The median number of years a salary worker stays with their employer is 4.6, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Not so for Mercy Medical Center retirees Larry Ramer, Kaye Wingert and Steve Boger. Collectively, the trio served 121 years at the hospital. With two of these dedicated employees recently retiring and one retiring in March, we wanted to learn more about these faithful workers and why they committed their careers to the hospital and serving the community.
Larry Ramer: A Legacy of Faith and Leadership
Thirty-two years ago, Larry took a leap of faith. He was happily nestled at a small community hospital as the assistant director of cardio-pulmonary services when his brother Ron suggested he apply for assistant director of Respiratory Care at Mercy Medical Center.
“My wife and I made this a matter of prayer,” he recounts, “and it seemed as if God was opening the door for me to consider Mercy.” After careful consideration, he decided to apply and see where he was led. Larry was offered the position and began working at Mercy on October 1, 1982. He retired as the director of Mercy Respiratory Care on January 2, 2015.
Mercy was Larry’s first and only employment in a faith-based organization. At his new employee orientation, Larry says, “I can distinctly remember the Sisters encouraging us as staff to see ourselves as an extension of Christ’s arm in ministry, to accept this as our goal, and to allow it to influence how we related to each other, staff, patients and families.”
During Larry’s time at Mercy, he helped develop, implement and direct many programs including respiratory care, sleep medicine, pulmonary diagnostic labs, blood gas labs, neurodiagnostics, non-invasive vascular lab, hyperbaric medicine, and mobile cardiovascular testing, Throughout the years, Larry says he considered his time at Mercy a true privilege and thought of it more as a ministry.
When asked about leadership, Larry said, “I have been very fortunate to have had very good mentors over the years that I have been able to learn much from. I have also been privileged to work with an excellent executive team and medical directors that helped me to be visionary in my goals and gave me the support necessary to achieve many of those goals over my time at Mercy. I could not have achieved or managed my areas of responsibility without having excellent leaders and staff in each of my departments that believed in Mercy’s mission and vision and who frequently and quietly went above and beyond to meet the needs of their patients. It was my honor and privilege to be a member of the team.”
Kaye Wingert: Nursing as an Art and a Skill
Forty-four years ago Kaye Wingert walked up to the director of nursing at what was then called Timken Mercy Hospital and asked for a job. “I promise to be a good employee,” she said. The intuitive director took Kaye at her word and hired her as a nursing assistant. When Kaye finished her degree at Kent State University in May of 1974, she officially became a registered nurse in Mercy’s Intensive Care Unit. Kaye fondly terms the hospital “her Mercy family.” She recalls the overwhelming support the staff gave her when she became a widow with two small children. Now grown, both of her children work at Mercy.
Kaye has seen many changes in nursing since she first donned her nursing cap, white uniform, hose and shoes. She says you always knew what school a nurse was from based on the nursing cap she wore. She remembers when nurses and physicians had no pagers, cell phones or computers, and communication was by phone and overhead paging.
Kaye had many opportunities to be a part of new initiatives. Alongside Sandy Krawson, Kaye started the acute dialysis program, which began with only a portable machine that traveled between the specialty units. Today Mercy has an inpatient dialysis unit that has approximately ten machines. In 1999, she helped start the Prescription Assistance Program, which offers low income patients access to high-cost medications. Kaye also served in Mercy Infection Control, Post Anesthesia Care Unit and Ambulatory Care Clinic.
One of Kaye’s most memorable Mercy moments was during the winter of 1977-78. She recalls that she and another nurse rode in on an all terrain vehicle driven by two young men. They were dropped off at the I77 underpass and walked the rest of the way to Mercy in snow up to their waist, carrying their work clothes in a garbage bag. “We took care of our patients, made them breakfast, and left at the end of the day satisfied our patients received the care they deserved.”
Kaye says retiring was one of the hardest decisions she’s ever had to make, but she now has new goals:
- Not to set her alarm clock for the first month of retirement.
- Spend more time with family and friends and soon to be new grandbaby.
- Stop trying to control life – just let life happen and enjoy the journey.
- Make a positive difference daily in someone’s life, either for herself or someone else.
- Take better care of herself by living a healthier lifestyle with less stress.
- Continue to strive to be a better person. “I have not decided what to do yet when I grow up, but whatever it is, I want to do it with intensity,” Kaye says with a determined smile.
When asked what advice she would give young nursing professionals, Kaye responded, “Embrace the advances in health care technologies, but do not allow electronic communication to replace human interaction. Try to give patients their ‘Cinderella moment’ where they are your only focus. Give patients your time, and listen with your heart.”
Steve Boger: Making a Difference
“It’s not just a job.” That’s how Steve Boger describes his position as lab coordinator at Mercy Medical Center. After 45 years of service, he will retire in March. Steve’s work involves coordinating the lab registration and billing office. He works with physicians and nurses to oversee customer service regarding the hospital’s lab work. He also helps coordinate the lab’s participation in community health fairs and scheduling lab techs to offer low-cost wellness screenings.
Steve’s health care career began when he was a biology student at Malone College, now Malone University. He didn’t know what he wanted to do with his major until he learned that medical technology was an option. To help pay his tuition, Steve worked as an orderly at Mercy Hospital in its previous location in downtown Canton. During his last year of college, he made a transition into the lab as a medical technologist.
Steve has witnessed many changes over his long career. He says two of the most noteworthy are glucometers and cardiac marker testing. “Glucometers, which measure blood glucose levels, changed from a task done in a lab to a task nurses now do at a patient’s bedside,” he said. “This gives the nurses instant results in order to know what is going on immediately.”
Years ago, cardiac enzyme testing was not even performed as a stat test and was not offered during the afternoon or midnight shifts. Once it did become more available to test for cardiac enzymes, it still was sent to the main lab and took quite some time to get results. Mercy was the first Ohio hospital to perform cardiac marker testing (Troponin–I) in an emergency department, enabling physicians to determine the status of a patient much quicker.
Steve is also proud of his involvement in the planning and development of Mercy’s expansion of lab services in the community at the hospital’s health centers. He would like to see it expand even more and says, “I still see needs in various areas, and Mercy has such a fine reputation of caring for the whole person.”
Steve’s retirement in March is perfect timing, just before the months of April and May when he can enjoy gardening. Bird watching is another one of his favorite hobbies. Seeing flocks of birds, such as white pelicans in flight, “is just breathtaking,” he says. He also likes to hike, so you may cross his path at the Stark Wilderness Center and various other wildlife refuge centers through the country.
Steve has a passion to make a difference in the lives of patients and individuals in the community. One smile, thank you, or card may be a small token of appreciation, but when you add them up over 45 years, Steve can look back with fond memories and gratitude for his career at Mercy.
Guest blog post by Mary Beth Breda, Whitney Romine and Roberta Gordon with Mercy Volunteer Services.