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Memories of a CU centenarian

For as long as she could remember, 101-year-old Agnes Hansen knew she wanted to become a nurse. “When I was 6 years old, I said, ‘I’m going to become a nurse,’” said Hansen.

Hansen’s mother wanted to be a nurse, too, but “my grandfather didn’t think that was a nice profession.” So, instead of nursing, she became a teacher. And it’s a good thing.

Hansen’s father was a farmer and mother was a schoolteacher in northeastern South Dakota. Life was hard growing up during the Great Depression. “The reason we even made it was because mother was teaching. I remember my father planting every year for six years, producing nothing but dirt. It was horrible, horrible.”

In her spare time, Hansen’s mother helped local doctors deliver babies at home. One night, she came home from assisting in delivering a premature baby. “She said the little baby fit in a cigar box. And all I could think of was how the baby looked. That’s when I decided I was going to become a nurse and find out,” said Hansen.

Following in her mother’s footsteps

In order to fulfill her dream of becoming a nurse, she had to save enough money to go to nursing school. “We didn’t have any money and I had to work for everything I got,” recalled Hansen. She earned a teacher’s certificate and for a few years taught K-eighth grade.

“I saved my money and told myself, ‘I’ve got to be a nurse and I’m going to have my degree.’ I didn’t want to just be a three-year nurse. I wanted my degree – five years. And so that’s what I fought for,” explained Hansen.

After applying to the University of Colorado School of Nursing (it later became a college), Hansen became one of nine students accepted into the program. “We got one-on-one training, which was excellent. I received a great education. And I appreciate every day of it,” said Hansen.

Nursing in the 1930s and ‘40s

Agnes HansenAfter a two-year probationary period, they became acting nurses for the hospital. “And so we didn’t have to pay tuition or room and board after that because we were working eight hours a day plus having classes. We had one day a week off,” explained Hansen.

“The whole thing was challenging, but I think the most difficult part for me was the scholastic part that had to do with chemistry. I had a difficult time seeing molecules,” said Hansen.

“We had the same professors as the medical students, so we were told we were just as good. The only difference was they had a bit more training and education. And if we wanted to, we could become doctors too,” reminisced Hansen.

In addition to taking care of patient’s health care needs, nurses’ training included cleaning, cooking, giving patient’s back rubs and massaging their feet and hands. It was a holistic approach to patient care.

Hansen graduated from CU School of Nursing in 1941 – the year the United States entered WWII.

Keeping the home fires burning

By 1943, Hansen was working at Fitzsimons Army Hospital. “My folks lived within a mile of the hospital,” she said. By that time she was married, but married life was put on hold when her husband was shipped overseas to build airstrips in the South Pacific.

“He wrote me a letter every day he was there,” Hansen said with a smile. He was gone for 2½ years. In the meantime, she was working day and night at Fitzsimons caring for wounded soldiers. “I was working long hours because those boys would come home from overseas with horrible, horrible things. I just couldn’t go without taking care of whatever they asked for.”

The soldiers even had a favorite nickname for her – “mom.” Hansen said, “I was 28. So, I wasn’t that old. But some of them were only 17 or 18 years old. So to them, I was probably ancient.” When her husband returned, the two of them finally began married life.

Life choices

Before the war, the two sat down and talked about what they expected from marriage and what they expected of each other. They decided that if they ever had children that Hansen would be a stay-at-home mom. After the birth of her children, she lived up to her end of the bargain.

“That hurt like crazy after I had my education. I loved nursing. But we made that rule and I stuck with it, and I didn’t go back to work until my daughter was a junior in high school, and my son was already in college,” she said.

Volunteering turns into second career

While her children were in school, Hansen kept busy volunteering for her church at a nursing home. One day, the director asked her if she would consider working for them. And she agreed. That was the beginning of her second career.

Hansen had been out of the workforce for quite some time, but still had her uniform including her cap and shoes. “I got through that first night because I said to myself, ‘I am an RN and by darn, nobody’s going to know any different.’ And after that first night, I didn’t have a problem,” Hansen recalled.

Keys to longevity

After years of working at the nursing home, she and her husband retired and moved to Arizona where she taught exercise classes for 12 years.  She says that’s what has kept her so spry. In addition to exercise, Hansen doesn’t drink, didn’t smoke and “kept my diet like it’s supposed to be.”

Today, Hansen lives with her daughter and husband and is very self-sufficient — helping with laundry, tending to her garden and keeping busy with great-grandchildren.

Guest Contributor: Dana Brandorff, College of Nursing

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Gender identity, sexual orientation and pronouns

Starting this academic year, University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus students can now choose to provide the university with their gender identity and sexual orientation information through their UCDAccess Student Portal. This wraps up an identity management project by the University of Colorado System that began last year when students were first able to choose a preferred name. The project continued in the spring when students were given the option to add the pronouns with which they identify to their university student record.

