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Woman still finds nursing career rewarding after more than 50 years

CHIPPEWA FALLS — A lengthy list of acronyms after her name on a LinkedIn account — also known as post-nominal letters — is a testament to Lois Peloquin’s degrees and certifications.

The most recent of these were certifications in foot care, which Peloquin earned just a couple of years ago at the age of 80. It’s just one of many areas in which Peloquin has earned specialized training during more than a half-century of nursing, mostly in the Chippewa Valley.

“I will tell you this,” Peloquin shrugs during an interview on the porch of her Chippewa Falls home near Lake Wissota, “nursing has done more for me than I’ve done for it.”

That’s highly debatable.

After graduating from Chippewa Falls High School, Peloquin, 82, opted for the St. Joseph’s School of Nursing in Marshfield. She laments that women had few choices at the time — basically limited to becoming a secretary, nurse, teacher or wife, she said — despite, by her own admission, not being a stellar student.

“I barely got into the program,” she said of the Marshfield nursing school, “and barely stayed there.”

Nevertheless, she made it through the coursework and remains friends with several of her former classmates, who lived under the supervision of nuns and housemothers.

“We lived in a dorm,” Peloquin said. “We studied together, worked together and went out together. It was a different life than it is now.”

Lifelong learner

Peloquin eventually added to her resume a Bachelor of Arts degree from Winona State (Minn.) University, a Bachelor of Science in nursing from the University at Albany (SUNY) and a master’s in education at UW-Stout.

Peloquin returned to the Chippewa Valley after her education in Marshfield, working at Luther Hospital and St. Joseph’s Hospital in Chippewa Falls. Her husband, Dan, worked for Cray Research. Balancing life, work and her continuing education wasn’t always easy.

While working the night shift at St. Joseph’s, the Peloquin family was limited to one car. Dan would load the vehicle with the kids in their pajamas and pick up Lois at about 11 p.m. from work.

“It sounds maybe terrible,” Peloquin said, “but it was so wonderful ... finishing the shift and then have those precious kids in the car when you got off duty. I loved the feeling.”

On one occasion at Winona State, one of her young sons, Greg, jumped into a bus of college students to go to a baseball game. Her sons also include Brad, Kipp and Michael. During a visit to UW-Eau Claire, she couldn’t immediately find one of the four. It turns out he had harmlessly fallen into a creek and was taken care of by passers-by.

“All my kids went on to college,” Peloquin said with a grin. “So (the experiences) couldn’t have been that bad.”

Peloquin went on to teach at Chippewa Valley Technical College before doing the same for Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College. Other titles have included associate director of nursing at Barron Memorial Medical Center and both education coordinator and director of nursing for Heyde Health System. Ultimately, Peloquin returned to teaching.

With her training in nail and foot care, Peloquin was scheduled to instruct during UW-Eau Claire continuing education programs on the subject this year, but the sessions were canceled due to COVID concerns. She also volunteers her expertise at free clinics in Eau Claire and Menomonie and at other sites.

Peloquin still feels she could work full time.

“Why would I retire,” she said, “when I love my job?”

Mary Ellen Stolder, program director for graduate nursing at Viterbo University, couldn’t argue that point. The two became close friends while teaching at CVTC.

“Lois is the essence of successful aging,” Stolder said. “She has the energy of a 20-year-old and is one of the most interesting conversationalists you’ll ever meet.

“She is a lifelong learner too. There isn’t anything that intimidates her about developing new skills such as becoming an expert in foot care. She traveled all over the country to learn these skills to bring back home.”

Seasonal work

During many summers, Peloquin worked as a camp nurse. She served in that role at the Eau Claire YMCA’s Camp Manitou, which allowed her children to enroll for free, and Camp Jackpine. At Manitou, she recalls being popular with the campers because she had a TV. Less appealing is the memory of being in a cabin so overrun with mice that she spent a night in the cook’s quarters. Peloquin also worked at camps of shorter lengths that served stroke patients and those with diabetes.

Peloquin spent time as a traveling nurse as well, which took her to Florida, Arizona and California. The wages were generous, she said, and family members would visit during her three-month stays.

Armed with such experience, Peloquin has developed curriculum for nursing assistant courses at multiple local nursing homes.

Less-than-favorable memories that stand out for Peloquin during a career in nursing include:

• She immediately fainted after being vaccinated when she went to school in Marshfield.

• She pricked her thumb on the first shot she ever administered.

• At a time when many items were reused in health care, after being washed, wrapped and sterilized, she burned to a crisp a catheter she had boiling on a stove.

Peloquin also takes note of the many changes in health care that have occurred over time. Such observations included:

• After cataract surgery, she and others had to line the patient with sandbags so they wouldn’t move their head. They couldn’t comb the patient’s hair for a week.

