Alumna Dons Scrubs to Help During COVID-19

Once a nurse, always a nurse. For Suzanne Salminen, BSN, MSN (‘63), these words are as true today as the day she graduated from Bishop Clarkson Memorial School of Nursing. She embodied the caring spirit of her profession every day of her 44-year nursing career until she retired in 2007. In the face of COVID-19, however, she stepped out of retirement and into the role she knew so well—a dedicated health care professional intent on serving her community.

After she received her diploma from Bishop Clarkson Memorial School of Nursing in 1963, Salminen joined the United States Navy Nurse Corps and was deployed to Guam Naval Hospital during the Vietnam War. After she met and married her husband, also in the Navy, she lived with her family in installations around the world including Japan, Panama and the United States. They eventually settled in Virginia, and during that time, Salminen earned both her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Nursing from George Mason University. As a student, she was a Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society and Alpha Chi National Honor Scholarship Society member, as well as the Excellence in Nursing Practice award recipient.

Salminen served in a wide range of areas during her career, including the emergency department, intensive care unit, coronary care unit and neonatal nursery. Throughout her distinguished career, she never stopped learning and along with earning her degrees, became certified in Emergency Nursing as well as Neonatal Nursing and served as a nurse with the Red Cross.

After her husband passed away in 1996, Salminen moved to Henderson, Nevada where she worked as a Medicare Case Manager at Desert Springs Hospital. She continued in the position until she retired in 2007 and moved to Colorado Springs, Colorado.

She soon found out, however, that retirement would not last forever. When her community began seeing the effects of COVID-19 in early 2020, Salminen noticed the strain and lack of qualified health care professionals to care for the growing number of patients so, she decided to step in. “Seeing the need for nurses in my community due to the coronavirus, I decided to come out of retirement and assist wherever needed on a temporary basis,” she says.

It was her caring spirit, first instilled in her as a student at Bishop Clarkson Memorial School of Nursing, that drove her decision. “There will forever be an attachment, an empathetic feeling toward those who need our help,” she explains. “Fervor and desire for our profession does not diminish as we move into our winter years of life. There will always be someone who will be dependent upon our knowledge, willingness to help and the skills that we learned and practiced.”

Before she could care for patients, Salminen had to become licensed in Colorado. She admits that completing the process and reentering the workforce after 13 years was both exciting and daunting. “The equipment has been markedly improved and is so much more efficient,” she says. “All areas of patient care are typed into computers, and the advances in monitors, machines, medicine and even stretchers are absolutely fascinating.”

While there are some areas in which she cannot assist due to the risk factors she faces, Salminen works whenever and wherever she is able. She assists with home health care and families with relatives in hospice, while also fulfilling triage duties as needed. “Health care has certainly evolved, and I am so eager to be part of it again,” she says.

It’s a chance to reaffirm her calling and stand with her fellow health care workers against the challenges posed by COVID-19. “We are nurses,” she says. “We are strong, resilient, compassionate, committed and professional. We can and have dealt with everything that has come our way and handled it with adaptability and efficiency.”