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After 44-year career, retired nurse returns to help during COVID-19 pandemic

Marty Von Drasek thought she had “seen it all” in her 44-year-long career as a registered nurse. But when the COVID-19 pandemic struck, Von Drasek knew her skills would be needed on the frontlines.

After a 44-year career as a registered nurse, Marty Von Drasek was looking forward to a quiet retirement spent traveling, attending game nights with friends, and seeing family on the holidays.

Then the COVID-19 pandemic began spreading in Minnesota. Von Drasek couldn’t relax, knowing her friends and former colleagues at M Health Fairview St. John’s Hospital in Maplewood were on the front lines of a national crisis. So when the hospital staff reached out to Von Drasek about returning to work, she immediately decided to come out of retirement – a second time – to help.

“She was actually one of the first people I thought of when this all came down and we realized we needed more help,” said Amy Simpson, a fellow registered nurse and Von Drasek’s supervisor.

Von Drasek’s first foray into retirement began on July 3, 2019, and was timed to coincide with Independence Day celebrations. Weeks later, however, she returned to work part-time to assist during the ongoing merger between Fairview Health Services and HealthEast Care System. In December 2019, Von Drasek decided to call it quits for good – or so she thought.

“I said my good-byes again, clapped my hands and said ‘I’m done’,” said Von Drasek, who is 68 years old.

Von Drasek thought she had “seen it all” in her four-decade-long career, but as she watched the COVID-19 pandemic unfold across Minnesota in early 2020, she knew her experience would be needed. Von Drasek renewed her registered nursing license and connected with St. John’s Hospital staff. Though she was worried about the possibility of contracting COVID-19 herself, she knew she would feel safer in the hospital – where there were strict protocols for protective equipment – than she felt out in public.

“I see too many people not practicing social distancing, not wearing masks, and thinking this is all overrated,” Von Drasek said.

She currently serves in an occupational health capacity, evaluating potential patient-to-employee COVID-19 exposure cases and potential employee-to-employee COVID exposure cases. Von Drasek compiles risk-assessment reports for each case and provides recommendations to the employees affected, based on her findings. Her role has proved crucial when it comes to protecting both patients and providers in the hospital.

“She is always a great resource; I’m so happy to have her back,” said Simpson.

For Von Drasek, the benefit is two-fold. She is able to put her skills to work to fight the pandemic, but she is also able to re-connect with many of her former friends and co-workers.

“I am an extrovert, Von Drasek said. “I missed the interaction with my co-workers and the employees.”