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Lovelace retires after 46-year nursing career

Mikki Lovelace has seen many changes in her time as a registered nurse in Melrose.

Nurse Mikki Lovelace in 1966.

Nurse Mikki Lovelace in 1966.

     “Never when I was in nurse’s training did I think I’d have a computer that would dictate to me what I had to do. It was more nursing back then, more hands on with the patients. It’s gotten to be so…” she hesitates to find the right word…  “Electronic. It’s hard to remember that there’s a patient we have to be taking care of.”  She adds, “It should be so much faster on the computer, but it’s not. There’s so much more that we need to check.”

     But Mikki has never forgotten that her patients come first, as she not only gives injections and baths, but holds frightened hands, helps deliver a baby, shares a prayer, or prepares a simple meal for someone who suddenly has an appetite after all. She gained even more insight into the role of a nurse as she fought her own successful battle with cancer in 2001.

    A Crosby Ironton native, Mikki started her career in the Melrose health system, now CentraCare, in 1966 when she was a senior in nurse’s training at St. Gabriel’s, Little Falls.

  “I had a classmate from Melrose, Darlene Moening. We came here every weekend to pay for our education. I stayed with her parents, Ted and Rose, and many a winter morning Dort Tiemann (a long-time Melrose nurse) who lived across the street gave us a ride to work.”

     She graduated in 1967 and worked one year at the Little Falls Medical Center. In 1968 she married Melrose teacher Jesse Lovelace and began what would turn out to be a 46-year career. She began working with the only two doctors on staff, L.B. Kuhlmann and A.H. Zachman, sometimes accompanying them into rural areas as they administered intravenous treatments to patients with various diseases. Later she was assigned to Dr. Allan Horn.

     For the last six or so years, Mikki has been the outreach coordinator, putting together the schedules for the many specialists who visit the CentraCare clinic. She organizes their schedules, runs their clinics, and schedules their patient times. The specialists cover fields such as urology, oncology, cardiology, and allergies.

    “When the new clinic was built four years ago, they moved outreach here,” Mikki says.   “It’s been such a blessing because before that we would hold our clinics in the hospital and hope that we would have available rooms where outreach doctors could see their patients. It wasn’t always that easy. Sometimes they had to go into a recovery room. Here they have examining rooms and their own work stations, which is very nice, for them and the patients. There are four chemotherapy rooms with recliners and TVs.”

     From her small office, cheerful with a lighted year-round tree (currently sporting dragonflies and flowers), and lined with shelves holding handmade gifts from patients, photographs, plaques, statuettes, and her ever-present bowl of chocolates to share, she reminisces on her years when nurses could set paperwork aside to care for patients, instead of checking everything on the computer before even beginning. Still, she says that she still has a lot of patient contact as she helps with the clinics.

   “At the end of your shift you could finish the paperwork,” she says. “We can’t do that today. We have to get all these things checked off. Years ago when you had to take care of a patient, you could set your paperwork aside before you could continue on. But it is nice to have someone from an outside facility that’s connected to the electronic medical records and just be able to pull up information.”

Mikki Lovelace with her all-occasion tree, trimmed.

Mikki Lovelace with her all-occasion tree, trimmed.

       Mikki and Jesse’s daughter ,Santina, is a nurse’s aide, working in Sauk Rapids and also at Pine Villa in Melrose. She is currently attending community college, and she has been accepted at Alexandria Technical College for her licensed practical nurse training, beginning next fall. A veterinary technician, Santina has worked in various veterinary clinics around the state. Daughter Laurice works for Allianz in St. Louis Park; she is going back to school to be a graphic designer.

      Mikki’s last day of work was June 21, the first day of summer and the day before her and Jesse’s 45th anniversary. “It’s kind of historical,” she muses.

    “I’m going to enjoy being at home for a while,” she says. “I’ll have lots of projects like weeding flower beds and upgrading around the house. I’ll be able to be at home and have my time to do whatever I want to do.”

    She says, “I’ll miss the people that I’ve worked with for many, many years, and  I’ll miss the patient contact. But I’m kind of looking forward to the next chapter.”

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