Seventy-eight-year-old Lana Lucas, RN, is full of spunk and isn’t planning on retiring anytime soon.

She claims she has given millions of vaccinations over the course of her lengthy career, and is in the thick of it now with the COVID-19 vaccination effort.

Lucas has been with Spectrum Health for 30 years and boasts a full career in the field spanning nearly 60 years. Previously employed in employee health services, she helped Spectrum Health team members with annual flu shot campaigns, but most recently has been redeployed to community vaccine clinics.

“I love what I do,” she says with a smile. “I just have no desire to retire because I love it.”

An urgent care nurse at heart, Lucas worked at various hospitals and doctors’ offices early on in her career and only took one six-month break during her career—and that was due to a cancer diagnosis.

Lana battled endometrial cancer in 2012, which put her in bed for nearly four months. She went through 28 radiation treatments and six chemo treatments along her road to recovery.

“I have gone through some tough days,” Lucas said.

Soon, she returned to nursing as it is what she loves doing.

Her roots run deep at Spectrum Health—she even babysat John Huntington, MD, an anesthesiologist at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital and remembers changing his diapers back in the ’60s.

She is dubbed “the Golden Girl of nursing” as her team couldn’t help but think of her when the popular TV series “The Golden Girls” aired. She brings Golden Girls magnets to work with her every day and says it helps ease patients’ fears and breaks the ice.

“I’m definitely Blanche if I had to be one of the Golden Girls,” she said with a smirk. “I can be naughty sometimes.”

‘An engrained love for people’

Her initial schooling cost $289 in 1962 and she still has her textbook of practical nursing that taught her everything she knows today.

“In 1962 I became a practical nurse because I had an engrained love for people,” she said. “I wanted to take care of people. And here I am today still doing it.”

She says the satisfaction of what she does for people is what she enjoys most about nursing. And how people respond to her bright personality and precision care.

“Lana is very fun to work with—she makes coming to work fun,” said Jocelyn Dawson, clinical office aide at Spectrum Health. “You always look forward to it when she’s here. She has a beautiful soul. And she calls me pumpkin.”

Tammy Wisener, RN, has been working flu clinics with Lana for several years now, and the two are side by side most days working in community vaccine clinics.

“Lana is such a blast to work with,” she said. “She is such a recognizable face at the hospital. Who knew a flu shot could be fun to get? But when Lana is in the room, that sure seems to be the case.”

Hope for the future

When asked about the pandemic, she said she believes we’re nearing the light at the end of the tunnel.

“We are all going to come out of this stronger,” she said. “It’s just going to take time… I don’t see it happening overnight. The sooner that people get their vaccine, the sooner we will be out of this pandemic.”

She said emotional is a good way of explaining how people feel after getting vaccinated. She has even had someone break down in tears from pure joy after getting the shot.

“I have never seen anything like this in my career,” Lucas said. “I had no idea that I would live through something like this. It’s been very stressful and a lot of hours. But it has been rewarding. I have no regrets.”

Lucas is no stranger to 13-hour shifts and vaccinating hundreds of people in just one day.

She wants the community to know that the vaccine is safe and effective and hopes people will come out to get vaccinated when it is their turn.

“You should get the vaccine for your own safety, for your family, for your friends and for the entire community.”