At age eight, Char Guthmiller already knew what she was going to be when she grew up.
“I wanted to be a nurse,” she said.
So that’s just what she did.
Now, after a 45-year career in nursing at Eventide, Char hangs up her nurse’s hat one last time on Tuesday, January 25, 2022.
“I have to tell you that in the 45 years I’ve been up there, I’ve never found a dull moment. I’ve always found something to do,” Char said. “As I reflect on the past 45 years and how nursing has changed, one thing that has not changed is the ultimate goal of providing the best care to the residents that so deserve it. I hope I’ve made a positive difference in their lives as well.”
From her ubiquitous nurse’s hat to myriad nursing awards and community volunteer efforts, Char leaves Eventide Jamestown a little quieter than normal. And while her many coworkers, residents, families and friends are sad to see her go, they’re also happy to celebrate this new chapter in her life.
“Char has been an incredible nurse and mentor to other staff at Eventide,” said Eventide Human Resources Manager Robin Gumke. “Her award-winning career is something we won’t soon forget. She’s an inspiration.”
‘Nothing to regret’
Raised in a home that valued hard work, Char wasted no time after graduating high school in 1976. By age 19, she graduated from North Dakota State College of Science, then Wahpeton State School of Science, in 1977.
By October 1977, fully licensed as a practical nurse, Char stepped into a new role at Hi-Acres Manor Nursing Home (now Eventide Jamestown) where she cared for elderly residents.
While the nursing aspect felt natural to her, working in long term care wasn’t something she thought she’d do for long.
“I thought, ‘Well, I’ll give it a couple months to find something else,’” Char said. “And 45 years later, I’m still there. So I just feel like it was God calling me where I should be.”
The Jamestown, ND, native has called Eventide her work home ever since.
“I never did go anywhere else. I never wanted to,” Char said.
Not just a conversation piece or a way to remember Char in the hallways, the hat has come to symbolize tradition, commitment and care — all important facets of the nursing career she’s held close to her heart and her practice for more than four decades.
She and her family, including her late father and well-known Jamestown resident Les Guthmiller, have also been instrumental volunteers at Eventide and Hi-Acres throughout the years.
“I feel so blessed to have met so many wonderful residents, families and people, and even more blessed to have been a part of their life’s journey,” Char said.
Taking it a little slower
To this day, known as “that nurse who wears the hat,” Char plans to slow down (“just a bit”) so she can focus on caring for her family and enjoying hobbies.
“COVID was bad on us,” she said. “My dad, me, my brother and sister all got it and they were really sick. All three of them could have died.”
Char said it was a message from above she was surprised (and maybe a little relieved) to receive.
“With COVID, I knew I needed to take care of my family,” and that’s when she decided she would take family medical leave. “All that running around for 45 years, too, that takes a toll on the body. I don’t recover as quickly as I used to.”
On leave for three months to care for a sick family, Char realized something very important: “I felt less stress and really enjoyed being able to take care of my family.”
In addition to helping her siblings and relatives live healthier lives, Char hopes to spend time in retirement traveling, reading, working on crafts, relaxing and “having more me time,” she said. “I just have to feel good about myself that I did 45 years to my best ability and I have nothing to regret looking back. I feel like I did the right thing in life. Yep.”
Words of wisdom
Char is confident the staffers she leaves behind to care for residents will do a great job.
But as a way to impart four-and-a-half-decades of nursing experience onto those just starting in the field, here are some of Char’s words of wisdom:
● “You need to do your job to the fullest for the residents because that’s why they’re there — for us to take care of them.”
● “Be willing to help out in any capacity, even if it’s not part of your direct role.”
● “Keep up on your skills and stay busy.”
● “Helping will make you a better person to take care of the residents.”
● “You have bad days, too.”
● “If you have time, go spend it visiting with residents.”
● “Anticipate what you need to do or what’s going to happen next.”
● “Be proud of being a nurse.”