Friday, May 18, 2012

Jean Ternus ends 39-year nursing career at KCKCC


In 39 years as a nursing instructor at Kansas City Kansas Community College, Jean Ternus not only espoused her favorite saying, she lived by it.

“Treat people as if they were who they ought to be and you help them to become who they are capable of being,” wrote famed philosopher Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.

“If I can help someone else, it’s the ultimate,” says Jean, who will retire at the end of the Spring Semester.  “It’s the students that we serve and we can make a difference in their lives.  To me that is what this job is all about. I’ve also been fortunate to have the support and cooperation of the staff and faculty for all these years. You can’t do everything by yourself but I found with others I could do it.”

Retirement will not mean putting her feet up and doing nothing. “I would love to continue to teach. I don’t want my mind to set idle. I want to learn and continue to grow and expand my horizons.”

More involvement with the Queen of the Holy Rosary Church at 71st and Metcalf is one of her options.

“They have a senior group there of which I may get involved.”

There’s also two brothers and a sister in Nebraska and a sister in Iowa with whom to spend time. 

Born and raised in Humphrey, Neb., a town of 800 about 100 miles west of Omaha, Ternus was a member of the Glee Club and Pep Club at St. Francis High School from which she graduated in 1962.

“I got to go to Nebraska Girls State when I was a teenager and it was wonderful,” she remembers. “It was the start of my learning leadership.”

She earned her BS in Nursing from Mount Marty College in Yankton, S.D., in 1966 and worked six months in Bryon Memorial Hospital in Lincoln before getting into the Veterans Administration at a VA hospital in Milwaukee, Wis., a position that lasted three years.

“My roommate was getting married and a friend said why not transfer to Kansas City. Working in the VA, you could transfer and not lose seniority so I did.”

Three years later, she got wind of a six-month cardiovascular nurse specialist course being offered in one of the prime heart centers in Houston.

“I transferred to the VA hospital in Houston and then quit to take the course,” says Ternus.

Diploma in hand, she returned to Kansas City.

“My parents were having health issues and I was so far away, I decided to move back because I really liked Kansas City. When I got back, I saw an ad for the nursing faculty at KCKCC and applied. That was the fall of 1973 and I’ve been here ever since,” said Ternus, who earned an MS degree in Adult Education from Kansas State University in 1977.

During those 39 years, Ternus has taught everything but nursing of mothers and babies.

“Medical-surgical nursing has been my specialty but I also love cardiovascular nursing. They are both my loves. I was able to get in on some of the ground floor concepts of cardiovascular nursing taking classes at Bethany Hospital where Dr. Hughes Day, the founder of ICU (Intensive Care Units) worked. I learned so much and I am thankful for these experiences.  Now there are so many advances in Cardiovascular Care and Nursing.

“When I first came to KCKCC, Dr. (Jack) Flint was president and the classes were much smaller. My first year here, Nursing had just moved from the downtown campus and our offices were where Math and Science is now located and our nursing skills lab then is where the present Forensics lab is now located.

”The college has grown so much both in the number of programs offered and number of students enrolled in courses. I think we’ve lost some of the personal aspects we enjoyed then, but then I guess that’s the price you pay with growth.”

For the last three years, she’s been teaching nursing skills in the skills lab. “I’ve really enjoyed that and the response of the students has been wonderful.”

Active on the Faculty Senate for several years where she served as Faculty Senate President, Ternus is a member of the Editorial Board for the E-Journal and has served on several other college-wide committees.

A CPR instructor, she’s also a member of several organizations including Sigma Theta Tau, the Honor Society for Nursing; Delta Kappa Gamma, the honor society for teachers; KNEA; and American Heart Association.

The fifth oldest employee at KCKCC in years of service, Ternus said her decision to retire now was made simply because

“I think it’s just time. It’s been really great to work with so many very, very talented people. People around here are so special and I’ve always been energized by the students. They have helped me keep my passion for nursing and teaching alive and I will really miss them.”


PHOTO: For the past 39 years. Jean Ternus has taught just about every nursing course at KCKCC but medical-surgical and cardiovascular nursing have been her favorites. (KCKCC Photo by Alan Hoskins)