Local couple, active in health care for many years, looks forward to the freedom of retirement
Tuesday, August 05, 2014 10:50 AM
For Jim and Judy Cooper it is all about the adventure of freedom as the high school sweethearts prepare for their dual retirements on Aug. 15.
Judy and Jim Cooper, along with their faithful companion, Maggie, are looking forward to spending more time together after they celebrate their dual retirement on Aug. 15. An open house will be held on Aug. 17 at the ambulance building from 2 to 4 p.m. PAULAVAGTS/SPRING VALLEY TRIBUNE
“They always say you know when it’s time to retire and we knew,” Jim revealed.
“You get to a certain point in your life and you think ‘you know it’s time,’” Judy agreed. “We’ve done our duty and now we’re at an age where we want to sit back and do the things we want.”
Jim has been serving the public through the emergency medical service (EMS) for 38 years, first in Caledonia and then in Spring Valley, where he has worked for the ambulance service for 26 years. He also spent time assisting the area’s medical examiner.
Judy has been working in healthcare since college, working at several hospitals including Methodist and Saint Marys in Rochester, a nursing home, an eye clinic and finally Olmsted Medical Clinic in Spring Valley, where she has spent the last 18 years. She also volunteered as an EMT for 31 years; in fact, she was a student in one of Jim’s first EMT classes!
Through the years the couple have seen many changes within the medical field, but they both agree the rapid growth of technology is the greatest.
“We are doing things today that we never dreamt of doing back in 1976 when I got started,” Jim explained. “If you look at things like our defibrillators today, they are so much more sophisticated and so much better than they used to be. Those are the changes, I think, that are the most important.”
Because of his forward thinking, Jim will be leaving a legacy as he retires from his position as ambulance director with the recent awarding of the Mission Lifeline grant. The grant is part of an initiative to advance the systems of care for cardiac patients with the focus on reducing mortality and morbidity among STEMI (ST-elevated myocardial infarction) patients.
Thanks to the hard work of Jim and Dr. Steve Harder, the grant will allow the Spring Valley Ambulance Service (SVAS) to upgrade their Zoll monitor defibrillators to do 12-lead EKGs and allow those to be transmitted to the hospital.
“That’s really exciting for me. I was really kind of hoping to be able to see that through to its culmination. I served on the statewide EMS Advisory Board that was in charge of analyzing the grant applications through the American Heart Association,” Jim said. “Of all the things I’ve done in Spring Valley keeping the ambulance service at that level of competency with the new skills and treatments that are available this is probably one of my proudest accomplishments.”
For Judy the implementation of computers into the medical realm was a major revelation for the field.
“When I started with Olmsted, we booked patients on paper and then we went to computers. That was a process that wasn’t really hard to learn, but you wanted to know how you could put this in the computer and make sure these people would come in,” Judy remembers. “Another thing that’s been good is the electronic charts. The doctors can dictate what they’ve done for the day and that goes into the computer so that other doctors can see what was done.”
Technology has also changed billing procedures, how they track appointments and how doctors order tests.
Though technology has changed healthcare for the better, it has also made it more difficult as the training programs have expanded and become more arduous.
“They made some changes in 2010 to the national standard curriculum and the changes that they made added in a lot more anatomy and physiology and they added in some things like weapons of mass destruction. The result was the course itself went from 120 hours up to close to a 200-hour course. It was a tough course before; now it’s a college level course and that is what’s making it very hard for small towns in the area to be able to recruit people. My fear is that the volunteer EMT base out in these towns is going to dry up,” Jim divulged.
It is not just the demanding training, but also the personal time sacrificed.
“Being on call; that was the hardest thing. And when you’re the director, as my full-time job, I have to be there if the volunteers can’t be there because of other obligations, I have to pick up the slack and that made it hard. There were a lot of missed holidays, a lot of missed family experiences that kind of weighs on you after awhile. So now it’s time to re-devote life to family,” expressed Jim.
Of all his accolades Jim cherishes his award as the Minnesota EMS Manager of the Year by the Minnesota Ambulance Association in 1996.
“It caught me by surprise. They awarded it to me at a convention in St. Cloud and most of my crew was there to surprise me,” Jim recalled. “When they started reading ‘the recipient of this award did this and started his career here’ I went oh my God they’re talking about me! It was a huge surprise. I still don’t know how they did it, but they did a bang up job.”
As for Judy, she explained she will never forget the satisfaction of being able to bring someone back from a cardiac arrest by performing CPR.
Right now they are looking forward to the relaxed pace of retirement life where they can do what they want instead of what they have to do. Most importantly they plan on making up for lost time by spending time with their children, John, Jeff and Jody and their families.
“The biggest thing is the freedom. If we wake up and we want go here or go there we can do it,” Jim said.
To celebrate their retirements they will be having an open house at the Spring Valley Ambulance Service building on Aug. 17 from 2 to 4 p.m.
“We both have enjoyed serving the people of the community. It’s a great community; we raised our two youngest kids here. We’ve met a lot of great people here over the years and have a lot of friends,” Jim concluded.