Jean Kingery spent 45 years as a nurse in the labor and delivery and mother-baby unit at AdventHealth Hinsdale in AdventHealth’s Great Lakes Region, in Illinois, United States. At her retirement, she said she never wanted to be anywhere else.
When Jean retired this year at the age of 84, she wrote a touching letter to her colleagues expressing her joy and gratitude for her career. She said, “What an exciting career it's been, welcoming those who come to us as a couple and leave us as a family. I often say to my patients, ‘Who else gets to see a miracle every day at work?’ It's indeed a very special place.”
Even during times of sorrow, Jean found meaning in her calling. “The people who have a loss are the neediest people of all,” she said. “They are so heartbroken, and we as caregivers have the reward of helping them get through that ordeal.”
Jean has always had a passion to care for others. In October 1977, she started her career as a licensed practical nurse through an AdventHealth program. About 10 years later, she became a registered nurse. Going back to school was challenging at the time because she had children at home and was caring for her aged father, but she was determined to see her dreams come true.
Jean was born at AdventHealth Hinsdale, as were all her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, two of whom currently work at the same facility. Additionally, one of her granddaughters works as a patient care technician (PCT) and has recently transitioned to a registered nurse (RN) role at AdventHealth La Grange, also in the Great Lakes Region.
Throughout her career, Jean Kingery saw a lot of changes, including the rollout of five different electronic medical record systems. But through all the changes, the essential nature of her work remained the same.
“Babies still came out the way they always did,” she said. Supporting mothers, many of whom were frightened and worried, was her favorite part of the job. “I was always calm, even when the mothers were not, and they believed I knew what I was doing,” she said.
Having helped to bring countless babies into the world, Jean took every opportunity at work to share her experiences and perspectives with the young nurses at her facility.
“I never felt like I was working,” she said. “I loved my job, and if you love your job, you don’t want to leave it.” So, as with everything else in her life, she put the decision whether to retire in God’s hands.
“Every day when I went into work, I prayed that God would make me a blessing to someone and give me the strength to do my job,” she said. “As I got older, I prayed that God would show me when it should be over, because I didn’t want to quit.”
Jean was also worried about how she would adjust to retirement after her long and satisfying career. “I am a people person, and I love to be around people. So, I thought, ‘What will I do?’ But I find that I am enjoying time with myself immensely.”
Jean volunteers at her church, listening to children recite Bible verses from memory. She is also staying in touch with her former colleagues and looking for other ways in which she can be helpful and stay connected.
“I am waiting for the Lord to show me what else He has for me,” she said. “And I know He will show me because He has shown me all my life what He wants me to do.”
When people ask her how she likes retirement, she notes that she’s continued to stay busy years longer than most others have.
“This is not just retirement,” she said. “It’s the final chapter of my life, and I want to make it as good as the other chapters.”