Nonagenarian looks back on nursing career

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Naomi Kling (above) entered the Cadet Nurse Program in 1943. She enjoyed a 30-year career as a registered nurse at the former Community Memorial Hospital in Postville. (Press photo by Caroline Rosacker)

By Caroline Rosacker

Naomi Klinge, who recently turned 96, was the youngest of three children born to Otto and Anna (Augusta) Siebrecht. She and her brother, Valmah, and sister, Alice, grew up on a general farm near Garnavillo. 

Farm life

"I was about six years old when my dad and I would run the separator," Klinge recalled. "It was run by hand, so we would pretend it was a train. He would start out and say, 'Choo-Choo' and gradually get faster. It is a cherished memory."  

There was ten years difference between Naomi's brother and sister, and herself. "I didn't have any playmates while I was growing up, so I often got into mischief," she said with a smile. "Once I tried to make a loaf of bread. I had all the ingredients on the floor – at least the ones I could reach. I mixed it all together and the dough wouldn't rise. My father didn't want to discourage me so he blamed it on poor flour." 

Cadet Nurse program

Klinge attended Eagle District Country School, the same school her grandmother and great-grandmother attended, through the eighth grade. She graduated from Garnavillo High School in 1943, and furthered her education, enrolling in the newly-formed three-year Cadet Nurse program at Finley Hospital and School of Nursing in Dubuque. "I enjoyed school and was a good student, but the part I liked the best was being around other people," she commented. 

Klinge entered the Cadet Nurse program in September of 1943. "I stayed in a nurses dormitory. My room and board were paid for, and we were provided a small stipend," she explained. "It was a unique program. It was put into place because the United States was experiencing a nursing shortage due to World War II." 

The end of the WW II and further studies 

Due to Finley Hospital's small size, certain segments of Klinge's training had to be held at other hospitals. She took her pediatrics rotation in Akron, Ohio. "We arrived by train on the day the war ended. There was so much activity in the Akron train station that the hospital sent vehicles to pick us up," she remembered. 

The nurse cadets were also sent to St. Louis City Hospital for training in communicable diseases and orthopedics. The experience left Klinge with fond and not-so-fond memories. "I traveled to other hospitals for pediatric and psychological training. My psychological training was at Bliss Hospital in St. Louis. The place was anything but bliss! Patients receiving electroshock treatments were lined up in the hallways in the morning waiting to get zapped," she described. 

She returned to Iowa and took her State Board Examination in Des. Moines. Klinge, and three of her friends then traveled to Minneapolis, Minn., and worked in the polio unit at the University of Minnesota Hospital. "I worked there for four months, primarily with five children in the non-contagious, but acute, phase of Bulbarpolio, which required confinement in respirators known as 'iron lungs,'" said Klinge. 

Introduction of penicillin

In the 1940s, the introduction of penicillin, discovered in 1928 by Alexander Fleming, Professor of Bacteriology at St. Mary's Hospital in London, ushered in the era of antibiotics. It has been recognized as one of the greatest advances in therapeutic medicine. Although the discovery of penicillin and the initial recognition of its therapeutic potential occurred in the United Kingdom, the United States, due to World War II, played a major role in developing large-scale production of the drug, making a life-saving substance in limited supply into a widely-available medicine. "Penicillin was fairly new and in short supply at the time," she noted. "Each patient had his or her own supply kept next to their beds. Each dose had to be mixed with sterile water." 

The Klinge family

Klinge would eventually return to Northeast Iowa and meet her future husband, Clifford, at a dance held in Lakeside Ballroom, Guttenberg. The couple married and raised four children, Lew, Jody, Lisa and Kirby. "Lisa passed away," she sadly stated. 

The hard-working nurse spent 30 years working as a Registered Nurse at the former Community Memorial Hospital in Postville. The career woman and mother had little time for hobbies. "I had four children, and a husband who drove truck for a living. There was very little time for anything extra," she laughed. "After Kirby was born I worked nights for a while. He learned to tell time by our grandfather clock. I would arrive home a little after 7 a.m., make him breakfast, set him down in front of the T.V. and lie down for a nap. I would tell him to watch the clock, and when the big hand was on 11 and the little hand was on the 12 that he should make sure I was awake. It makes me tired just thinking about it!"

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