“As long as I have energy, I will stay involved with the community” says Myrt Bowers, who has spent much of her life being involved.
Bowers grew up the oldest of 13 children on a Mount Vernon farm. She received her early education in a one-room school house and went on to graduate from Mount Vernon High School, St. Luke’s School of Nursing and Coe College.
She spent the first 40 years of her career working in nursing. She worked as a hospital floor nurse, then as vice president of patient care for St. Luke’s Hospital in Cedar Rapids, a position she held from 1984 to 1996 and where she initiated changes that positively affected the work environment of the hospital’s nurses.
“We looked at how we could improve the culture of the work we were doing while delivering the highest quality of care,” she said.
Her efforts to improve staff retention included increasing maternity leave from eight weeks to 12 weeks, developing a “weekend package” for nurses who wanted to stay home with their children during the week and facilitating regional educational conferences attended by thousands of nurses.
“What I am most proud of is looking at the team at the hospital now and seeing the young nurses that I mentored into leadership roles having assumed those roles,” she said.
Bowers’ efforts also advanced patient care at the hospital. She led building projects totaling $3.5 million for a 10-bed intensive care unit, eight-bed pediatric intensive care unit and 18-bed adolescent center.
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She was instrumental in implementing integrated documentation systems, and she collaborated with emergency room physicians and staff to redesign patient care delivery, among many other initiatives.
In 2000, after retiring from the hospital, Bowers was recruited to serve as the interim executive director of Witwer Senior Center. She ended up holding that post for 13 years, where she worked to enhance the lives of older adults in Linn County.
“We developed programming for the individuals who came to the center every day because we were their family,” she said. “Many of them lived in isolation, and we gave them a sense of well-being and fulfillment.”
This programming included a grant-sponsored opportunity for seniors to learn to use iPads and health-related programs on such topics as fall prevention, managing chronic conditions and promoting cognitive functions.
In addition, Bowers oversaw production of 2,200 meals a day for both the senior center and the Meals on Wheels program.
Now retired from her second career, Bowers serves as president of the Mount Vernon-Lisbon Community Development Board, is active in the local Democratic Party and in her church, and mentors young women who are becoming involved in community activism.
Business 380 is spotlighting HER magazine’s Women of Achievement, published by The Gazette. The awards were sponsored by Farmers State Bank.