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Betty Lord-Dinan

Jann Ricklefs, left, president of the Iowa Nurses Association, presents Betty Lord-Dinan, Elkader, with a plaque during her Hall of Fame induction.

By Pam Reinig

Register Editor


The oldest daughter in a family of nine children, Betty Lord-Dinan has been caring for people her entire life. The Elkader woman remembers helping her mother with infant twins when she was just 3 years old. Even at age 12, when she began taking care of other families, she remained her mom’s right-hand person. Her care-taking career took a new turn after high school graduation in May 1957: She became a nurse’s aide and later a nursing student. A few years after that, she earned her RN degree at Mercy Hospital School of Nursing in Council Bluffs, and spent the next half-century caring for people as a nurse and a public policy advocate.

In recognition of more than 60 years in nursing, Betty was recently inducted into the Iowa Nurses Association (INA) Hall of Fame. The honor salutes her “long-standing dedication to INA public policy and legislative advocacy.”

“She taught many of us to recognize that ‘legislators are people, too’ and should be approached as individuals who are trying to do their job in the best way possible,” wrote Sue Whitty and Lynn Boes of the INA in their nomination letter. “She taught nurses that legislative advocacy is really a continuation of the nursing process and utilizes the skills we use every day in our nursing jobs.”

Betty’s advocacy work started in 2008.

“To advocate for issues that affect health care in the larger arena was just the next logical step for me,” she explained. “Nursing, in itself, is advocating. Nurses advocate for patients every time we go on duty, every time we give medications, answer a call light, teach, listen and assess.”

“Another reason for my interest is advocacy is that in each of the eight states I have worked in, I became ware of their Nurse Practice Act, which is a law that outlines how a nurse should practice nursing in that state,” she continued. “Advocating and being a leader is all part of nursing.”

Betty has seen considerable changes in nursing, from the way it’s taught to the use of technology. When she was a student in the late ‘50s, programs were run with “military-type expectations.” Students couldn’t get engaged or get married during the course of their studies. Second semester freshmen often served as charge nurses on the night shift. There were limited labs to assist with nursing assessments and, of course, there were no electronic health records until much, much later.

“We were taught that nursing was a vocation, and everything else came second,” Betty said.

While difficult at times, Betty’s training enabled her to find work as a charge nurses as she followed her first husband, Glenn, who was in the Navy, around the country. The demands of schooling also taught her how to balanced numerous responsibilities, which was helpful in later years when she was working and raising four daughters.

In 1989, Betty and Glen returned to Iowa. Glenn died five years later. Betty and Dick, Dinan, a farmer, were married in 2003. Both are involved in local politics and advocate for better mental health services. Betty, who shows no signs of slowing down at age 77, also volunteers at Central Community Hospital, Elkader.

For anyone considering a career in nursing, Betty has a few words of advice. She suggests taking science classes in high school and working as a nursing aide to became familiar with “what caring for the ill will involve.” 

If helping others gives you satisfaction and a feeling of worth,” she added, “then go for it! Be a nurse.”

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