirley’s fellow Goldfinch residents became her family, along with two children, four grand-kinds and five great grand-children, one of whom she recently met for the first time.

While childrearing and skiing were among Shirley’s passions, her lifelong purpose was “helping.” Her career in nursing evolved to leadership and administration in Estherville, Iowa, where she started the School of Nursing at Iowa Lakes Community College.

“Then they moved the school to Emmetsburg,” Shirley recounts. “That made the driving too much for me so they asked if I would be director of nursing at Holy Family Hospital, which I did for a long time.”

Shirley’s career flexibility set up her third chapter in nursing after she and Marv moved to Fairmont. She directed services at a half-way house and an outpatient center treating people with chemical dependency. She served her final nursing role for people who were incarcerated in the Martin County jail, retiring when she was 77. 

As we enter the 21st month of this pandemic, Shirley still has the mind of a nurse. She laments that not as many people are vaccinated as should be. “I think the messages are mixed,” she says. “I think the science is good but then people begin to go out on their own. ‘The government isn’t going to tell me what to do.’ Well, they tell you; you have to wear a seatbelt. They tell you; you can’t drive more than so many miles an hour. What’s the big deal?”

Shirley skied until she was 77. “Skiing is my claim to fame,” she sums up. She and Marv skied together all over the world, much of it after Marv lost one of his legs to cancer. “They told him when they amputated that he only had a 20 percent chance of living,” Shirley remembers. “And he lived 30 years.”

The Goldfinch Estates community offers 92 one and two-bedroom apartments, like Shirley’s, for seniors who want access to supportive services while maintaining their independence.  We also offer 41 memory care suites that provide a long-term option for seniors diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia.

Educator, nurse, joy promoter

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Aja Ross embodies all three identities on the staff for Vista Prairie at Goldfinch Estates in Fairmont, MN. Most recently and by popular demand, she’s escorted Lenny, her Bichon/Lhasa Apso mix – a source of plenty of joy for Goldfinch.

“He’s a little timid but once he gets past that, he’s a social butterfly,” Aja explains. “People just seem to light up when they see him.”

Now that the community is more open, with COVID-19 waning in Martin County, Lenny tags along with Aja (pronounced Asia) a few days each week. His coat is hypoallergenic, so no risk to residents — and he’s well compensated. “Sometimes the residents give him treats, his favorite form of payment,” Aja says, “and the back scratches and playing fetch with him.”

The pandemic’s fewer restrictions are a welcome transition for the whole Goldfinch community. Aja is thankful that the residents responded so well to the vaccinations.

“My guard still isn’t down. I was nervous when we opened up,” she says, “but that’s just the nurse in me.”

Aja brought her Med-Surg and ER experience at Mayo Clinic Health System-St. James Hospital to her new position as Goldfinch’s staff development nurse, responsible to ensure that the whole staff complies with the latest state health department requirements and Vista Prairie’s stringent policies for quality care. She’s now taken on the added responsibilities as the Director of Health Services, a position that still requires her to tap her earlier roots as an educator.

Career transitions are nothing new for Aja. In 2007 she started a one-year stint as a social studies teacher at Fairmont High School, before she decided to go back to college for her degree in nursing.

“The combination of being able to teach and still work as a nurse with staff development was perfect,” Aja says of her initial Goldfinch role. “I’m still using my nursing skills but I’m also teaching.” One of her earliest clinical training experiences in nursing school was at Goldfinch, and her grandpa lived there for a time, in memory care.

Goldfinch Estates offers 41 memory care suites that provide a long-term option for seniors diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia. We also offer 92 one and two-bedroom apartments for seniors who want access to supportive services while maintaining their independence.