Long-time SGCMH nurse practitioner to retire
Dale Kraenzle, RN, CS, ANP-BC, with nearly 50 years of healthcare under his belt and his name on thousands of patient charts, will retire at the end of the month, and like most people on the verge of retiring, he has mixed feelings.
“To this day, I still enjoy what I do a great deal,” he said. “I just turned 68 a few months ago and I feel like this is the time. I’m going to miss the day-to-day dealing with patients.”
With his passion for healthcare, you’d think he had this vocation picked from an early age--not so much.
“At the end of high school, the Vietnam War was going on and we had the lottery draft and my number wasn’t looking very good, so in the meantime my school counselor suggested I look into nursing,” he explained. “As it turns out, I really liked it and kind of found myself. Fortunately, I dodged a bullet on the draft, and went on to complete nursing school.”
In the early 70’s Washington University received a grant to initiate a nurse practitioner program, which at the time was pretty rare. Kraenzle was accepted into that program and became a nurse practitioner in 1978.
He worked with the St. Louis City Health Department for a time and then worked for Washington University who was looking at HMOs—health maintenance organizations. Kraenzle said this gave him an opportunity to do what he discovered he liked to do in that kind of setting.
In 1989, however, Dale really found his niche when St. Louis University opened a new division of medicine called geriatric medicine.
“I was really fortunate to be a part of that,” he said. “That was probably one of the best things in my career from a learning standpoint. I spent six years there and learned quite a bit. I learned from some phenomenal doctors who really impressed upon me some basic philosophy. You have to take a big picture approach and not just focus on the immediate problem. It’s a simple yet complex thing. It’s hard to explain, but I feel geriatrics is where I do my best.”
In 1995, Ste. Genevieve County Memorial Hospital had a need for a nurse practitioner to be part of a clinical setting—what the NP program was designed to do.
“I decided maybe I should take that opportunity,” he said. “When I came here I initially split my time between two different practices, five days a week, 10-12 hour days. I worked in the clinic setting, but also in the local nursing homes and residential care facilities, as well as in the hospital itself. I’ve kept myself kind of diverse and that seems to fit me.”
In the 25 years at SGCMH, Kraenzle has worked most closely with Dr. Niranjana Raju and Dr. Susan O’Donnell.
“I can remember the very day I started here,” said Kraenzle. “Dr. Raju had a very sick patient in the office that had some chest pains. Dr. Raju sent him over to the emergency room. He said we were going to go over and see him later. That’s when I knew he was a good guy and very dedicated. I met Dr. Dr. O’Donnell a few weeks later as she was on a trip to Ireland. She struck me right away as having a lot of energy and passion for life. It’s been a good run with both of them and the years have just flown by.”
Kraenzle has always liked challenges, and if ever there was a year for challenges, it was 2020.
“No one wishes for a pandemic, of course, but in some ways I thought, ‘Wow, this is a challenge’,” he said. “I like dealing with something like this; figuring out how to deal with it, how to take the best care of patients at a time like this. That’s what keeps me going.”
What’s the next chapter in Dale’s life?
“I don’t think I’ll stop practicing healthcare entirely,” he said. “I may still stay involved with healthcare in some form. I’m involved with the local mental health board here and will continue to do that. I’ll just see what comes along. I do plan on doing a few more leisure things like gardening, hunting and fishing—those kinds of things.”
Over the course of his career, Kraenzle has seen many changes—changes in insurance, electronic medical records, diagnostics, medications—it’s an endless list, but one thing has always remained constant.
“It’s always been about the patients,” he said “I will miss them, but we have some good people coming behind me. They will be well cared for, and that’s the most important thing.”