Sharon drove down a quiet dirt road shouldered by cotton fields so characteristic of this part of West Texas. She wondered if she was going to the right place for her nursing interview, and it wasn’t until she came across a small sign that read “Lubbock General Hospital” that she realized she must be right. After stepping into an equally quiet and poorly lit room, she came across a man who waved her down. He said, “Are you Sharon? I’m Mel. Come on back here.” Mel briefly asked Sharon about her nursing background, and she admitted she was a new nursing graduate. Next, her interviewer asked her what shift she would prefer, and Sharon said, of the options, she’d prefer the 3 to 11 shift. Just like that, he told her he’d see her a few weeks later. She was an employee, immediately working with patients at what would eventually become the broader UMC Hospital System, and she’s worked as an important member of the staff for 45 years since.
“Nurses, at that time, bounced between different units,” Sharon said. “It isn’t like it is now, where nurses are more specialized in the places that they work. We kind of learned everything.” Sharon spoke of her experiences in what used to be the only ICU, taking care of the diversity of patients now placed in more specialized ICUs. “I even worked in the NICU, and I’m no pediatric nurse.” However, she has fond memories of having the opportunity to work in different specialties and learn as much as she could so long as she was a nurse, which she always loved. “I worked in the Cath Lab for a bit, and though I liked it, the on-call schedule was tough. I realized it wasn’t about money at that point; it was about my family. I can still do what I want, but that flexibility and those options allowed me to find something right for me and my family.” With 45 years of experience, Sharon’s one of the few nurses in all of UMC that’s had the opportunity to work in a dynamic, single ICU, the NICU, Outpatient Surgery, Burn, Cath Lab, and now the STAR Center.
In thinking about one of the things Sharon’s loved most about working at UMC, she said she’s always had the fortune of flexibility, that the hospital was always prepared to accommodate her interests in trying something new. Having the ability to try different jobs in different places is one of the things that Sharon recognizes that made working at UMC for 45 years worth it. She’s learned a thing or two after having tried so many opportunities within the hospital. She said, considering what advice she would give a young nurse or medical professional, “Go with what you think you want to do. If you don’t like it after a few years (and you have to give it some time), there are plenty of other opportunities at the hospital, and UMC will support you in going to where you want to be.”
After all this time, Sharon said, “I’m happy with what I’ve done in my nursing career. I enjoy the job I’m doing now.” She grinned and leaned forward, jokingly saying about the STAR Center, “Some of the younger nurses said that it’s ‘where they put the old nurses out.'” She laughed. “Of course, that’s not true. A lot of work is done there to ensure our patients are prepared for any treatment they might receive.” Sharon is the kind of nurse that exudes certainty, confidence, and pride in what she’s done and continues to do, something a small jab couldn’t shake. Sharon has become part of an extremely unique cohort of employees in the hospital system with a lifetime’s worth of experience to give to our patients and staff. UMC is a better place for her in ways that are hard to entirely understand. When a person with her commitment and loyalty spends so much time amid the changes and traditions, they become an integral part of them. Sharon stands today as an example of long-lasting compassion, and UMC is grateful for her continued service.