LINDSBORG — Jan Turner said she was just looking for something to do when she started working as an aide at the hospital in Lindsborg in 1966.
"I was very shy," Turner said.
Turner felt familiar with medical terms since her mother was a nursing home administrator and her sister was a nurse. She did on-the-job training in the hospital lab, became a phlebotomist and started working for the Fuller-Fredrickson Clinic in addition to the hospital lab in 1970.
Lindsborg Community Hospital presented Turner with a service award on Dec. 9 for serving more than 50 years.
"Words really can’t describe the level of commitment and dedication it takes in providing more than 50 years of healthcare service to the communities we serve," said Larry Van Der Wege, administrator of Lindsborg Community Hospital. "Jan has endured an incredible amount of change in healthcare along the way and we are grateful that she continues to bring her talents and passion for service as member of our lab team."
Turner recalled that, having grown up in southwestern Kansas, she had much to learn as she worked in Lindsborg — including deciphering Swedish-accented English. One day, a patient asked her for the "yurnal."
"I handed him the urinal, and he said, 'no, the yurnal,'" Turner said. "It turned out, he wanted the Salina Journal."
Healthcare is much different now than it was 50 years ago, Turner noted.
"When I first started, Medicare was just coming in and that's been a huge change," Turner said.
Turner remembers the days when healthcare records involved pencil and paper, rather than a computer and keyboard.
"When I first started, we did very little charting of any sort," Turner said. "We didn't have to keep track of every lab test or have records of all that, and of course now we do."
Lab procedures became more stringent over the years.
"Rules and regulations have changed a lot," Turner said. "We have to run quality control and calibrations on all the equipment."
Documenting their work makes lab test results more accurate, which in turn benefits the patients.
"I think that is a safety feature for the patient," Turner said.
Turner maintains a positive attitude when she draws blood from a patient.
"We're not out to hurt people, we're there to do a job," Turner said. "I go in with the idea of I'm going to do it one time and one time only."
Still, she said she feels sorry for the small minority of people who have a hard time giving blood — and that she has heard every joke in the book about being a phlebotomist.
"The standard is 'vampire,'" Turner said. "I've probably heard that a billion times."
Working in a small hospital meant Turner got to know a lot of the patients.
"I think people like to see a familiar face," Turner said. "In the big city, I don't think they have that kind of tie."
Having that personal connection is meaningful to Turner.
"We get to know our patients," Turner said. "I've seen a lot of people come and go. I've seen a lot of people that meant a lot to me pass on in that many years."
Turner made many friends as she interacted with both patients and coworkers.
"I've had a lot of good people to work for. I've had a lot of good people to work with," Turner said. "Right now, the young people I work with are fun to be around."
The past five decades have left an impression on Turner.
"There's been a lot of things that I've gone through that have stuck in my mind, both good and bad," Turner said. "When I decide to retire, it's going to be an emotional thing for me because that's my life. It's what I go and do. Those are my people and that's my place."
Turner is not planning on leaving her career anytime soon.
"As long as I can still do my job and do it well, I'll continue to work," Turner said. "I'm still doing it because I'm still enjoying it."
Contact Patricia Middleton by email at email@example.com or follow her stories on Twitter at @MacSentinel.