Retired nurse continues to care for others

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend
Connie George
Retired nurse Birgit Madsen has devoted more than 4,500 hours to volunteering at the Village of Rockville, where she lives, conducting health screenings, comforting hospice patients, and running the community’s 1,400-book library. She was recognized for her work in October, when Madsen was inducted into the Maryland Senior Citizens Hall of Fame.
Photo courtesy of Birgit Madsen

A native of Denmark, Birgit Madsen began looking out for the well-being of others as a teenager during World War II. As an 18-year-old, she joined the underground movement to help find safe havens and hiding places for those fleeing the Nazis and their concentration camps. At one point, she narrowly survived a Nazi interrogation of her activities at gunpoint.

Madsen ultimately studied nursing in Copenhagen before immigrating to the U.S. in 1968, then updated her nursing license at the University of Michigan.

Fast-forward to today. After retiring from her nursing career, Madsen, now 88, continued to put her healthcare skills to work. In fact, she has contributed more than 4,500 hours as a volunteer at her retirement community, the Village at Rockville, where she has lived for 11 years.

She provides extensive medical assistance, including conducting EKGs, blood tests and other screenings at the Village. Madsen also manages its 1,400-volume lending library.

Working with hospice patients

In addition, she became a trained volunteer with Montgomery Hospice so she could provide emotional comfort to families and patients receiving hospice services at the Village.

“I’ve taken care of a lot of people in my lifetime, and because there was a need for hospice volunteers, I felt like it was the right thing to do,” she said.

Madsen’s husband received hospice care at the Village, and she began serving as a volunteer assistant to the medical director at that time, continuing to lend her medical skills after her husband passed away in 2005.

She found the work to be meaningful and it helped her heal. In fact, “it saved my life,” she said, and her volunteerism at the community grew from there.

Madsen’s lifetime of caring for others has resulted in her being named to the Maryland Senior Citizens Hall of Fame. She was honored as one of 43 inductees at the 26th annual Hall of Fame award ceremony in October.

Madsen also motivates her neighbors to get the medical attention they need. Because she is a fellow resident, she believes it is more comfortable for some in her community to seek her input first, rather than going straight to a doctor.

“They know me as a person,” she said. “We’re friends.”

“Sometimes people are hesitant to go to the doctor,” Madsen added. “A lot people are intimidated and afraid of being a bother.” But because of her medical training, when someone is in need of care, “I can tell, so I tell them that they need to make an appointment.”

She is also able to help direct her neighbors to the right resource for the care they need. “People will call me at my home and ask for help because they don’t often know where to go for help,” she said.

The interaction with her community through her support of fellow residents has paid off socially as well. “What’s been so rewarding for me,” she said of her extensive volunteer involvements, “is that I know everyone in the Village here.”

A humbling honor

Madsen said she has been very humbled and surprised by her Hall of Fame award. “I kind of feel overwhelmed,” she said, “because I love doing what I’m doing, and I really don’t feel like I need an award for it.”

She added that she believes “I haven’t really done anything heroic. I’ve worked all my life and I like to stay busy.”

But according to volunteer manager Felicia Brown, who nominated Madsen for the honor, “Birgit is an invaluable asset to the Village at Rockville and is one of our most diligent volunteers.”

In addition to Madsen’s medical services, Brown said, “Since serving as librarian she helped develop a computer tracking system for the incoming and outgoing books, has increased the volume of residents who utilize [the community’s] library services, and helps train and teach new library volunteers.”

Madsen said she hopes that her award might motivate other individuals to begin serving in their communities.

“I hope this will inspire other people to volunteer,” she said, “and that those who have the time will work to help other people in need.”

The community has numerous openings for both resident and non-resident volunteers, from fitness instructors to bingo assistance. For more information, call (301) 354-8447 or see www.thevillageatrockville.org/volunteer-opportunities-washington-dc.php.

The Maryland Senior Citizens Hall of Fame is a private, nonprofit, volunteer-run organization established in 1987. Its sole purpose is to honor the state’s residents who are at least 65 years old and have performed outstanding service in their communities. For more information, visit www.mschf.org.