Eastern Health’s Service and Retirement Awards Series
Rapid technological advances have permeated every aspect of our lives; and health care is not an exception. An aging population, higher concentrations of people in urban centres, and changing health care technologies all contribute to the care provided by Eastern Health.
Mary Lou Tilley, Audra Strong and Joanne Diamond have dedicated a combined 75 years of service to the Dr. G. B. Cross Memorial Hospital in Clarenville, NL. Over the past quarter of a century, these individuals have experienced tremendous change – all with an accepting attitude and a clear purpose, to provide quality health care and services to the people of Eastern Newfoundland.
Read on as we celebrate the careers of Mary Lou, a laboratory technologist; Audra, a health records transcriptionist; and Joanne, an Intensive Care Unit nurse, and their contributions to the delivery of health care.
Mary Lou Tilley, Laboratory Technologist – Biochemistry
Mary Lou was born on Bell Island, NL, and since 1981, has been a laboratory technologist. She started her career in the military, and after six years working throughout Canada, she decided to come back home. She accepted a position at the Dr. G. B. Cross Memorial Hospital in Clarenville in 1988.
Mary Lou chose laboratory technology, among other things, because she had always been drawn to math and science – a choice she has never regretted. “Laboratory medicine is a very important aspect of health care,” Mary Lou says, “Everything goes through the lab to get tested.”
Indeed, the lab supports all program and department areas of Eastern Health, including physicians and Emergency Services (ER). “If someone goes to the ER, and they need a test, someone from the lab goes to ER and the specimen is tested right away,” says Mary Lou.
“The lab performs tests on any specimen that can be analyzed. We analyze samples of blood, urine, and body tissues – to name a few. There are many different types of tests (e.g. hematology tests, pathology tests, etc.), and, at our lab, we have different testing areas, each with a lead lab technologist.” Mary Lou herself is responsible for leading biochemistry tests. “We also rotate – once a lab member is finished in one testing area, that person goes around and assists in other areas.”
Mary Lou recalls when she first started. “We analyzed specimens manually – I used test tubes, pipettes and hand instruments, and – depending on the area, a lot more steps were involved in the process. Most things are now done in lab analyzers.” This means manual work has shifted; lab analyzers are constantly controlled, validated and maintained to ensure accurate results.
Along her career, Mary Lou has met many challenges, including the need for standardization and quality control procedures. Mary Lou understands the value of laboratory medicine, and the importance of a job well done. “It is very rewarding to help doctors find a diagnosis, or prevent an illness,” Mary Lou adds.
“Being open to change has been, personally, my greatest lesson,” Mary Lou admits. “Continuous education and training, too, are keys to success in this field. We receive training when there are software updates and new procedures in place, and we are responsible for sharing that knowledge with our colleagues.”
Clearly an outdoor person, Mary Lou hopes to retire early, in 2017, and says she plans to enjoy it – “I’d like to do a lot of snowshoeing, skiing, golfing, and gardening, and definitively some volunteering, perhaps with seniors.”
Audra Strong, Lead Hand, e-Documentation
Born in Come By Chance, Audra started her career in 1988 at the Dr. G. B. Cross Memorial Hospital. After 10 years in Nutritional Services, Audra moved to the reception area of Emergency Services for a couple of years before finding her niche at the Health Information Services and Informatics Department (HISI).
In her current role, Audra is responsible for transcribing physician reports. “When a patient has a doctor’s appointment at the hospital, say an out-patient visit for example, physicians dictate their findings into a system. I connect to that system through my computer, transcribe it and produce a patient’s report.”
Now a days, transcribing is mostly an electronic process. Audra explains: “Once a report has been completed, it is electronically filed and sent to the appropriate physician for review and sign off. HISI staff then distribute the reports to the patient’s family physician and other relevant health professionals.”
HISI are meaningful because they facilitate quality care – health care professionals rely on medical records to gather information, understand, and make decisions about a patient’s condition and subsequent care. “We aim to meet our target turn-around times – all of the time.”