• The remaining slivers from bars of soap would be put in pitchers, boiled down and used for enemas.

• In Marshfield, when doctors would enter a room the nurses would have to get up from their chairs so the doctors would have a place to sit.

• While at CVTC, Peloquin took students to a group therapy session at the Tomah VA Medical Center, where everyone was smoking. She added that country music wasn’t allowed “because it’s too sad.”

Peloquin is quick to add, however, that the good times have far outweighed the bad.

Once, a young Amish woman was sick with eclampsia, and Peloquin and other nurses dutifully stayed by her side. She pulled through, and the doctor in charge of the case bought them all earrings for their assistance.

“It’s the little things that make a big difference,” Peloquin said.

While getting psychiatric training at Winnebago State Hospital, there was a dance at which a patient asked Peloquin to dance. She accepted, and a professor in attendance who observed the gesture offered her a full ride to UW-Madison for school.

On the road

One outside-the-office passion for Peloquin is travel. Training and conferences have taken her all over the U.S., and New York City has been a frequent destination both with university programs and on her own.

Peloquin has traveled to Russia twice, Thailand, Europe and Japan. She’s taken trips through clubs and organizations with her grandchildren in tow.

Stolder has at times been Peloquin’s travel companion.

“Lois is quite the globetrotter,” she said. “If you travel with her, she has never met a stranger. She is a legendary letter and postcard writer, and her notes about everyday life are treasures for safekeeping.”

The coronavirus has curbed such journeys for now. Immediate family is allowed in the Peloquin home, but most visitors are understandably limited to safe-distance socializing on the porch. She and her husband, who were high school sweethearts and married in 1961, miss going out for dinner.

Nevertheless, Peloquin continues to add to her professional accomplishments. She still takes in online educational programs about every two weeks. Last year, she and a few others got their paper, “Expanding a Foot Care Education Product for Nurses,” published in the Journal of Wound, Ostomy and Continence Nursing.

“I’d rather go to a class than go to the beach,” Peloquin said with a smile.

As someone who would rather seek out and listen to advice than give it, Peloquin did note that for those interested in the field, “You can do absolutely anything in nursing.” She said for some it’s important to get in with as advanced a degree as possible but added that, “you can pick at getting a higher degree after that if you desire.”

Peloquin hopes her story inspires others to pursue careers in nursing, an industry in which there’s a significant shortage of workers because of retirements and other factors.

“Being a nurse was not a job for me,” Peloquin said. “It was an opportunity to do anything I wanted to do — joy and fun in a career day after day, year after year.

“And it’s still going on.”


National
AP
Veterans are divided about reports Trump disparaged military

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. — In this soldier’s city and across the country, veterans and military families are divided about reports that President Donald Trump made disparaging comments toward the military, with some service members bristling at the remarks and others questioning whether they happened.

Thomas Richardson, a retired member of the Army’s 82nd Airborne, did not like what he heard.

Richardson was trained to respect the office of commander in chief, but he was rankled by allegations in The Atlantic, many of them independently confirmed by The Associated Press, that Trump had referred to fallen and captured U.S. service members as “losers” and “suckers.”

“Usually, you don’t choose those kinds of missions. You agree to serve and you agree to go where your assignment is,” said Richardson, who did not vote for Trump in 2016.

Fayetteville, home to more than 200,000 people, is bordered by Fort Bragg on its northern limits. It was named in 1783 for the Marquis de Lafayette, the French hero of the American Revolution.

Katie Constandse, 37, is married to a soldier stationed at Fort Bragg. She is skeptical about the reports of Trump’s remarks and is prepared to stick by him even if they are true.

“If you twist his words or just take one thing out of context, you’ll always find a way to hate him,” Constandse said. “He’s a human being. He takes a lot of stuff. I don’t see how he has survived for almost four years — the constant barrage of anger toward him.”

Overall, Constandse said Trump’s presidency has been good for service members and their families.

“We don’t need someone who is warm and cuddly,” she said.

At North Carolina Veterans Park, Ben Henderson – a soldier stationed at Fort Bragg – was showing his father around the gardens and memorials on Saturday.

Henderson voted for Trump in 2016 and plans to do it again in November, partly in appreciation for a recent military pay raise. As for the reports about Trump, Henderson said he had given them little thought.

“I don’t get involved with all that politics stuff. I’m concentrating on my job,” he said.

Trump and his allies have dismissed the Atlantic report as false and depicted the president – who did not serve in the military – as a staunch supporter of service members and veterans.

Military families were broadly supportive of Trump in the 2016 election, and a Pew Research Center survey of veterans conducted in June 2019 found overall that veterans were more supportive of Trump than the general public.

