Retired nurses come back to administer COVID-19 vaccines


YANKTON, S.D. (KELO) – After devoting the better part of their lives to nursing the Yankton community, five retired nurses are back in action helping administer the COVID-19 vaccine to patients.

Since she was five years old, Ellen Becker has always been in touch with her need to help people. After high school she became a Nurse’s Aid at the Avera Sacred Heart Hospital in Yankton.

“I feel like I’ve grown up there. I’ve been there since I was probably 18 – 19 years old,” Becker said.

10 years later, she became a full-time Registered Nurse. She would go on to commit the next 33 years of her life to the job. She eventually retired at age 62.

“It has evolved and turned over to young, and bright young nurses, and when I retired it was good. I wanted to retire young enough so that somebody didn’t ask me to leave,” Becker said.

But, truth be told, she never did quite leave. She’s been a nurse ‘as-needed’ for the past 4 years. Recently, she’s been administering doses of the COVID-19 vaccine at the hospital.

Missy Pesek, RN administering the COVID-19 vaccine. Courtesy: Avera Sacred Heart Hospital

“I just feel like, ‘Wow. I am so glad-‘I feel kind of like Rosie Riveter during the second world war, like, ‘We can do this!’” Becker said.

“It takes an army to fight a battle like this. And, I’m thinking, ‘we have our army,’ and it’s set up with Avera,” ‘As-needed’ Nurse Lynette Bruening said.

Fellow retiree Lynette Bruening is also joining in to help. With her she’s bringing 43 years of experience.

“I retired 8 years ago, and… I found the need to just get back in among it,” Bruening said.

But not even that could prepare her for the emotional weight that came with every injection.

“The thing that brought tears to my eyes in one of the clinics was a lady that just broke down in tears the minute her injection entered her arm, and initially I thought, ‘Did she get hurt? Did the injection bother her?’ No. Those were tears of joy,” Bruening said.

Lynette Bruening injecting some hope. Courtesy: Avera Sacred Heart Hospital

“Everybody wants to be there and the people who are receiving their vaccinations want to be vaccinated,” Becker said.

If you ask Bruening and Becker they’d tell you that they only play a small part of a big team.

“It’s remarkable how the pharmacy and the infectious disease nurse and the whole administration – the whole hospital, I am just so proud to be a part of that,” Becker said.

“Everybody is just a part of that process and so thankful we have each other,” Bruening said.

Back in action. Courtesy: Avera Sacred Heart Hospital.

Bruening and Becker both plan to keep helping with vaccinations as long as they’re needed.

Avera has provided updates on when you can get the vaccine and an online vaccine form if you are eligible to get it.

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