Salem, VA, May, 2015 – When Verna Council started as nurse in 1963, many things were different. The dress code consisted of a white starched uniform, complete with a nurse’s cap, white hose and white oxfords. Nurses had limited responsibilities and were mainly responsible for changing bed pans, working with needles and handing out pills. Also at that time, there were no male nurses.

“It was unthinkable when I started out to have male nurses,” she said. “But it’s really been nice. It has lessened some of the drama and made it less of a hen party all day long. One of the other great changes has been the allowance of walking shoes instead of those oxfords. They were painful.”

Over the years, Verna has maintained her sense of humor and her love for the profession. She is proud of how far the field has advanced and the opportunities now available to nurses. There are now more than 100 nursing specialties, and many nurses serve as hospitals leaders. For example, The Chief Executive Officer of LewisGale Hospital Alleghany, Charlotte Tyson, is a former bedside nurse who worked her way up through the ranks.

“Nurses have gained more respect and the job reflects that,” said Verna. “We now take care of highly technical stuff that would have been unfathomable to me when I started out.”

During her 50-year career, Verna has served in many areas including medical surgery, infection control, oncology, as well as the medical intensive care unit at LewisGale Medical Center, where she has worked for the past 25 years.

“They are very few nurses working in the United States who can say they were practicing in the early 1960’s,” said Loressa Cole, Chief Nurse Executive, LewisGale Regional Health System. “Remarkably, Verna is still working in a direct care role, caring for critically ill patients. We are very proud to share this milestone with her, and to say she is a LewisGale nurse!”

“I enjoy taking care of patients and their families,” said Verna. “We spend more time with the patient than any other discipline. When I see the work we do at LewisGale making a difference in a patient’s health and comfort, I am so proud to call myself a critical care nurse.”

And Verna has no plans to retire anytime soon. “I still feel good and enjoy getting up and going to work. As long as that’s the case, I will continue to work. Plus, if I retire, I’ll have to get rid of my maids,” she said with a chuckle.