It’s totally optional for the student to provide the university with their selected pronouns, gender identity or sexual orientation information. The intention of the new options is to offer students a new way to express their identity.

Respect and inclusion

“I’m proud of our latest step toward enhancing diversity, respect, inclusion and compassion,” said Brenda J. Allen, PhD, vice chancellor for Diversity and Inclusion. “This feels like a turning point for us, a memorable moment. Identity matters to every member of our campus community, and the more we can do to respect that, the more supportive and inclusive we will become.”

Identity and orientation

With the newest options, students can self-select and indicate their sexual orientation, such as heterosexual, and gender identity, such as transgender. The information students submit will help CU Anschutz better understand and serve its population.

“We know that these dimensions of diversity matter and that we as a university are committed to supporting them. However, we need a sense of who’s among us in order to serve them well,” said Allen. “This measure of our student community will help provide that guidance.”

Pronoun selection

Students choosing to select pronouns to reflect their gender identity may choose from five options in their UCDAccess Student Portal — she/her/hers, he/him/his, they/them/theirs, ze/zir/zirs and xe/xer/xers. University faculty and staff are able to access a student’s selected pronoun information so they can be sure to identify the student correctly when they address them or refer to them, by using the right pronoun.


The Women & Gender Center identity management resource webpage can help answer your questions about the new gender identity and sexual orientation options as well as about choosing and using personally-selected pronouns. Additionally, training sessions are planned to assist all members of our campus community understand how it all works and why it’s important.

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Adolescents seeking abortions without a parent’s consent face numerous hurdles

Adolescents under the age of 18 seeking abortions without a parent’s consent often undergo a series of humiliating, burdensome and unpredictable hurdles as they try to navigate the legal system, according to a new study led by Kate Coleman-Minahan of the University of Colorado College of Nursing.

As part of the Texas Policy Evaluation Project, Coleman-Minahan, PhD, RN and other researchers investigated the judicial bypass experience by which adolescents seek legal permission to obtain an abortion without parental consent. The study was published online today in the Journal of Adolescent Health.

Currently, 37 states require parental involvement in obtaining an abortion. This study focused specifically on Texas.

Judicial bypass

“This is the first study to describe adolescents’ experiences with a judicial bypass,” said Coleman-Minahan, assistant professor at the CU College of Nursing and lead author of the study. “We found that the bypass process functions as a form of punishment for adolescents.”

The researchers conducted interviews with 20 adolescents between the ages of 16-19 about their experiences trying to obtain bypass. Those interviewed were 16-17 years old at the time they went to court. Many had experienced family trauma, adverse childhood experiences including household substance abuse, or a general fear for their own safety if they told their parents about their decision to seek an abortion.

Once they began the bypass process, they were confronted with more obstacles. Just arranging transportation to the courthouse was sometimes difficult. When they got inside, they faced an often unpredictable process. One young woman spoke of being intimidated by the criminal defendants sitting in the room. Judges, on occasion, would ask for a detailed sexual history which she had to explain within earshot of multiple court staff including a court reporter who records the hearing.

Personal opinion enters judges’ decisions

Each adolescent was issued a court-appointed guardian-ad-litem (GAL), ordered to act in her best interest. In four cases, the GAL appointed by the judge was a pastor or deacon at a church. One respondent recalled her GAL “telling me it’s never the right option to have an abortion.” This GAL also brought staff from an adoption agency to court with her, breaching the young woman’s anonymity and exposing her to more judgment, the study said.

The researchers found that several judges didn’t hide their personal disapproval of the adolescent’s decision to seek an abortion. Sometimes they denied the bypass request altogether.

“Some judges and GALs based their decision or treatment of adolescents on their own personal opinion of abortion,” Coleman-Minahan said. “Multiple participants cried during the interview when describing the hearing, saying they still think about it, even months later.”

The process, researchers said, seemed like punishment itself, for having sex, getting pregnant and having wanted an abortion.

Emotional harm

“Proponents of parental involvement and bypass laws claim they protect adolescents from alleged negative emotional consequences of abortion, yet our results suggest the bypass process itself causes emotional harm through unpredictability, humiliation and shame,” the study said.

According to Coleman-Minahan, the fact that this is happening in Texas means it’s probably happening in states with similar laws as well. Colorado requires parental notification and also has an option for a judicial bypass.

She said all of these findings should be weighed when considering forced parental involvement and judicial bypass policies. States, she said, should consider the real-life consequences of policies that are purportedly created to protect adolescents.

The study co-authors include: Amanda Jean Stevenson, PhD, University of Colorado Boulder; Emily Obront LMSW, University of Texas at Austin; Susan Hays JD, Law Office of Susan Hays, P.C. Austin, Texas.

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