EAU CLAIRE, Wis. — A logger with major blood loss from a traumatic injury. A burn victim with skin grafts. Two young boys in traction for six weeks recovering from broken legs but healthy enough to shoot spit wads at the ceiling.
After 42 years with Mayo Clinic Health System in Eau Claire — the last 27 as vice president and chief nursing officer — Lynn Frank still remembers her patients.
“I remember their names, what room they were in and why they were here,” says Frank, who is retiring on Friday, June 8. She started at what then was called Luther Hospital in 1969.
Those who have worked with Frank say her focus on putting the patients’ needs first is what they will remember most. “In meetings, in any situation, Lynn always puts the patients’ best interests at the heart of any decision,” says Randall Linton, M.D., president and CEO of Mayo Clinic Health System in Eau Claire.
Frank, a Cadott High School graduate, earned her bachelor’s degree in nursing from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. She earned its Alumni Distinguished Achievement Award in 2006. She earned her master’s degree in education from UW-Stout in Menomonie. She was named Nurse Leader of the Year in 2008 by the Wisconsin Organization of Nurse Executives.
At Luther Hospital, Frank first worked in Orthopedics, eventually becoming head nurse. Back then, a patient stayed in the hospital for seven days for a meniscus repair; today, that patient likely would go home the same day.
Frank left to teach nursing in Fond du Lac, returning to Luther Hospital in 1975 to work as a staff nurse in Medical Telemetry. She transferred to the Education Department and then became the Employee Health nurse. She was selected as assistant director of Nursing, and in 1985 as vice president and chief nursing officer.
“Lynn is a true leader,” says Nursing Administration director Pam White, who was named to replace Frank as vice president and chief nursing officer. “She mentors others and challenges staff to achieve their potential.”
Frank has been a part of significant changes in health care in the past four decades. Luther Hospital opened the first dialysis unit in a 100-mile radius in 1972. Its Regional Radiation Therapy Center for cancer began in 1980, and its heart catheterization lab opened in 1984.
In 1992, Luther Hospital merged with then Midelfort Clinic in Eau Claire and Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., to become Luther Midelfort – Mayo Health System. In 2011, the name was changed to Mayo Clinic Health System and encompasses 70 communities in Georgia, Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin.
As chief nursing officer in northwest Wisconsin, Frank has been responsible for nursing practice and more than 1,000 nursing staff members. Her role grew to include outpatient care in addition to hospital nursing in Eau Claire as well as the Barron, Bloomer, Menomonie and Osseo regions.
“I have wonderful colleagues,” Frank says. “This place is full of people really dedicated to their work and their patients. They continually seek to be better.”
In retirement, Frank is looking forward to spending time with her husband, Tom, and their two daughters’ families, including four grandsons. She remains active on UWEC’s Community Advisory Board for the College of Nursing and Health Sciences and as a community member of Mayo Clinic Health System – Home Health & Hospice. She will continue as chair of the Wisconsin Hospital Association Foundation board of directors.
Her advice to others? “Whatever you choose in life, you can’t stop learning,” Frank says.
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Mayo Clinic Health System consists of Mayo-owned clinics, hospitals and other health care facilities that serve the health care needs of people in more than 70 communities in Georgia, Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin. The community-based providers, paired with the resources and expertise of Mayo Clinic, enable patients in the region to receive the highest-quality health care close to home.