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A nursing tradition

WORTHINGTON -- Ask a nurse -- any nurse -- why they went into their profession and the likely answer will be that they want to help people.

While that is true for Worthingtonians Audrey Reisdorfer, Julie Morphew and Jodie Morphew, what sets them apart is, perhaps, what binds them together. Reisdorfer watched three of her four daughters -- including her oldest, Julie -- graduate into the nursing profession. On May 12, the two witnessed the transition to the next generation as Julie's daughter, Jodie, walked across the platform at Minnesota West Community and Technical College to receive her registered nursing certificate.

The ceremony was enough to make any grandmother beam, and that is especially true for Reisdorfer who, although she has already retired once, continues to practice nursing at Worthington Regional Hospital.

Reisdorfer grew up in the midst of the Great Depression. After graduating as valedictorian of her class, she knew she had to get to college. At the time, the nursing profession was one of the best paying jobs for women -- and the cost for nurses training, at $350 for the three-year program -- was affordable.

When she completed the program at McKennan Hospital in Sioux Falls, S.D., in 1951, Reisdorfer used her skills as a Red Cross nurse during the polio epidemic. She worked in Texas, Wisconsin and on a Navajo Reservation in Arizona before returning to southwest Minnesota to get married.

While working at Arnold Memorial Hospital in Adrian, Reisdorfer returned to the classroom, earning her bachelor's degree in public health and elementary education from Augustana College in 1970. That same year, she became the school nurse at Worthington's West Elementary.

"Those were very enjoyable years, and I worked for the best boss ever, (Harold) Marske," she said. Reisdorfer remained a school nurse at West until 1982, when she went to work at Worthington Regional Hospital. Today, she works in nearly all nursing departments within the hospital, from medical-surgical to CCU, same-day surgery and emergency room.

As her career progressed, Reisdorfer witnessed many changes in the medical field.

"It's better than it used to be," she said. "I never say, 'The good ol' days.'

"I didn't even know what a bed pan was when I started, and a month later I was taking care of 30 patients."

Helping others is Reisdorfer's greatest enjoyment in nursing, and she has instilled that in each of her daughters.

"Mother always said it was an occupation you could do all your life," said Julie Morphew, whose nursing career has spanned nearly 30 years at Worthington Regional Hospital.

"My whole life has revolved around nursing," said Morphew. "Even when we got married, we had to plan our wedding around Mom's weekends off ... Graduation parties, everything you could think of your whole life, had to be scheduled around Mom's weekend off."

"That's all the girls knew," quipped Reisdorfer.

They didn't look at their mom's schedule as a barrier, but instead looked at it as something to work toward.

Morphew said she had no doubts about following in her mom's footsteps and entering the nursing field. She graduated from the Faribault School of Nursing in 1975 as a licensed practical nurse, spent a year in the post-coronary department at McKennan Hospital and then moved to Worthington to work in the hospital's lab and medical records departments.

Unlike her mother and daughter, Morphew does not work bedside with patients. As a diabetic, the long shifts and rotating schedules of nurses prevents her from doing direct-patient care.

"I like working with everyone in the hospital," she said. "It's a very nice place to work."

As for Morphew's daughter, Jodie, she plans to take her medical boards test next month and, in the meantime, continues to work as a technician at Sioux Valley Hospital in Sioux Falls, S.D., in the oncology-urology department. She plans to begin on-line courses this fall to earn her bachelor of nursing degree from Moorhead State University.

While Jodie said she received lots of encouragement and support to enter the nursing profession, she said she has no doubts about the choice she made.

"I see all her (Grandma Reisdorfer's) rewards -- everyone thinks she's a great nurse," said Jodie. "I've got to be like that. There's a lot to live up to."

Julie Buntjer

Julie Buntjer joined the Globe newsroom in December 2003, after working more than nine years for weekly newspapers. A native of Worthington, she has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism. Find more of her stories of farm life, family and various other tidbits at

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