Nursing know-how 

Tim Mander
Photo Provided

A few years before he hit 60, he was a computer-illiterate middle-school dropout who had worked construction for most of his civilian life. 

He had few options when reentering the workforce after his military service and construction jobs. While some might think that, at his age, he would be well-suited for a second career greeting shoppers at a discount store, he had other plans. 

Rather than take an easy job, Mander went back to school and became a nurse. With his degree in hand, he got a job at Midwest Regional Medical Center in Midwest City.

“I told my mother that I put off having a real job until I was 60,” he said.

In his mid-40s, Mander was married with a young son and an adult daughter who was born when he was 16. Complications arose when his father developed Alzheimer’s disease. Mander spent the next five years taking care of his ailing father, a process that he said eventually led to his divorce.

“Taking care of my sick father wasn’t enjoyable, but it was fulfilling,” he said.

“My dad inspired me with his wisdom, kindness and sense of humor. I’m not a churchy fellow, but I think kindness is a virtue; it stands out because it’s so rare.”

Tending to the ill wasn’t exactly new to Mander. He served as a medical corpsman in the U.S. Air Force during the Vietnam War. Luckily, he said, he served his country from Altus, Okla.

After the death of his father, Mander decided he didn’t want to build houses anymore. So, in 2007, at the age of 53, Mander enrolled in a licensed practical nurse program at Metro Technology Center in Oklahoma City.

Returning to school was a reminder of many things he never cared for. The last time he was in a classroom was in the 1960s, and that experience was no walk in the park. He also lacked skills that he did not learn his first time around.

“I
had no idea how to type,” he said. “That was a female thing to learn.
When I was in school, typing was for secretaries. Hell, I wanted to play
football and chase girls.”

A
couple of semesters after starting at Metro Tech, he said he was having a
blast learning. He left with an LPN license and got a job at St. Anthony
Hospital. From there, he enrolled at Rose State College to become a registered nurse.

These
days, he can be found on the medical surgery floor at Midwest Regional.
He said that his wealth of life experience and the humbleness and
kindness his father taught him are big advantages when caring for
patients.

“We
have continuity of care at Midwest Regional, and a lot of people
request I come back after a four-day stint and be their nurse again,” he
said. “It’s that people connection that is of value. I see myself as
extraordinarily blessed to have the opportunity to serve other people.”

There
are many work-related hardships and complications nurses have to
endure, especially when it comes to communication with the business end
of the medical system. Then, he said, there are problems dealing with a
medical system that is completely broken. But he is taking those
challenges in stride.

“I’ve
done exactly what I wanted to do my entire life, so I’m not exactly
good at having other people tell me what to do,” he said. “But I do what
they tell me because I’m 60 and not 16.”

Mander says this isn’t an ending for his career; it’s a beginning.

“I’m
in incredibly good condition for my age, which, with the way I’ve
lived, is mostly luck,” he said. “As long as I’m on this side of the
hospital bed, I’m good to go.”

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