Monday, June 23, 2008
Shriners nurse retires at age 86
Faith Nakano will "play for a while" after working for 66 years
By Helen Altonn firstname.lastname@example.org
After working 66 years at Shriners Hospital for Children in Honolulu, Faith Nakano says she has "finally found" a word not in her vocabulary - retirement.
She began working at Shriners Hospital in 1942
"I've been working all my life," said Nakano, 86, in an interview. "I decided I'm going to retire and play for a while, for the rest of my life."
She will begin the new phase of her life July 1 and says she's "dragging along" her husband, Steve. An employee aloha potluck is scheduled at 11 a.m. today at the hospital.
Nakano has a long list of things she wants to do, starting with tai chi. "As we get older, it's important to get balancing," she explained.
She also wants to take an island cruise despite her husband's tendency to get seasick. "I will give him medicines to take care of it," she said.
Over the decades, she has seen dramatic changes in care of children, with improved facilities and procedures at the hospital, which has more than 7,000 active cases. The hospital offers children free specialty care in orthopedics and for burn and spinal cord injuries.
"Now the trend is in and out," she said. "Once upon a time, cases were three to six months (in the hospital). Now, in no time, they can go home, get care at home, and check in on an outpatient basis."
Nakano began working as a nurse in 1941 at Fort Shafter, helping to care for wartime victims. In February 1942, at age 20, she joined Shriners Hospital as a licensed practical nurse.
She worked part-time, caring for children in the hospital ward while finishing nursing school. She switched to the operating room when there was an opening about five years later, and worked in the hospital's outpatient clinic when there were no surgeries scheduled.
"They didn't have anybody in the operating room steady because it wasn't organized yet," she said. "I was able to organize the department."
She was an operating room nurse for 38 years.
"Finally, they said they needed a full-time person in medical records, and I shifted over, 23 years ago."
People have asked her how she could stand working at one hospital for 66 years, she said.
"I would be burned out, I'm sure, If I didn't jump around. The only place I didn't work was in the kitchen," she said, laughing.
She said she is "really happy" about her long career at Shriners.
"Certainly, I cherish all the wonderful memories here in my golden years," she said. "I really cherish this place. It is like home for me, my second home."
Nakano has won several awards from the hospital, which celebrated her 60th anniversary in 2002 and established an award in her honor. She also won the Honolulu Star-Bulletin's Longest Worker Contest in 2005 for the longest time with the same employer. She was one of the founders of the Oahu and Hawaii State licensed practical nurse organizations and served on their boards from 1965 to 1990.
When Shriners Hospital broke ground Aug. 7 on a $73 million renovation, Nakano put her footprint into a block of concrete.
"They're still keeping it," she said.