B. C. School Nurse Marie Huether retires

By Jonni Joyce

“It’s all Tim’s fault,” said Marie Huether.

It was the early 1980’s and she had become smitten with Tim Heuther while working summers at Wall Drug. This was her summer job. Her real job was studying at Montana State University in Bozeman so she could follow her dreams and serve as a nurse.

Nursing was her passion. The good thing about nursing is you can work anywhere. She worked hard in school, graduating in 1985 with a Bachelor’s degree in nursing and followed her other passion by marrying Tim.

They first lived in Billings. Then Klamath Falls, Oregon. Tim was new to the newspaper industry and was moving to different states chasing opportunity in journalism.

Marie would work in the hospitals as they moved. Sometimes a general floor nurse, other times a surgical and recovery nurse.

Their adventures took them to Lander, Wyoming, Elko, Nevada, Gardnerville, Nevada where Marie worked in the hospital in Carson City, Bowman, North Dakota, and finally some 13 years later, to Sturgis, South Dakota.

It was in Sturgis in 1998 when Marie moved out of the hospital setting and settled in as a school nurse at the elementary school.

She loved it.

“School nursing is so much different than hospital nursing,” said Marie. “I hated to leave there.”

It was all Tim’s fault. Tim buys the Bennett County Booster in Martin in 2001 and he and Marie moved from Sturgis.

Little did Marie know that this move would open a door and result in a decorated career with the Bennett County School District spanning over twenty one years of public service.

Decorated because in 2017, her abilities and accomplishments in developing the school nurse program for the Bennett County School District were highlighted when she was awarded the South Dakota Nurse of the Year, Excellence in Nursing Award presented by the South Dakota School Nurse Association.

Shortly after moving to Martin she was recruited by the school district to ramrod a school nurse program. Chris Anderson, then superintendent wanted to revive the program.

“I had a desk, some cabinets, and a reflex hammer,” said Marie. “I had to start from scratch.”

Luckily she was able to use all the things she had learned in Sturgis as a school nurse to order the right supplies and build a school nurse program from scratch. She made sure the office was stocked by the beginning of the school year.

Her position covered all of the schools in the Bennett County School District including traveling to two country schools early in her career, Riverside and Central.

If a student was in need, she was there.

Marie would develop a care plan for students who had special health care conditions. She communicated with staff and parents to make sure the plan was followed.

A normal day in the life of a school nurse could be conducting vision or hearing screenings, administering required medications, providing emergency care for injuries, or conducting screenings for kindergarten students who start the next fall.

She is also a health educator, teaching growth and development to fourth and fifth graders or how to use an Epi pen or AED or perform CPR to staff.

But normalcy changed a few years ago when the pandemic hit.

“Before the pandemic, kids would line up at the door,” said Marie. “They’d need coats, gloves, maybe they fell on the playground.”

But it was March 2020 when things changed.

“It was bad,” said Marie.

It was the COVID-19 pandemic shut down. Schools went to online learning. When they returned in the fall, schedules were different. Half the kids came one day, the other half the next. There was social distancing, masks. 

“The kids just couldn’t line up at the door,” said Marie. “They had to call down instead of just sending them.”

Then there was COVID-19 testing and a lot of it.

“We did less patient care,” said Marie. “We were so busy doing COVID tests.”

There was so much testing they had to hire help.

Then there was the close contact rule. If a child tested positive, then anyone in close contact had to be quarantined. Marie was the COVID contact person who had to notify parents and return their calls.

Then there were meetings. It was all too tiring.

“I couldn’t leave during COVID,” said Marie. She couldn’t travel to see her grandkids, parents, or sister.

Like so many professionals in medical service and academia, COVID caused burnout and resulted in “the great resignation.”

“It’s time to let somebody else, with more energy do this,” said Marie. “It’s an awesome job.”

“I care for people so it’s kind of hard,” said Marie. “But it’s not like I’m moving away.”

“I’m looking forward to getting outside more,” said Marie as she talked about working with her flowers.

September will be canning season and now she will be able to travel.

“I’ll miss working with everyone here” said Marie adding “and the kids.”

Marie Huether built the school nurse program from scratch changing the lives of the students and staff for the positive in the process. She is a member of the South Dakota School Nurse Association and served as co-chair of the SDSNA fundraising committee.

Their mission is to advance the need, value, and importance of nursing and health services in the educational environment.

There was no better ambassador for that mission than Marie Huether.

“I’ll see people out and about,” she said. “Martin is a warm, friendly community. I have been very fortunate.

502 Second Avenue, Martin, SD 57551 • 605-685-6866 • booster@gwtc.net