“It’s all Tim’s fault,” Marie Huether said.
It was the early 1980s and she had fallen in love with Tim Heuther while working the summer at Wall Drug. It was his summer job. Her real job was to study at Montana State University in Bozeman so she could pursue her dreams and serve as a nurse.
Nursing was her passion. The good thing about nursing is that you can work anywhere. She worked hard at school, graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing in 1985, and followed her other passion by marrying Tim.
They first lived in Billings. Then Klamath Falls, Oregon. Tim was new to the newspaper industry and moved around different states looking for opportunities in journalism.
Marie worked in the hospitals as they moved. Sometimes a general floor nurse, other times a surgical and convalescent nurse.
Their adventures took them to Lander, Wyoming, Elko, Nevada, Gardnerville, Nevada where Marie worked at Carson City Hospital, Bowman, North Dakota, and finally some 13 years later to Sturgis, South Dakota.
It was in Sturgis in 1998 that Marie left the hospital environment and settled as a school nurse in elementary school.
She loved it.
“School nursing is so different from hospital nursing,” Marie said. “I hate to leave here.”
It was all Tim’s fault. Tim purchased the Bennett County Booster from Martin in 2001 and he and Marie moved from Sturgis.
Little did Marie know this move would open a door and result in a decorated career with the Bennett County School District spanning more than twenty-one years of public service.
Decorated because in 2017, her abilities and accomplishments in developing the school nurse program for the Bennett County School District were highlighted when she received the Nurse of the Year award from the South Dakota, Excellence in Nursing, presented by the South Dakota School Nurse Association.
Shortly after moving to Martin, she was recruited by the school district to start a school nurse program. Chris Anderson, then superintendent, wanted to revive the program.
“I had a desk, cabinets and a reflex hammer,” Marie said. “I had to start from scratch.”
Luckily, she was able to use everything she learned at Sturgis as a school nurse to order the right supplies and create a school nurse program from scratch. She made sure the office was stocked at the start of the school year.
His post covered all of the schools in the Bennett County School District, including visiting two country schools early in his career, Riverside and Central.
If a student was in need, she was there.
Marie would develop a care plan for students who had special health care conditions. She communicated with staff and parents to ensure the plan was followed.
A normal day in the life of a school nurse might involve performing vision or hearing screenings, administering necessary medications, providing emergency care for injuries, or performing screenings for kindergarten students who begin next fall.
She is also a health educator, teaching fourth and fifth graders about growth and development or how to use an Epi pen or AED or perform CPR to staff.
But normality changed a few years ago when the pandemic hit.
“Before the pandemic, children were lining up at the door,” Marie said. “They would need coats, gloves, maybe they fell on the playground.”
But it was in March 2020 that things changed.
“It was bad,” Marie said.
It was the COVID-19 pandemic stopped. Schools have moved to online learning. When they returned in the fall, the schedules were different. Half of the children came one day, the other half the next. There was social distancing, masks.
“The kids just couldn’t line up at the door,” Marie said. “They must have called instead of just sending them.”
Then there were the COVID-19 tests and a lot.
“We did less patient care,” Marie said. “We were so busy doing COVID testing.”
There were so many tests they had to hire help.
Then there was the close contact rule. If a child tested positive, anyone in close contact had to be quarantined. Marie was the COVID contact person who was to notify parents and return their calls.
Then there were meetings. Everything was too tiring.
“I couldn’t leave during COVID,” Marie said. She could not travel to see her grandchildren, her parents or her sister.
Like so many professionals in medical services and academia, COVID has caused burnout and led to “the big quit.”
“It’s time to let someone else, with more energy, do it,” Marie said. “It’s a wonderful job.”
“I care about people, so it’s a bit difficult,” Marie said. “But it’s not like I’m walking away.”
“I can’t wait to get out more,” Marie said of working with her flowers.
September will be canning season and now she can travel.
“I’m going to miss working with everyone here,” Marie said, adding “and the kids.”
Marie Huether created the school nurse program from the ground up, changing the lives of students and staff for the positive in the process. She is a member of the South Dakota School Nurse Association and served as Co-Chair of the SDSNA Fundraising Committee.
Their mission is to advance the need, value and importance of nursing and health services in the educational setting.
There was no better ambassador for this mission than Marie Huether.
“I’ll see people going out and about,” she said. “Martin is a warm and friendly community. I have been very lucky.