Among that group is retired Green Beret Joe Kent.

At his home near Portland, Oregon, Kent clicked on the Atlantic article as soon as he scrolled across the explosive story on his Twitter feed Thursday evening. He does not overlook headlines regarding fallen service members because his wife was one of them.

Shannon Kent, a 36-year-old senior chief petty officer with the Navy, was killed in January 2019 in a suicide bombing in Syria.

Her husband, now working for an information technology company, does not believe Trump made the disparaging remarks attributed to him.

“I have a really hard time believing anonymous sources,” Kent said. “The new accusations just seem so sensational to me.”

Kent, 40, speaks from his own personal experiences with the president. When his family gathered at Dover Air Force Base last January to receive his wife’s remains, Trump was there.

“I didn’t get any kind of disrespect,” said Kent, who is now on the advisory board of Military Families for Trump. “He seemed to me to be a leader who was deeply conflicted about sending people off to die.”

John Doolittle of St. Petersburg, Florida — who retired from the Navy SEALS three years ago — is another Trump admirer unswayed by the reports.

Trump “has gone out of his way to make sure veterans get a fair share,” said Doolittle, 50, who now works for a firm offering fitness and rehabilitation programs. “I think morale in the services and the veteran community is very positive.”

Other veterans, however, have been disenchanted with Trump for much of his presidency. He mocked Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona, who died in 2018, for being captured by the enemy while serving in the Vietnam War.

“I understand what The Atlantic reported is probably painful for the president to hear,” said retired Maj. Gen. Paul Eaton. “But it’s not a surprise to anyone in uniform after watching how he behaved toward Sen. McCain.”

Eaton, who now lives on Fox Island in Washington state’s Puget Sound, retired from the Army in 2006 after stints as a commander in Iraq and elsewhere. For several years, he’s been an adviser to VoteVets, which describes itself as the largest progressive veterans’ organization in the U.S.

Eaton’s father was an Air Force pilot who was shot down over Laos in 1969 and his remains recovered many years later. His wife is a former Army captain and daughter of a Marine Corps colonel.

“I’m not surprised that the president cannot grasp the nature and quality of selfless service,” Eaton said. “It’s all transactional for him ... it’s beyond comprehension that we would have to tolerate a commander in chief who behaves the way this president does.”


Front-page
featured
69 UW-EC students test positive for COVID-19

EAU CLAIRE — UW-Eau Claire has 69 students who have tested positive for the COVID-19 virus: 17 on-campus students and 52 students living off-campus.

None are hospitalized, a Sunday news release from the university says. According to the release:

Putnam Hall remains the isolation and quarantine location for on-campus students. As of Sunday evening, Putnam Hall has seven isolation beds in use out of a total of 48 beds, and 11 quarantine beds in use out of a total of 73 beds.

Six of the students who tested positive may have had interactions with other students in their residence hall. As a result, UW-Eau Claire has placed six residence hall wings into full quarantine, affecting 184 students. This means that while the quarantined students are not ill or showing symptoms, they must stay in their rooms for 14 days.

Quarantine is for students who may have had contact with an individual who tested positive for COVID-19.

Isolation is for students who are symptomatic and awaiting test results or have already received positive test results.

UW-Eau Claire will launch a public dashboard this week that will include the number of students who have tested positive on campus, and the number of students tested.

The university has arranged for meals and for books to be delivered to the students in quarantine and isolation on campus.

“This is happening, we’re on top of it and we have programs in place to manage this,” Warren Anderson, vice chancellor for equity, diversity and inclusion and student affairs, says in the release.

“We continue to work in coordination with the Eau Claire City-County Health Department,” he added. “We are in daily contact with the health department and we’re proud of the relationship and system we have in place for monitoring and testing.”

Lieske Giese, director of the Health Department, indicated that the current disease investigations into positive cases show there were no close student contacts connected to UW-Eau Claire classrooms.

“This is a testament to the good work that the faculty and staff at UW-Eau Claire have done to provide learning environments that minimize risk for students and instructors,” Giese says in the release. “Student social behavior is still our highest concern. We recommend that students on and off-campus keep their social circles small, practice physical distancing and wear masks.”

“The residential life teams are checking on the students daily,” Quincy Chapman, director of housing and residence life, says in the release. “The good news is the students continue to record their health data daily — as required — on the health app called The Blugold Protocol, which was developed specifically for us here at UW-Eau Claire.”

The release includes items for students to keep in mind:

• Staying at school is key, not going to a parent or guardian’s home.

• When a student is tested, it is important for the student to report their campus address, not their home address.

• Students should keep their contact circle small.

• Continue to wear masks, wash hands regularly and practice physical distancing.