February 15, 2016
A Career In Caregiving
Dianne Bergstrom, RN, 25-Year Valley VNA Board Member
The young Dianne Wippich and her twin Susanne began volunteering as candy stripers at Theda Clark in 1963. From the very beginning, they confused a lot of doctors and staff with their seeming ability to appear in two places at once. When the girls turned 16, they were offered the chance to be trained as nurse’s aides, and Dianne jumped at the opportunity to take the next step toward more direct patient care. “Even as a candy striper, people were so delightful and appreciative,” she said. “Nursing was so energizing.”
The caregiving seed had been planted. After graduation from Neenah High School, she enrolled in nursing school at UW-Madison and later transferred to the nursing program at Madison General Hospital (now Meriter). Dianne returned to Neenah in 1969 as a registered nurse and the new wife of young John Bergstrom. She accepted a job on the medical-surgical unit at Theda Clark and remained an active part of the nursing staff at the hospital until her retirement in 2000.
Judy Eberhardy, then-director of Valley VNA, invited Dianne to join the organization’s board of directors in 1991. “I remember going along on a tour with in-home caregivers when I first joined the board. Not everything is at their fingertips like in a hospital. Each client and home was so different. It really made an impression on me, how our people do such a good job and adapt so well to each person’s situation,” she said.
Dianne’s tenure on the Valley VNA board of directors is now entering its 25th year. She oversaw the interior design of a model independent living apartment in 1998 to successfully jump-start occupancy of the new facility; was integrally involved in the $2.5 million dollar fundraiser to construct the new VNA headquarters in 2007; and even dressed as the original visiting nurse, Ida Heinicke in 2008 in commemoration of the organization’s centennial. Dianne is a key volunteer at the annual Holiday Avenue fundraiser each November and helps with donor recognition. The annual family picnic for residents in June is always a joy. “We especially welcome the grandchildren,” she said. “All those young people really make it a happy day.”
“Most importantly, board members need to be authentic,” Dianne said. “We need to show others that we believe in this organization. Many of us have moved family members into Valley VNA. We refer our friends to VNA in-home care when they need help. I share with my friends the list from Valley VNA on what to look for in a caregiving facility. We have to be the voice of Valley VNA in the community because we genuinely believe in our mission and the excellent care we give.”
Dianne’s mother Shirley moved into Valley VNA in the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s disease and eventually moved into the memory care wing before she passed away in September 2015. Shirley’s companion Ed, who still lives at Valley VNA, can trace his family’s involvement with the Visiting Nurse Association to a 1908 photo of his grandmother, Mrs. Louis Jourdain, posed with other charter members. “He points to that picture and tells everyone, ‘Look, Grandma founded it,’” Dianne laughed.
Her family name has become synonymous with the statewide Bergstrom Automotive business, so it’s fitting that Dianne’s Ida Heinicke impersonation in 2008 included a memorable photo of her next to one of the first automobiles to be used by the visiting nurses, a vintage 1929 Model A Ford. That early combination of caregiving on the move—meeting people when and where they need a helping hand—remains at the heart of Valley VNA’s mission and Dianne’s lifelong ministry.