Resident Spotlight: Wynanne Dierssen

Celebrating a Nurse & Mother

During the month of May, two special groups are celebrated: MOTHERS AND NURSES. Wynanne Dierssen, a “happy” resident of Kirby Pines, can claim the honor of being both. As nurses today are struggling and dying in caring for COVID-19 patients, Wynanne’s life as a nurse was always in areas where nursing care was most challenging. Her early life was a happy one but full of challenges as well. This is her story:

Wynanne was born and reared on the North side of Chicago. Born during the Depression, her family struggled. Yet, she had a happy childhood because many members of her extended family lived in the same apartment, and, there was an amusement park nearby. Her only sibling, a nine year older brother, often “scoffed at the idea of having to babysit his sister”. Wynanne feels fortunate that she was always able to attend parochial schools.

Wynanne in Nursing School

Wynanne chose nursing as a career because of the encouragement of her mother. According to Wynanne, “Mother said nursing was a noble profession and one could always find a job”. She took her mother’s advice and was accepted into St. Xavier University, Chicago, graduating with a B.S. in Nursing in 1957. Wynanne says this about her studies: “Those were hectic years and I often wonder how I managed to graduate. I had lost my mother to heart disease in 1953. My father and extended family supported me for those four years. School was very difficult. We attended classes in the day time and spent evenings and nights providing nursing care to patients. We hardly ever slept!” Of course, studies and work didn’t interfere with dating! In 1955, Wynanne met her future husband. They married on October 12, 1957.

Wynanne’s first job was with the City of Chicago as a Visiting Nurse. Her job was high risk, visiting tuberculosis patients in their homes and assisting them in following their medical program. On learning she was to become a mother, Wynanne left this position and practiced private duty nursing for her remaining pregnancy. She temporarily left nursing to care for her children. According to Wynanne, “my family grew from one son to an additional two daughters-three fun, smart, and rambunctious kids”. Soon, however she returned to a part-time job at an outpatient clinic in Chicago. One of her most pleasant surprises was to meet the “Hamburger King”: the founder of McDonald’s who had availed himself of their services.

In 1977, Wynanne’s husband was transferred to Memphis. This was an exciting time to be in Memphis. Elvis Presley had just died! Wynanne took another hiatus from work as she stayed at home to help her children adjust to their many challenges from the move. In 1979, Wynanne was offered a job with a home health agency. This was a new and growing area of nursing and says Wynanne, “it was exciting to be able to bring ‘solid’ nursing care to patients at home”. This experience led to her move to the new rehabilitation and extended care offered by the Memphis Veterans Hospital. The laid back and relaxed atmosphere promoted, allowed nurses to wear jeans and tee shirts. According to Wynanne, patients sometimes asked, “When am I going to see a nurse?” When the VA decided to open a home health agency, Wynanne was one of four nurses selected to practice there. Wynanne ultimately became the Director of Home Based Primary Care, an innovative, interdisciplinary approach involving all branches of medical services caring for over 100 homebound veterans.

In 1992, the HBPC was honored to receive the Federal Executive Public Service Award. In 1996, Wynanne was recognized as one of the “Excellent Eleven” during the Celebrate Nursing Ceremony in Memphis. In view of this experience in developing a new role for nursing, Wynanne encourages all nurses in this way, “Don’t be afraid to create your own nursing job built around your own needs that coincides or expands those of your employer”.

Since retirement from nursing, Wynanne has stayed busy. She volunteers for the Germantown Community Library. Pre-pandemic, she tutored kindergarten students at Sherwood Elementary and was a greeter at Church of the Holy Spirit. She formerly collected “primitive” antiques and currently enjoys reading, theater, movies, concerts and “praying for the resolution of the pandemic”. Laughingly, Wynanne says, “I think the word ‘panDAMic’ is a better description”.

Wynanne has traveled extensively in this country as well as France and Greece. “I would love to travel again. I have mini-trips planned to see my daughters and grandchildren in St. Louis and friends in Atlanta ASAP”. Wynanne moved to a Garden Home in October, 2016. Her reason for choosing Kirby Pines was the Life Care Concept.

In a tribute to Florence Nightingale, Wynanne recalls, “Nurses honor her each year during Nurses Week, May 6-12. Nightingale, born on May 12, 1820, established a NOBLE profession by introducing care that would revolutionize nursing. Nightingale’s ‘Notes on Nursing’ became the model for the education of nurses throughout the world. Today’s nurses are having life changing experiences and many have died providing care for COVID patients. Those of us who are nurses understand the nature of nursing and what it means to be an integral part of a team sacrificing to save lives and provide security to those in crisis. To the Kirby Pines Nurses, I say, you are ALL honored during the month of May. You most emphatically deserve it. Be Proud!”

Thank you, Wynanne and all twenty retired nurses who are residents of Kirby Pines, for your years of service!

Wrtten by Joan Dodson, Resident, Kirby Pines