Jo Vilhauer, MLT, RT, and paramedic, was recognized for her dedication to the people and institution where she is employed in rural North Dakota. The following article about her is reprinted from the Wishek Hospital Clinic newsletter.
Jo Vilhauer is one of the most familiar faces at Wishek Hospital Clinic Association in Wishek, North Dakota. That is because she has been working there for 54 years, which is commendable because WHCA has only been in operation for 64 years. These numbers not only show Vilhauer’s years of service but also her commitment to the viability of the hospital and to the well-being of the community.
Vilhauer was born and raised in Streeter, North Dakota. She attended a technical college in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where she received training in laboratory and radiology. After an internship in Nebraska, she came back to the local area and began work at WHCA. Vilhauer met her husband, Victor Vilhauer, and they have been married 42 years.
When a career in healthcare spans over half a century, there is a lot of change. Some of the most notable things Vilhauer remembers are a time without disposable items, when laboratory equipment had to be hand washed, and when sterilized lab procedures that take minutes today took hours.
Adapting to these changes—especially technology—has at times been a struggle. But Vilhauer credits these advancements with saving time and increasing productivity, which ultimately benefits the patients.
Along with managing the radiology and laboratory departments of WHCA, Vilhauer served as squad leader of Wishek Ambulance Service from 1989 to mid-2018. She is a charter member of the ambulance service from its inception in 1974. Before that the local funeral home provided transport.
Vilhauer served on the North Dakota EMS Association board for 19 1/2 years and was recently recognized at the NDEMSA conference for 44 years of service. She has been essential in the establishment and continuance of vital ambulance services in the area.
Vilhauer’s commitment and dedication to healthcare is not only visible to the service area but also statewide. In 2014, she was the recipient of the Outstanding Rural Health Professional award by the North Dakota Center for Rural Health. This award is presented to a professional located in rural North Dakota who has demonstrated leadership in the delivery of rural health services and is unselfishly committed to making a significant and sustained impact on the health of his or her community and service area. It’s as if this award was designed with Vilhauer in mind.
What Vilhauer finds most rewarding about her job is making a difference in someone’s life. From ambulance to lab to X-ray to CAT scans, chances are she has assisted in the care received at WHCA. We can only conclude that Vilhauer either wants as many letters behind her name as possible or she is dedicated to the well-being of patients and the communities WHCA serves.