Katherine Lillehei received her nursing diploma in 1943, and her BS in Nursing in 1950 from the University of Minnesota School of Nursing. After graduating she worked as a nurse at University Hospital. She was married to the pioneering cardiac surgeon C. Walton Lillehei. She also remained involved with the School of Nursing, playing a prominent role in its fundraising efforts, and serving on the board of the School of Nursing Foundation.
Katherine Lillehei begins by describing her background, including her education and why she went into nursing. She discusses her experiences as a nursing student at the University of Minnesota, working at the General Hospital, working at the University Hospital, and as a private duty nurse. She describes the relationship between nurses and physicians; the heart/lung machine; the Society of Thoracic Surgeons Lillehei lectures; the experiences of wives of surgeons; the elimination of the practical nursing degree program at the University of Minnesota School of Nursing; and commuting back and forth to New York City while her husband worked at the New York Hospital. She discusses her husband, C. Walton Lillehei, touching on topics such as his experiences with cancer and the atmosphere in the Department of Surgery while he was there. She talks about Richard Varco, Owen Wangensteen, Earl Bakken, Maurice Vischer, Katherine Densford, Ellen Fahy, and other School of Nursing Deans.
Katherine Lillehei was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota. She received her nursing diploma in 1943 from the University of Minnesota. After graduating, she worked as a stewardess for four years. She then returned to the University of Minnesota and earned her BS in Nursing in 1950. While she was a nursing student, she worked as a nurse at the General Hospital. After graduating from nursing school, she worked at the University Hospital. She married C. Walton Lillehei and soon after stopped working full-time as a nurse in order to raise her children. She continued to work part-time as a private duty nurse. She also remained involved with the School of Nursing, playing a prominent role in its fundraising efforts, and serving on the board of the School of Nursing Foundation.