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Retired nurse remains infused with energy

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DENNIS ODA / doda@staradvertiser.com

Nancy Kim, front, who worked as a nurse at the Queen's Medical Center for about 50 years, has stayed on as a volunteer. She and other volunteers work on gift baskets.

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DENNIS ODA / doda@staradvertiser.com

One of Nancy Kim's favorite volunteer duties is pushing the wheelchairs holding mothers and their newborn babies from their hospital rooms to the pickup area outside the Queen's Medical Center. She says it's such a happy, loving moment. She is about to escort father Daryl Frederick and mother Betty Lam-Frederick and their newborn daughter, Betty Suk-Man Frederick, from their room as they prepare to go home.

Eighty-two-year-old Nancy Kim is keeping active and staying healthy.

That comes as much from a natural need to be on her feet as it does from her 60 years and counting in the health care industry.

The Ala Moana resident volunteers at the Queen’s Medical Center every week, is a member of the service organization Japa­nese Women’s Society Foundation, attends YMCA fitness classes and participates in an informal walking group at Ala Moana Beach Park several times a week, and even attends weekly ballroom dance classes.

"I don’t want to be sitting down," Kim said. "I always need to be moving around and doing something. That’s just me."

For the past 11 years, Kim has been volunteering at Queen’s, where she attended the Queen’s Hospital School of Nursing after graduating from Maui High School in 1948 and worked for nearly 50 years as a nurse before retiring in 2000.

She said volunteering at the hospital is fulfilling and keeps her young.

"I enjoy the work, I enjoy the people and I like keeping active," she said. "The camaraderie you develop with everyone (at Queen’s) is great.

"As long as I’m mentally and physically able to be here, I’m happy to do it. I’m happy that I’m able to help the patients, especially when they tell me their experience was good, because it makes me feel good, too."

One recent morning, Kim happily wheeled Betty Lam-Frederick, who cradled her newborn second daughter, also named Betty, in her arms, from the 10th-floor postpartum nursery to the hospital’s main entrance to be discharged.

Lam-Frederick, who works at Queen’s as a senior supply technician, said having upbeat and courteous volunteers like Kim completes the Queen’s experience.

"I’m very grateful for our volunteer service, and it’s lovely that the volunteer service welcomes back our retirees," she said. "They’re always so happy to be here, and we’re happy to have them."

In addition to discharging patients, Kim also helps dispatch other volunteers on assignments throughout the hospital, runs errands and makes deliveries to patients’ rooms, and aids various departments around the hospital.

Beverly Parker, manager of Queen’s volunteer programs and conference center, said Kim’s positive personality and decades of nursing experience make her an invaluable volunteer and resource for others.

Kim is "always happy, always upbeat, very consistent," Parker said. "And we get a lot of nursing students that volunteer, so someone like Nancy, who’s been there, done that, is a really good person to bounce ideas off of, ask questions of, just learn from."

Kim said she enjoys mentoring the younger generation but is also eager to learn herself. Having been in the health care industry for six decades, she’s seen many changes and likes to keep up to date.

"There’s so much new technology now, and of course I’ve seen all the new wings come up (at Queen’s) and all the different ways that they treat and care for patients now," Kim said. "But it’s wonderful to be a part of all that change. I like to keep up with what’s happening."

Her thirst for knowledge doesn’t stop with health care. Kim also continues to pursue her passion for travel and learning about new places, taking "at least one big trip a year, like a cruise, and then some smaller ones, like to the outer islands," she said.

She has traveled throughout Europe and parts of South America, Asia and the Pacific.

"I enjoy seeing different things, particularly in Europe because their history is just so awesome," she said. "Our history (the U.S.) is not that old, but when you go to Europe and see the old buildings, artwork, it’s just amazing."

Asked where she’s going this year, she said, "Right now I’m looking to go to Norway and the fjords with this gal I travel with. I haven’t been there yet, and it’s a different place, a different environment. That’s what I like to experience."

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