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Via Christi associates celebrate service milestones

Via Christi Service Awards

More than 800 Wichita-area associates were recognized for milestone service anniversaries of from five to 50 years during Via Christi's annual Wichita Service Awards Banquet Aug. 31 at Century II Exhibition Hall in Wichita. Collectively, these associates have provided nearly 11,000 hours of service to Via Christi patients in south-central Kansas.

Following are profiles of seven Wichita associates — five who have achieved 45 years of service and two with 50-year milestones.

45 years: Randy Everton
Medical technologist, Via Christi Hospital St. Francis

Medical technologist Randy Everton has worked first, second and third shift over his 45 years at Via Christi, but it’s third shift that he likes best. The late hours and up-turned sleep schedule were easy tradeoffs for the opportunity to work all the different areas of the laboratory: chemistry, microbiology, hematology, coagulation, toxicology, blood bank, urinalysis and more.

In short, Randy gets to see “the whole spectrum of the patients.”

Third shift’s small staff size means self-management and teamwork are essential, he says, but thankfully he has a great team.

“We work together really well,” Randy says. “We help each other stay on top of all the changes.”

Randy remembers a night when he and a co-worker provided a hospital record-breaking 197 units of different blood products to a Level I Trauma patient. That level of intensive treatment was made possible through teamwork, he says. 

Despite late nights at the hospital, Randy still makes time for handball at the YMCA, a racquetball-like game he plays at least twice a week for a few hours.

“It keeps me in shape and reduces stress — plus you can hit the ball as hard as you can.”

He has to stay in shape to keep up with his 10-year-old grandson, with whom he plays basketball and football. 

Randy says working at Via Christi has exposed him to “great people with all kinds of personalities.”

“We all come together through our dedication to work and detail.”

When he started at Via Christi, he was one of the youngest — “now I’m one of the oldest.”
“Time flies when you’re having fun.” 

 

45 years: Cindy Higgins
Manager for administrative and diagnostic radiology,
Via Christi Hospital St. Francis 

​Cindy Higgins, manager for administrative and diagnostic radiology at Via Christi Hospital St. Francis, likes a challenge.

So when a problem arises, whether in the radiology information system or elsewhere, Cindy manages it.

“Any problems that arise, we fix,” Cindy says.

Cindy started at Via Christi with an entry-level position in the Radiology department. Through her hard work and can-do attitude, she worked her way up to her current position. 

“I’ve been given many opportunities to try new things at Via Christi,” she says.

Some of those opportunities include working on large, important projects. She worked on implementing the first systemwide order entry system, helped pilot an outpatient scheduling project, and helped install the Radiology information system.

“Any time you give me a big project I’m all into it until it’s done,” she said.

Becky Vanlandingham, manager of operations for Radiology for Via Christi Hospitals in Wichita, says working on the Radiology information system with Higgins was a blast, and demonstrated Higgins’ ability to be detail-oriented, resourceful, and, at the same time, fun.

“She works hard and makes the workplace fun,” Becky says.

Cindy says the project was a big challenge – her favorite kind. 

“That’s probably my favorite part about it: there’s always something new that comes along to challenge to learn something new.” 

 

45 years: Doris Kimbrell
Diabetes education navigator, Via Christi Health 

Doris Kimbrell loves to learn new things — maybe that’s why she’s worn so many hats over her 45 years at Via Christi.

“Being able to move from one area to another has really been great,” says Doris.

But she doesn’t just love learning — she equally loves teaching others, a passion she’s had her whole life.

“When I first became a nurse, every few years I would try something different,” she says. “I finally realized I love education and went back to school so that I could focus more on nursing and patient education.

“I just love seeing that light go on when people say, ‘Oh, I understand now.’”

Doris has worked pediatrics, psychiatry, medical surgical units, kidney transplant, and as a clinical nurse specialist, to name a few. For the last five months, she’s been a diabetes education navigator. In that role she educates and supports people affected by diabetes to understand and manage the condition, promoting self-management to achieve goals that optimize health outcomes.

“We’re just letting them know, ‘Whatever you need for a healthier life, I’m here to help you.’”

Doris doesn’t just talk the talk — she walks the walk, living the healthy lifestyle she wants for her patients through dieting and exercising.

Her supervisor, Sheryl Baker, says Doris is “a huge team player” who is “so dedicated to patient care.”

“She makes sure from start to finish that all their needs are met,” Baker says.

 

45 years: Royce Schield
Physical therapist
Via Christi Therapy Center on Carriage Parkway

Physical therapist Royce Schield likes to make change happen.

“We get people who say, ‘I’ve had pain all my life, and I’ve tried this and I’ve tried that.’ Some of the newer methods we use can actually change them,” says Royce, who works with patients at Via Christi Therapy Center on Carriage Parkway. “It’s great seeing people be overjoyed when they don’t have pain anymore.”

After 45 years at Via Christi, the patients aren’t the only changes Schield has seen — the workplace has had great improvements too, keeping Schield on the cutting edge of physical therapy.

