HNE Health recognizes staff-members' half-century of service in ceremony at Armidale Hospital

CELEBRATING NEARLY HALF A CENTURY: (L to R) Wendy Mulligan, General Manager -Tablelands Sector; Margaret Kam (40 years, Inverell); Daphne Wallace (43 years, Armidale ); Barbara McClenaghan (45 years, Armidale ); Anne Hogbin (45 years Armidale ); Susan Merchant (40 years, Inverell); and Susan Heyman,  Executive Director, Rural and Regional Health Services.  Photo: Nicholas Fuller.
CELEBRATING NEARLY HALF A CENTURY: (L to R) Wendy Mulligan, General Manager -Tablelands Sector; Margaret Kam (40 years, Inverell); Daphne Wallace (43 years, Armidale ); Barbara McClenaghan (45 years, Armidale ); Anne Hogbin (45 years Armidale ); Susan Merchant (40 years, Inverell); and Susan Heyman, Executive Director, Rural and Regional Health Services. Photo: Nicholas Fuller.

Hunter New England Health held a recognition ceremony for long-serving staff at Armidale Hospital on Wednesday morning, celebrating the achievements of nurses and administrators who had served for 25 or 40 years – or, in some cases, nearly half a century.

“The Executive Staff believes it is important that we recognise our staff for long service milestones in their career,” a spokesperson for HNE Health said.

This is the first time that HNE Health has held such a recognition ceremony, although the Tablelands Sector has previously awarded staff for length of service.

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110 staff-members were invited from across the region, as far afield as Tenterfield, Inverell, Glen Innes. Guyra, Emmaville, and Tingha. 40 people received their awards in person at the ceremony.

“There’s a lot of faces – all the faces in the room I know,” said Wendy Mulligan, general manager for the Tablelands Sector, “and I’ve worked with you a lot over the last 40-odd years, so it’s really great to see you all come.”

Two of the longest-serving staff members are Anne Hogbin, 70, and Barbara McClenaghan, 69, who have both been clerks at Armidale Hospital for decades.

When they joined the hospital, neither expected to be there for so long – but both women agree that the highlight of their career is still being there, 45 years later.

Ms Hogbin started in nursing admin in 1971, went to community health in June 1989, then moved into medical records in 1992. Ms McClenaghan came to the hospital in 1972, working two par-time jobs in the School of Nursing and medical records. She could see that the School of Nursing was going to become part of the University of New England, so went into medical records full-time, and is now a clinical coder within the medical records department.

Both work in the medical records department, where they file, collate, and store the record of every patient who comes into the hospital. Even after decades, Ms McClenaghan feels the job keeps her on her toes.

“You're learning something all the time, because to me now I'm coding I'm seeing different things all the time. You have anything from a broken toenail to your head to heels, and you're learning all the time. I've always enjoyed it, and it's always been challenging, whether you've lost a record and you're desperately trying to find it, or whatever, it seems to be a different thing each day.”

The biggest change over the 45 years, Ms McClenaghan says, is that “we’ve gone more technical, because we have gone more with the computer age. A lot of things are on computer today.”

Ms Hogbin believes it’s a friendly place to work. “We enjoy the camaraderie here; it's a unique group down here, very unique. We each have our slightly different ways of approaching the task at hand, but it all comes out in the wash at the end."

And, of course, they all work to keeping the hospital running efficiently. “Health care is enjoyable,” says Ms Hogbin; “it doesn't matter at what level you are in the health care, it is a unit. It is a total unit, from the senior administrator, the senior medical person, the senior clerk, right down through the technicians, our physios, catering housekeeping staff, it's all teamwork, and it revolves around patient care."

“We’re really like a wheel with spokes,” Ms McClenaghan says; “everyone has their main goal, and the centre is a patient, and patient care. Each spoke is a department or unit within the thing coming towards a patient."

Ms Hogbin advises younger clerks that “clinical coding is the area to go. They are crying out for coders, and there's not enough coders in the country. Any hospital you could go to, you can easily pick up a job of coding because there's not enough coders around, so if you're enjoying the area, it's a field the young could really get into."