By Jim Elias
They say, if you work at a job you love you’ll never work a day in your life.
For 45 years, Jean Edwards has been a nurse. Last Friday she retired from the job she has loved her entire life.
“Being able to help somebody in any kind of medical distress has always been what drives me as a nurse,” said Edwards. “Helping them feel better to get well, or knowing that I tried and had done the best I can is what I love about nursing.”
Edwards felt the call to be a nurse as a young girl. She lived next door to her grandmother with chronic health conditions and watched her aunt, a nurse, provide the continual loving care needed. At about 10 years old, she read the Cherry Ames series books about the many kinds of nurses and how nurses help people. When a senior in high school, her mother passed away following a short battle with cancer. Even with 4 younger brothers to help care for at home, her dad knew Jean needed to be a nurse and she went to Cedar Rapids to St. Luke’s School of Nursing.
She graduated from St. Luke’s in 1973 and, as they say, the rest is history.
Edwards went to work as a nurse right away at Muscatine General Hospital. She spent her first two years working on the medical floor and in 1975 was tapped to be one of the nurses to help establish and open the Intensive Care Unit.
“One of my most exciting times as a nurse was when we opened the ICU,” said Edwards. “Dr. John Ellis recruited us, got us training and prepared to be ICU nurses.”
“On the first day we opened the ICU in the Muscatine hospital, we had a patient from the emergency room with life threatening heart problems. We were able to shock him and help him that day, and he went on to live a long time after.”
Edwards later moved from the hospital to roles as an occupational health nurse in industry and as a Director of Nurses for the Muscatine doctors’ clinic. In 1997, she joined Monsanto where she’s spent the last 20 years of her career taking care of the up to 600 employees at the Muscatine Monsanto plant.
She says because of the nature of the work at the plant, two thirds of the Monsanto workers are in jobs that require medical physicals every year. So, Tuesdays became the day when she and the company doctor would perform 10-15 physicals each week. In addition to physicals, the company would have her do many other health and wellness programs including hearing tests, ergonomics evaluations and improvements, training for a substance-free workplace, blood tests, and cholesterol screenings.
“Many people have made lifestyle changes because they know about their health concerns,” Edwards says with pride about the Family & Safety Wellness programs Monsanto provides its employees. “It’s a vital piece for the company to provide resources to not only keep people safe, but to keep them well, healthy, and productive.”
Edwards said in her role at Monsanto, she was the nurse on duty from 6:00AM to 2:30PM, which allowed her to be available for workers coming off the night shift, throughout the first shift, as well as to those coming in to start work on the 2nd shift at 3:00PM. The company already has Edward’s successor in place and trained by her for the last six weeks, so few changes in nursing are expected.
Moving into retirement, Edwards expects to ‘spend more time with her grandchildren and to travel’. She said she’s been fortunate to have had opportunities with Monsanto to travel internationally to conduct medical audits, so in retirement she wishes to see places in the United States she’s not yet experienced. First on her list are Nashville, parts of Kentucky, and the East coast … those are second on her list after seeing more of her grandkids in northern Wisconsin.
Edwards says she will travel in retirement, and will likely will do some nursing, too. After all, it’s a job she loves and that’s not work.