When Phyllis Hamilton started her job with Memorial Hospital as a department secretary in the laboratory on June 2, 1952, she never believed that she would be with the hospital, now the Johnson City Medical Center with Mountain States Health Alliance, for 60 years.
“When I came to work, it was my plan that I would save some money and go back to school, but, of course, I never made it,” Hamilton said. “I’ve enjoyed my work very, very much and, in fact, I feel like I got an education on the job.”
Attending Steed College, a north Johnson City business college, Hamilton said they would help with job placements and interviews for those in the program. After already turning down one job, Hamilton was told by Steed that Memorial Hospital had called and he wanted her to interview for the job opening they had. Hamilton had resisted at first because she felt she was not dressed properly to go to an interview.
“At that time, they taught us that we were supposed to dress up,” she said. “That was a school day and I was completely unprepared, so I told him I didn’t feel like I could go because I had on barefoot sandals.”
Steed called back Memorial Hospital and relayed Hamilton’s message, but they insisted she come in for an interview anyway. Recalling that she interviewed for her position on a Friday, the hospital called her back in on Saturday to meet with people she would be working with in Pathology.
“I was in Pathology for the first 35 years and we definitely have changed a lot in that department,” Hamilton said. “It would be very, very outdated at this time.”
She said she used to show up to work in a suit and white gloves, used to cut up specimens and string them on a needle and thread and took dictation from the pathologists reports in shorthand.
“We didn’t have dictating machines at the time,” she said. “We had to improvise with things that we didn’t have to work with.”
Susan Williams, Washington County director of laboratories, said Hamilton, who is now listed as the administrative assistant for the JCMC laboratory, is no stranger to people working within the hospital.
“She is the one that everyone comes to if they need anything. If she doesn’t have it, she knows where to go look for it,” Williams said. “She knows everyone here in the hospital.”
On Saturday, Hamilton, now 78 years old, will officially celebrate her 60-year achievement, but the festivities started at 2 p.m. Thursday as MSHA staff, co-workers and board members surprised her with gifts and words of praise for all she’s done for the hospital over the years.
Dr. David Soike gave the first gift, announcing to the hospital veteran that because of her service to the laboratory, they had decided to name their conference room the “Hamilton Conference Room” in her honor. Soike showed Hamilton the plaque that will be placed outside of the room from now on.
Williams then presented her with a crystal bowl that had “Congratulations on your 60 years of service, Phyllis Hamilton,” inscribed on it. She was also given a wooden rocking chair with the MSHA emblem on the front and another note of congratulations for her service on the back.
In March, Hamilton broke her hip and she took a break from work to completely heal. But, after extensive rehabilitative therapy, she said she will resume her work at the hospital on Monday with no plans to retire any time soon.
“I know a lot of people thought that I would not come back to work and I guess I’ve surprised them that I wanted to come back to work,” she said. “I’m just, as Minnie Pearl says, ‘very glad to be here.’”