Together, David and Teresa Duwe were only one decade short of a century of service to Ascension Via Christi St. Joseph in Wichita, Kansas, when they worked their final shifts.
David’s last day of work was Dec. 2, while Teresa’s was Dec. 1. Their tenures were capped off with a well-attended retirement party with current and former colleagues, family and friends.
“They’re legends around this hospital,” said Charity Clark, Ascension Via Christi’s Director of Case Management. “They wanted to go out together just like they came in: Together.”
“I sat in the very front and got straight A’s and David sat in the very back and got, well, not A’s,” Teresa said of her nursing school classmate.
David and Teresa both started nurse training in 1973 and graduated as registered nurses from the St. Joseph Hospital School of Nursing in 1975. They eventually reconnected at the hospital following graduation while they were working the night shift. Two years after that they were married, and they’ve been together on and off the job ever since.
David began working at St. Joseph as a night shift orderly and then transitioned to bedside care. For 36 of his 46 years of service, he has worked as a case manager. “The values of the Sisters of St. Joseph is what inspired me to commit to serving relentlessly,” David said.
Mary Burke, a former house supervisor who came to the couple’s send-off, said David knew what he was doing and learned something new every day. “That’s what made him great,” she said.
Teresa began working the night shift at St. Joseph in 1975 but eventually transitioned to working days as a bedside nurse in the cardiac care unit. “Nothing beats working with patients, because they help me become a better nurse and person each day,” she said.
“I can always count on her to come to me when something is up or if I need a trusted, honest opinion,” said Staci McDorman, her nurse manager, noting that Teresa could always be counted on to help with training students and new hires, lending a helping hand to her teammates and leading by example.
They are often asked how and why they’ve served in the same place for so many years. For Teresa, it was her enjoyment of her daily interactions with co-workers and the patients they served. For David, it was his connectedness to the founding sisters’ mission and values. But it really all came down to one underlying reason: St. Joseph and all who served there were their family.
For anyone considering nursing as a profession, David suggests reading and letting the book “What Would St. Joseph Do?” serve as their guide. It’s also important to remember that technology doesn’t replace the power of a healing touch, Teresa said.
For their retirement, they plan to put nursing behind them for now and spend their days quilting, traveling and spending time with their grandchildren.
Photo: The Ascension Via Christi St. Joseph Case Management team with David and Teresa Duwe.