“The techniques and methods have advanced so much that you have no idea of how much better some people can get until you start treating them,” he says. “It’s a totally different world.”

Schield’s drive to improve people’s pain has been around since high school. 

“It’s always been my interest, improving people. I’ve had empathy toward pain and disability, so physical therapy fit in with what I always had a longing to do.”

That longing is as strong today as it was when he was a teenager. 

“As long as I’m healthy and feeling good, I’ll keep trying to help others stay healthy and feeling good.”

 

 

45 years: Lucretia Silvers
HIM clinical documentation integrity nurse, Via Christi Hospital St. Joseph 

If there was a first at Via Christi Hospital St. Joseph, Lucretia Silvers, a Health Information Management clinical documentation integrity nurse, was there. 

The first kidney transplant, first open heart surgery, the first trauma — the list goes on and on.
 
“I’ve had great opportunities to see advancements,” Lucretia says. “Via Christi made that possible.”

She was one of the first CDI nurses, a role she assumed after 39 years in the
Trauma/Surgical Intensive Care unit. As a CDI nurse, she reviews patient charts and physician
documentation to ensure the medical record accurately captures the patient’s condition.

“It’s all about good clarity,” she says.

Her manager, Michelle Thimmesch, has worked in CDI with Lucretia from day one. She says
Lucretia’s can-do attitude faces challenges — even personal — and wins.

“Lucretia faced some personal adversity,” Michelle says. “She’s a cancer survivor. So she inspires us all.”

Lucretia fought and beat ovarian cancer, a victory she offers up to God.

“It must have been God’s inspiration, because sometimes I think how tough that was to do, but I just did it. That’s kind of how nurses are about a lot of things — they just get through the day and do it.”

 

50 years: Linda Hogan
Medical technologist, Via Christi Hospital St. Francis

As a teenager, medical technologist Linda Hogan once chased after a fire truck, having no intention of gawking at the fire or disaster — she just wanted to help.

Helping in high-stress situations is something Linda has done all her life. Once, during her professional training, a Bunsen burner’s hose disconnected from the burner while still on fire. Calm and collected, Linda turned it off.

“I like to jump in and make things better,” she says.

Now a 50-year Via Christi employee who has worked as a blood bank specialist for nearly as long, Linda’s lifelong desire to learn, teach and care for others has shone into her work, where she’s able to “help make life possible.”

She started her career at St. Francis, and began working in the blood bank six months in. She then established the medical technology program at Wichita State, where she was tenured for 31 years.

Though she has left the university, she’s still at St. Francis. She’s seen technology and medicine grow and evolve, and has witnessed new methods and breakthroughs streamline healthcare and help to save lives.

“Now we understand more and we’re able to work smarter,” she says.

She particularly remembers when the kidney transfer and heart transfer programs began.

“The dramatic effect those programs had on patients’ lives was very exciting,” she recalls.

Her breadth of knowledge, including on blood transfusions, led to a Great Catch Award, given when a critical mistake — in this instance over a mistaken hemoglobin count — is caught.

Preventing problems from happening is something Linda does well, says Bob Vanasdale, laboratory operations director. Bob says Linda is most passionate when working with trauma patients.

“Because of her vast knowledge base, she can anticipate the needs of trauma patients,” he says. “Many times she's ahead of the game and has things prepared long before the need arises. No matter how stressful the situation, it does not get her flustered.

Bob adds: “I definitely enjoyed being a student of hers — and I still enjoy being a student of hers today.”

 

50 years: Joe Reyes
Patient video monitor, Via Christi Hospital St. Francis

Patient video monitor tech Joe Reyes began his five-decade career in the cafeteria in 1967. 

“One of the Sisters was working out here in the garden, and I asked her about working,” he says. “She wanted to put me to work that day. I said, ‘Can I come back tomorrow?’” 

Humorous, energetic, kind and caring — these are how his St. Francis coworkers describe him.

After working for three years in the cafeteria and three in the X-ray department, Joe moved to Orthopedic Services in 1973. For nearly 40 years, he served as an instructor and mentor to physicians, nurses and others in the area of basic casting and splinting. In the last three years, he took on the video monitor tech role, watching patients on camera, helping to ensure patient safety.

Joe says at its core, helping prevent falls and keeping patients safe is rewarding work. 

“Being able to work with some really great people and being able to take care of people — it’s great knowing I had a role in helping them get better,” he says.

Though he didn’t envision a future in healthcare until he started working at the cafeteria, much of Joe’s life has been dedicated to hospital care and also providing emergency medical care in the community, working as an EMT for the past 35 years. And he knows how important orthopedic care is. He successfully lobbied in Topeka for the creation of Orthopedic Technologist’s Month. 

Joe says he enjoys his work, spending time with family and relaxing by playing his guitar as music is his passion.

About Andrew Linnabary

Andrew Linnabary is a Wichita State student and budding journalist. He loves writing most everything, but especially enjoys feature stories. To him, a feature gives an opportunity to look into someone’s life and learn something new.