COLUMBUS — A 50-year career in health care almost didn't start when Ann Hefti got her first look inside a patient ward.
Hefti had never been in a hospital before, not even as a visitor. So when she was getting her nursing training at the University of Nebraska Medical Center and saw the sick patients, she began to have second thoughts about her career choice.
“I went home and said to my mom, ‘I don’t think I want to be a nurse.’ She said, ‘Well, whatever you want to do, but maybe you should try it.’ And I did. That’s the one time I’m glad I listened to my mother,” Hefti said.
Hefti has enjoyed a career as a licensed practical nurse that has spanned five decades. Every year was spent at Columbus Community Hospital.
The Columbus native will be hanging up her scrubs on Oct. 18.
“I’m ready, but it will be very hard. It will be bittersweet,” Hefti said of her impending retirement.
The 69-year-old said she will miss her co-workers and all the moms and babies she helped while working in the maternal and child health department for the vast majority of her time as a nurse.
After graduating from Scotus Central Catholic, Hefti pursued nursing, a career she chose because she liked biology and anatomy classes. She became an LPN and got her first job on the surgical floor at St. Mary’s Hospital in Columbus. Four years later, in 1971, she started in obstetrics, where she has worked for the past 46 years.
Hefti is crossed-trained to work in the nursery, labor and delivery, tend to neonatal babies and care for mothers after childbirth.
She has assisted thousands of patients, both moms and babies, during her time at CCH, where she's helped deliver multiple generations of local residents.
“Five years ago when I had my 45th (anniversary), there was a lady in Super Saver and she yelled out down the aisle, ‘Are you retired yet?’ I said no and she said, 'You even helped deliver my grandkids,’” Hefti said.
That longevity is not lost on her co-workers.
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Kim Eisenmann, director of maternal and child health at CCH, said Hefti brings a vast amount knowledge and experience to the staff. She also has a constantly upbeat attitude.
“She’s genuine and caring for her co-workers, as well as her patients, the moms and the babies and the whole family. You know that she really cares and loves what she does. She comes into work every day with a smile,” Eisenmann said.
Hefti worked for the hospital through a few transitions. The first was when St. Mary’s merged with Behlen Memorial in 1972 and became Columbus Community Hospital a few years later. She was also on staff when the hospital moved from its 3020 18th St. location to a new health care campus at 4600 38th St.
All three of her daughters, Amy, Jill and Jodi, were born at the local hospital.
Along with adjusting to different buildings, Hefti had to get accustomed to changes in the health care business.
There was a time when she and other staff in the department sterilized their own instruments and cleaned the delivery rooms. Auxiliary departments take care of that work now. She has also moved from paper charting to doing that work on computers.
In addition to nursing, Hefti has been an emergency medical technician since 1994 and taught CPR for 45 years.
Family is the reason why she and her husband Dean, a Columbus High School graduate, decided to stay in Columbus. Most of her siblings made their home in town, as have two of the couple’s daughters. Amy Sokol works at St. Anthony Elementary School and Jodi Hefti is a member of the Columbus Police Department.
Ann Hefti's husband will also be joining her in retirement, though his will only be a semi-retirement when he steps down as Columbus fire chief at the end of the year. He will continue to drive a school bus.
Hefti said her career at the hospital has gone by fast and she is looking forward to making up for lost time.
“My family is really excited after working 50 years of holidays and weekends,” she said. "The family wants to have mom and grandma around."