Jessie Valentine is retiring from nursing after 50 years. Canadian-born and trained, she has worked at Carson-Tahoe Hospital for almost 28 years and loves watching people win their fight against disease.
"People come in sick and miserable and I get to see progress they make," she said. "I love the work."
A petite woman with clear blue eyes, her salt-and-pepper hair is pulled into a bun as she shares her back-room retreat. She lives in an unpretentious ranch home in southeast Carson City with husband Bill Valentine.
The maple tree seedlings she's growing stand in pots along the walkway and the family's golden retriever checks out the newcomer from the sliding glass door as Valentine remembers Carson-Tahoe Hospital in the mid-1970s. The hospital's north wing came into being shortly after she arrived and the wards, like orthopedics and obstetrics, have moved repeatedly over time. Intensive care was once made up of just four beds, and pharmacist Nancy Grundy, wife of pioneer emergency room physician Dr. Richard Grundy, ran the pharmacy from a room smaller than most bedrooms.
Much as she loved that small-town feeling, she said the hospital must grow to accommodate the area's burgeoning population. But challenges have come with that growth and the added paperwork interferes with her ability to give quality care. Medicare and Medicaid are also headaches.
Valentine earned her nursing degree from St. Boniface Hospital, a 500-bed facility in Manitoba, Canada. She was 19 when she started and the training was strict.
"We had to stay within the facility all but one day a month," she said. "And then, we needed our parents' permission to leave."
Following graduation, she crossed the border to Clarkston in southeastern Washington and moved to Santa Monica, Calif., the following year. She met and married Bill Valentine before moving to Simi Valley, Calif. The pair arrived in Carson City in 1974, this time with three children in tow.
Married 42 years, they have three children and 10 grandchildren. Daughter Joyce Miller lives in Carson City, son William lives near Elko at Spring Creek and son Patrick lives in Livermore, Calif.
In addition to spending more time with family, Valentine expects to travel once the current terrorist crisis passes. She also hasn't ruled out a return to nursing, but this time on a casual basis. She's already been asked to help during flu season and she plans on maintaining her license, "just in case."
"I don't want to do anything for two months," she said. "But I might work one or two days a month, after that."