“Privacy and confidentiality are paramount in my work,” Audra adds. “Our department maintains all patient-related information, and it is crucial to keep that level of trust – it is at the core of what we do. To emphasize our commitment to privacy and confidentiality, each of us at Eastern Health signs an Oath of Confidentiality.”
The consolidation of Eastern Health in 2005, particularly the integration of new typing systems and programs, as well as patient charting practices, was a significant shift. Audra says, however, that it is important to accept the challenges that come with growth and change.
“At the Dr. G. B. Cross Memorial Hospital, the number of physicians has increased, which means our services have expanded. “We are seeing a lot more patients than we did a quarter of a century ago, and we adjusted. Currently, there are three of us during the day and one person during the night” says Audra.
Audra plans to retire in 2021. Looking back, Audra has enjoyed her work. “I do realize how lucky I am to live and work in a great community, close to my family and friends!”
“Over the course of my career,” she adds, “I have learned the importance of respecting coworkers. In a lot of cases, we spend more time with them than we do with our own families. I have made great friends; and we often support each other both inside and outside of work.”
Joanne Diamond, Intensive Care Unit (ICU) Nurse
Joanne, a native from Happy Valley-Goose Bay in Labrador, met her husband in nursing school. Together they made their home in Lethbridge, NL, and since then, Joanne has practiced at the nearby Dr. G. B. Cross Memorial Hospital.
The Intensive Care Unit (ICU) is not for everyone. Joanne says: “There’s a lot of stress and it’s always busy but I enjoy all aspects of the ICU – it’s a good place for nursing and I like the unexpected!”
The ICU is considered a specialty area. Joanne, a preceptor, often works alongside nursing students as part of their schooling to provide skilled training and guidance. She constantly stresses the importance of working as a team.
Nursing requires collaboration between various disciplines, at various times. “We work with respiratory technicians every day,” Joanne says. “And when dealing with a patient recovering from a heart attack, we work with physiotherapy and dietary staff. We also assist doctors with many patient procedures, such as putting in temporary pacemakers.”
Joanne looks after some of the sickest patients, including post-operative and ventilated patients, as well as those who have suffered heart attacks. “I’ve learned to listen to my ‘gut’ instinct – when something with a patient doesn’t feel right, it usually isn’t. We’re a small unit, and we like to be on top of things,” she adds.
Enhanced technology has had a major impact in the ICU. “There’s so much technology to advance a person’s life nowadays that the expectations in how we deliver health services have changed,” says Joanne. Technology, too, has affected work routines. “When I started many years ago, all patient charts were done on paper. At first, it was daunting having to document electronically – learning to master the keyboard and getting used to the different steps in the computer system were a big challenge.”
Joanne has experienced first-hand the impact of the province’s changing – and aging, population. She says they see more patients, patients who tend to have more complex health issues, and patients in the 50 to 60 year-old age bracket, which traditionally wasn’t the case.
Despite all these changes, however, the essence of nursing remains the same – to care for people – and Joanne is as passionate about what she does now as when she first started. “Getting a smile from a patient, knowing you did something to make them feel a little better, or seeing someone so critically ill get better is one of the most satisfying things in life,” she says.
To young nurses starting in, Joanne has one thing to say: “Nursing will be one of the hardest things you do – but one of the most rewarding. Remember that no matter how hard the day or tough the load – we are here for our patients first and foremost.”
Joanne Diamond has been an Intensive Care Nurse for 25 years. She plans to retire in 2022, and if she is able, she will do some ‘travel nursing,’ that is, to take on short nursing posts across Canada.
Mary Lou Tilley, Audra Strong and Joanne Diamond accepted their 25-year Service Awards on April 8, 2014, at a ceremony in Clarenville, NL. ■
This story was written by Melisa Valverde, a web designer with Eastern Health.