Decades spent as a nurse and clinical instructor allowed Wanda Ketcherside to serve countless members of Lodi’s community, and even after experiencing her own major health issues, she continues to seek out ways to care for others.
Ketcherside decided she wanted to become a nurse after seeing the nurses who treated her as a teenager, and after high school she earned a nursing license in Oklahoma. After marrying her husband in 1954, the couple moved to California and she began her extensive nursing career.
“All throughout my career I’ve done nursing and never had any other type of work,” Ketcherside said. “I really enjoy patient care and the critical thinking involved. I like to know what is wrong with the patient, what I can do to fix it, and how quick I need to do it.”
While raising her family and working, Ketcherside felt a hunger to push herself further and earned her Registered Nurse license from Delta College in 1984, right before the birth of her first grandson.
The same urge for education lingered, inspiring Ketcherside to pursue her bachelor’s degree in nursing from Stanislaus State, all while dealing with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and still working full-time.
By 1990, she had her nursing degree and a new job as a manager in Lodi Memorial’s intensive care unit.
“I had the “Aha moment” feeling that I needed to do more and keep going after more, and I knew I had to act on that,” Ketcherside said. “You get that idea and you just have to try to go one step further.”
Following many years at the hospital, including being the director of ICU and hemodialysis, Ketcherside was asked to utilize her years of patient care to educate and mentor the new nurses coming in, making her the leader of Lodi Memorial’s very first nurse residency program.
Looking back on the relationship she had with those she trained, she said that she is immensely proud and thankful that she could help.
“When you can give the new nurses something and you see the light in their eyes, that moment or realization, it’s just wonderful,” Ketcherside said. “When I go by the hospital now, lots of my residents are still working there, some are even managers and directors now, and I love them so much.”
Ketcherside was teaching a class in 2014 when she collapsed with a brain aneurysm and was flown to UC Davis for surgery. Physical therapy and speech pathology followed, and Ketcherside said she was determined to not let her health get in the way of the life she wanted.
“When I went to physical therapy I told them to teach me how to walk without a limp, and sometimes I wanted to leave or cry, but now I walk straight,” Ketcherside said. “I was saved by the same miracles that helped me get through my cancer in the past, and now the only thing I really have trouble with now is my hearing loss.”
Feeling that she couldn’t offer everyone what they needed, Ketcherside made the difficult decision to retire in 2015 and adjust to a life that was largely shaped by her career.
“I felt like I lost my identity and had to develop myself again because everything I had ever had was nursing, so when I didn’t have that I thought, ‘What do I do now?’”
In retirement, Ketcherside has taken up gardening, does everything that she wants to do, and still gets to sits in on mock interviews at Delta College occasionally.
Ketcherside noted that the role of a nurse has changed significantly since the beginning of her career, explaining that it went from “holding their hands and rubbing their back” to navigating machinery and knowing the pathology behind it. Regardless of the evolving landscape of the profession, Ketcherside imparts the same token of advice to her nurses.
“Something I always stressed to my nurses was that no one person is better than another; whether it’s the VIP of the county or a drug addict off the street, they all have a soul and deserve equal care,” she said.