Profile: Betty Frandsen

Betty Frandsen, Director of Clinical Education, NADONA
Betty Frandsen, Director of Clinical Education, NADONA

While many in the long-term care nursing profession know of Betty Frandsen's long career, they may not know she wakes up early each day to attend to her “horse nursing home.”

The four horses are “all elderly and disabled, and I pass meds twice a day,” the director of clinical education at NADONA says.

Her farm in New York was a dream stemming from an idyllic childhood in Lansdale, PA. She and her horse “rode all over the place.”

By 2012, she and her husband, Jim, had settled on 10 acres. Her horses have included broodmares, a horse with a heat stroke, and a horse that was blind and sunburned. One of her favorites, Misty, was euthanized in March.

“Horses are so emotional, and the more you invest in them the more they give back,” Frandsen says. Right before Misty was euthanized, her previous owners came to see her.

“She knew them immediately,” she says. “If horses are that emotional, how can people not treat them like they're special? I love them and they love me back.”

In addition to her animal family, which also includes a cat, Frandsen is the mother of two sons and a daughter, stepmother of two stepdaughters, and grandmother of 14. She started nursing school in the 1970s after separating from her high school sweetheart husband and says having a career was part of the issue.

“I was not going to be controlled. I was working as a nurse's aide right before I started nursing school. My goal all along was to become a nursing home nurse,” she recalls. Although there were many options as she graduated near the top of her class, the dean said to her: “Betty, long-term care is the nursing of the future. Everyone you care for is living first and dying last.”

Frandsen says in the 1980s, when she was working nights, she was “hired by accident” as a director of nursing. 

“I couldn't sleep during the day. It was affecting my house,” she recalls. “I went in and applied to be the day supervisor at a new facility. I had to get to the interview through a snowstorm. When I went to work, I was the director of nursing — they said, ‘You're our most qualified candidate.'” 

The facility “built me into a good DON,” she says. 

Even though she became a nursing home administrator, “I never stop thinking like a director of nursing,” she says. 

“She's brilliant,” says NADONA Executive Director Sherrie Dornberger. “She can take 20 different facts around resident safety and a conglomerate of different articles and website and turn it into a toolkit so that it's organized and neat.” 

Despite her commitment to the farm and a lifelong love of gardening (her father was a botanist), Frandsen has flunked retirement several times. 

At 71, she's at “a good place in her career.” In addition to her family and horses, she relishes her membership in Johnson City's First Baptist Church.

“The longer I'm in my faith, the deeper it's gotten,” she says. “I pray about my decisions and I feel I am led in the path that I take.”