Editor’s note: "Community Champions" is a weekly feature in which area residents who are advocates for the community are profiled. In light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, The Telegram recently began spotlighting the members of Columbus Community Hospital’s Incident Command team that is on the front line working to help the community during this crisis. The stories will continue the next several weeks.
Growing up in the nearby small and rural community of Leigh, Janet Loseke was arguably destined to be a nurse.
“I had an aunt who is only 10 years older than me and I kind of idolized her because she was just so cool. She was a nurse,” Loseke recalled. “My grandma was also a nurse. So that led me down this path.”
Loseke has decades’ worth of experience in nursing and health care, having become a leader and staple at Columbus Community Hospital thanks to her strong work ethic and commitment to serving others. There, she serves as the director of its Acute Care Unit, Intensive Care Unit and Infusion Services.
“Janet is meticulous in her work and we joke that she can always be counted on to take and retain copious notes during our meetings and discussions. Many new nurses in the profession have had the privilege to be hired by, learn and grow alongside Janet’s leadership,” said Amy Blaser, CCH vice president of physician relations/business development. “Concurrently, Janet is the first to credit those who influenced her in positive ways over the years as well. Janet is an amazing historian and is one of the most reliable sources to recall many details in our organization’s robust community history.”
Loseke has plans to end her fruitful career in health care sooner rather than later. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic was not something she ever anticipated dealing with, and though it’s challenging, she said she’s proud to be among the many on the frontlines.
“Absolutely not,” she said in response to whether she thought the current situation was ever possible. “I plan to retire in about a year and did not think I’d ever have to deal with a pandemic. But I can’t imagine doing something different. I feel maybe God kept me here before I retire to hopefully help and do what I can.”
GROWING UP ON THE FARM
Having a strong work ethic was something Loseke was practically born with. She and her six siblings (three brothers and three sisters) lived on a dairy farm just outside of Leigh city limits. From an early age, she was expected to go about certain tasks to help keep things running properly.
“We all had chores to do,” Loseke recalled. “Feeding the calves, milking the cows – that was just part of life. I would milk the cows before school.”
Loseke went through the Leigh Public Schools system and eventually graduated from Leigh High School. Although she had plenty of experience on the farm, she was compelled to follow in the footsteps of her aunt and other relatives. So, she went to Platte College (now Central Community College-Columbus), obtained her licensed practical nursing certificate (LPN) and sought employment.
A CAREER AT CCH
Loseke joined the team at Columbus Community Hospital as a staff nurse in 1973. She climbed her way through the ranks throughout the years until eventually getting promoted to her current position in 2007. Loseke has about 80 staff members between all the units that report to her. In essence, she’s responsible for making sure the departments run smoothly by working with staff, budgeting supplies and making sure quality measures are properly implemented and carried out, among other things.
She’s also the CCH’s Incident Command team’s operations chief, something she takes a lot of pride in. The Incident Command team has been working constantly to prepare for COVID-19.
“I have a great team,” Loseke said. “We are doing all of the planning for when we start getting inpatients. We're responsible for patient care and how that will all play out.”
She spearheads efforts in developing the different phases of a plan for when COVID-19 presents itself in the hospital, how those areas would be staffed and what would be needed to take care of patients.
“That’s what keeps me up at night – ‘Am I making the right decisions to keep staff safe?’” she said, noting the importance of personal protective equipment. “And potential patients – as they enter our doors – what measures are we taking to make sure staff and patients are safe at all times? Because they all have families to go home to.”
Blaser said Loseke is an example of the remarkable leadership that has been on display at CCH throughout the last two months specifically.
“Day after day, Janet Loseke has risen to the challenge, showcasing the true essence of her chosen nursing profession. During these uncharted and uncertain times, Janet’s hard work has shined as a beacon of hope,” she said. “Never before in Janet’s tenured career with Columbus Community Hospital has she experienced an event of this magnitude, but I assure you, she would be the first to share we are in this together.
“Janet is a resilient, transparent, honest and trusted leader which promotes her direct reporting team’s sense of security and stability, helping them stay motivated and engaged in their work. Since the onset of the pandemic, Janet has been engaged in all that is happening and has committed to a strong in-person presence with her teams, communicating around the clock. Janet’s routine has changed, and this new routine has quickly become her new norm.”
LIVING HER LIFE
Loseke married her husband, Harley, the same year she started at CCH (1973). They knew each other for many years, having gone to the same high school.
“But we never dated in high school,” Loseke said.
The two have “a little acreage” just outside of Richland they enjoy, and have a growing family. Their oldest, daughter Julie Ross, lives in O’Fallon, Missouri, with her husband and two children. She also carried on the tradition of going into health care and is the director of radiology at Mercy Hospital in St. Louis.
Their son, Eric, is a utility lineman/foreman. He lives in Laramie, Wyoming, with his wife and two kids. Their other son, Sean, is a fitness professional who lives near Los Angeles with his wife.
Although free time isn’t the norm right now, when she gets it, she and her husband enjoy hitting the road.
“We have a camper. We love to camp and we love to travel,” she said, recalling trips to Alaska and Texas in recent years.
Loseke also enjoys collecting antiques and reading, as well as cooking and baking. She and her husband enjoy watching Husker games and are members of a card club along with a very close group of friends.
And while raising her children and working, she managed to go back to college several times and earn her Registered Nurse (RN) license from Nebraska Methodist College in Omaha and Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) from Creighton University.
In her job more recently, Loseke has worked closely with the hospital’s supply chain on resource needs and conservation strategies, according to Blaser. She participates in numerous meetings and huddles across the organization several times per day and also is one of the five resource nurses managing the internal 24/7 CCH COVID-19 hotline.
“I take a lot of the worries home,” said Loseke, who noted she’s also thankful to be able to work with one of her sisters, Beth Kuhr, who works in a hospital lab. “I wake up in the middle of the night; ideas pop into my head and I think, ‘yeah we could do that.’ At times I feel stressed, but my husband is very supportive.”
She said she feels CCH has been ready for the pandemic, noting she understands the current situation is hard on patients and families as they're not able to see each other.
“Just know that everything we’re doing is for everybody’s safety,” she said, noting that her faith is a great source of strength for her during this time and throughout life. “We have to limit our own staff’s travel just because we want everyone to be safe.”
The aunt who first inspired her to enter the health care field is now retired and living in Des Moines, Iowa. They’ve talked about the pandemic and nursing, in general. There’s no doubt in Loseke’s mind she chose the right career path.
“I called her a couple of times – I think she’s proud,” Loseke said. “We always got along really well. We don’t see them as much now, but I know she’s happy.”
Matt Lindberg is the managing editor of The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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