July 7, 2023

Virginia Nurse, 81, Retires After 55 Years, 3 Public Health Crises

Virginia Nurse, 81, Retires After 55 Years, 3 Public Health Crises

Image: Barbara McWhinney a Registered Nurse from Virginia

After 55 years as a nurse, Barbara McWhinney, 81, is retiring. From Winchester, Virginia, McWhinney decided to become a nurse at the age of 9 after her mother was diagnosed with tuberculosis and she had to administer daily shots.  

“I gave it to her, vomited and said, ‘I want to be a nurse,’” McWhinney said.

Employed at Valley Health’s Winchester Medical Center, McWhinney has worked in various units throughout her long career, but always something that involved surgery. She currently works as a Wound Ostomy Continence Nurse. After attending Shenandoah University’s first nursing class, she started her career in 1967.  

McWhinney with coworkers on her final day at Valley Health’s Winchester Medical Center

“I've been a bedside nurse. I've been a head nurse. A case manager. I've worked in critical care, the emergency room, the OR (operating room). I helped set up the neuro (neurological) unit 53 years ago. I helped start the wound clinic in 2001,” she said

Popular Online Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) Programs

Sponsored
Grand Canyon University

GCU's College of Nursing and Health Care Professions has a nearly 35-year tradition of preparing students to fill evolving healthcare roles as highly qualified professionals. GCU offers a full spectrum of nursing degrees, from a pre-licensure BSN degree to a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program.

Accreditation
CCNE
Location
Online
Prerequisite
RN Required

Enrollment: Nationwide

Purdue Global

At Purdue Global, discover a faster, more affordable way to earn your Nursing degree. Purdue Global is committed to keeping your tuition costs as low as possible and helping you find the most efficient path to your degree.

Accreditation
CCNE
Location
Online
Prerequisite
RN Required

Enrollment: Nationwide, but certain programs have state restrictions. Check with Purdue for details.

Capella University

Capella’s online RN-to-BSN degree is an accredited program designed for working nurses. Thousands of nurses have completed their BSN program with FlexPath, that allows you to control your pace and set your own deadlines. With FlexPath, you can complete your RN-to-BSN program in 9 months and under $10,000. Fastest 25% of students. Cost varies by pace, transfer credits, other factors. Fees apply.

Accreditation
CCNE
Location
Online
Prerequisite
RN Required

Enrollment: Nationwide, but certain programs have state restrictions. Check with Capella for details.

Western Governors University

WGU's award-winning online programs are created to help you succeed while graduating faster and with less debt. WGU is a CCNE accredited, nonprofit university offering nursing bachelor's and master's degrees.

Accreditation
CCNE
Location
Online
Prerequisite
RN Required

Enrollment: Nationwide

McWhinney worked through polio, the AIDS epidemic, and most recently the COVID-19 pandemic. In September 2020, she caught COVID-19 and was hospitalized, almost dying several times. But she still came back to work without thinking twice.  

McWhinney hugs a former co-worker at her retirement party

"I kept a calendar and I wrote there one day, 'Dear God, please let me die. I’m ready,' because It was just horrible," she said. "The nurses I work with, my God, they were overwhelmed, and I didn’t want them to fight by themselves.” 

She was honored by her colleagues and patients on her last shift at the hospital. Stories were shared about her strength, courage, determination, and ability to teach others. Dr. Terral Goode shared stories of how they learned from her.  

In all her years, there have been countless memorable patients and families but one in particular sticks out. Towards the beginning of her career, there was a woman that was dying of cancer and McWhinney helped a young father sneak their baby daughter in to see her. McWhinney was able to capture the moment for the family. 

Now, that baby daughter is grown and became a nurse at the same hospital. And it was because of McWhinney. “That was probably one of the very special days for me,” she recalled

“The young mother died. Then not too many years ago I was in the critical care unit and the surgeon said, ‘I have someone I'd like you to meet.’ It was the daughter that I had snuck in,” McWhinney said. “She had become a nurse and she told me that she became a nurse because of me. She also told me that the only pictures she had of her mother with her were the ones we took that night.”

While McWhinney does plan on taking some time off to travel and take care of herself she plans to volunteer as a hospice nurse. "I've cried all day," she said. "It's kind of happy tears, but I have such great support here. I mean, it's just a wonderful place to work."

“Nursing can be so rewarding. It's a wonderful profession. I can't imagine doing anything but that. You'll learn something new every single day. I learned two new things today about diseases that I never heard of,” McWhinney recalls

 

Go to the top of page