This appeared in the September 2017 Erie Family Health Center Donor Newsletter
Anniversary Spotlight: Marianna Crane
Over thirty years ago Dr. Sally Lundeen, a nurse and Erie Family Health Center’s first Executive Director, spearheaded a project that would provide care for the underserved elderly right where they lived. The Senior Clinic* opened on the 10th floor of an apartment building on 838 N. Noble, then managed by the Chicago Housing Authority specifically for low-income elderly residents. Marianna Crane was one of the first nurses to join Dr. Lundeen in this endeavor. She had recently left the VA Hospital, disappointed that, due to a lack of funding, she wasn’t able to provide the specialty care she knew that the elderly there needed.
Crane was at the forefront of a shift in health care, one of the first gerontological nurse practitioners at a time when geriatrics was barely beginning to be considered a specialty. The idea that older people required a different approach to care wasn’t yet mainstream, and many doctors weren’t interested. But Crane had grown up with older family members whom she cherished – her own grandmother lived to be 104 years old – and she believed that a change in approach to elder care was long overdue. “During school, I had two classes in geriatrics,” recalled Crane. “Chronic Disease I and Chronic Disease II. It was the older people on the job that taught me what was really important about nursing.”
At Erie, Crane, along with her collaborating physician, Dr. Olga Haring, cared for patients in the clinic while staff members visited isolated lonely seniors, monitored people’s medication, and even arranged breakfasts and luncheons for those who couldn’t afford food. Crane quickly realized that meeting the physical needs of the elderly was only one aspect of care. She witnessed older people being emotionally or physically abused by their family members, and older people with depression or other mental health issues who needed someone to talk to. When she would make home visits, she was often unsure what she would find on the other side of the apartment door. She waded her way through hoarders’ stuffed living spaces, nursed sick alcoholics, and worked closely with an ambulance service to ensure critically ill patients were delivered to the right hospital. But she felt that this was the care she needed to provide. “It was such a unique model of nursing, and the job was so different from anything I had done before,” she said. “Our community nurse would give exercise classes including swimming lessons at Eckhart Park. We brought in a podiatrist, negotiated reduced fees with a local ophthalmologist. We’d host free breakfasts every single Friday. It was just so unique.”
Crane was with Erie for five years before moving on to provide home care at the VA Hospital in Durham, North Carolina. She is now retired and is an active volunteer at a local hospital, where she serves as co-chair of the Patient Advisory Council, recommending ways to keep patient care running smoothly and efficiently.
Crane is also a writer (check out her nursing blog at nursingstories.org) and is working on her first book, a memoir about her experience at Erie Senior Clinic. The book will be published by She Writes Press at the end of August 2018, and Crane has generously pledged that a portion of the proceeds from the book go towards patient operations at Erie Family Health Center.
*While the Erie Senior Clinic has closed its doors, Erie remains committed to serving elderly patients and connecting them with the resources and referrals they need for a healthy, comfortable life.