Looking back, looking ahead

Bev Teegarden reflects on 48 years at Memorial Hospital

When you consider the average worker spends about a little more than four years at his or her job before looking for new opportunities, Bev Teegarden is very special. Those who work closely with the Vice President of Nursing, or have been mentored by Bev would agree about the 48 years she has devoted to Memorial Hospital. When she leaves the hospital for the last time on Friday, Bev, will leave the only place where she has cared for patients, served as a role model, and not only embraced change but also took risks and spearheaded initiatives that led to positive changes. We sat down with Bev to talk about her career, her retirement and her future.

A retirement celebration for Bev will be held from 4 to 6 p.m. today in the Innovation Cafe Courtyard.

Here are some words of thanks and well-wishes from some of Bev’s colleages. (See above video)

About becoming a leader …

“Within the first year of working here as a staff nurse, the head nurse asked me to be in charge of the department when she went on leave. It was a little daunting because I thought here I am a new graduate, a newbie, and she was asking me to be in charge while she was off for about 18 months. I always thought of her as a role model. She was very purposeful but also very connected to her staff and intuitive enough to see qualities in different people. She said to me, ‘You’re kind of the silent leader.’ To this day, I still appreciate her for the wisdom she shared with me.”

About embracing change …

“I’m the type of person who doesn’t always like the status quo. If I see something that should be changed, or could be changed for the right reason, I want to change it. I’ve been a part of a lot of that here and sometimes I think, ‘Oh my gosh, how did you last as long with some of the things you’ve done.’ I remember the dean of nursing school said, ‘I made your caps the smallest I could make it because I’m not sure what purpose they possess.’ So I started just not wearing my cap. When I worked in the ICU and would go around the curtain, it would fall off. There was a period of time I took over for an ICU leader and found BEV BALDWIN written on a piece of notepaper in some file for not wearing my cap. But I didn’t get in trouble. Others must have followed because we don’t wear them any more.”

About spearheading new initiatives …

“A good friend in the ICU and I both had children who were going to be in kindergarten. We didn’t have an educator and we wanted to job share. One of us working morning, the other in the afternoon, depending on when our kids went to kindergarten. We decided we’d be called preceptors. This was back in 1973. We went to the director of nursing and pitched our idea. We were scared to death and were sure she’d say no. But she let us do it. We later took our job share and became job-sharing head nurses, both of us working part time. We changed the work environment, changing from uniforms to street clothes. That was a big deal.”

About giving nurses a voice …

“I’ve always believed in nurses participating in planning and being part of the discussion when decisions are made. Our role as nurses is to be the advocate for patient and change agent at the bedside. I remember having offsite meetings with staff. We were trying to rebuild the environment in the ICU, so we had a meeting at a house in someone’s basement. We weren’t being paid. But we were called to the office because they heard we were ‘rallying against administration.’ We weren’t. We were getting ideas and input so we could improve the environment. We’ve also had meetings at my house over the years. These are my friends and I want us to know each other.”

“When I look back over my career, I feel best about …”

“I probably feel best about being able to influence and make change. There’s something to being relevant, resilient and relentless. You have to be resilient, but then you have to stay relevant because if you don’t in our profession your time’s up. I think it’s even more important today. By relentless, I mean pitching an idea to other supporters and champions and not always giving up if the first response is no. Have a back-up plan if the idea is worthy and be willing to compromise if needed. And as a leader, you have to pick the best people to work with because the place should run really well when the leader isn’t there. If you have the right people, and set the right standards and the right values, it’s going to work, right? Without a lot of checking up on people.”

Some people don’t know …

“… I’m extremely introverted. I have to work hard at it. My resilience comes from my alone time and having get-myself-together time, which is usually my 30-minute drive home at night. Even when I round, it’s not that easy for me. I may be jittering on the inside sometimes, but I don’t want to portray that on the exterior. I had a 4th grade teacher in Kalamazoo, Michigan who got me involved in Junior Civic, and I had to try out with a pantomime and by reciting a poem. She doesn’t know it, but I credit that teacher for the opportunity that helped me kind of get over some of that. When I started in the ER here, one of my physicians came to me and said some of the EMTs thought I was aloof. The reason was I was scared to death of them. But I knew I had to rethink how I was connecting with them and step out of my comfort zone.”

If I had to pick my favorite unit to work in …

“I’d say the ER because it was so all-encompassing. It’s like your own hospital, like you’re running your own mini hospital because you have all types of patients, from birth to when they die and everything in between. There’s so much exposure to the community as part of that role, in talking with people from the community. The opportunity I have had with nursing, and in having so many transitions over time, it has kept me excited about what I’m doing. Even today, when I think of all the things we’re doing – Granger, Bremen, the way we’re doing throughput… I was in Larry’s office the other day talking about the floors in the hospital and I told him this is the step I’m going to miss because I love it. I love it. I love solving problems and love working with people to solve those problems. It’s so exciting right now because there’s so much happening. I’m not afraid of that.”

Looking back at 48 years, I’m proudest of …

“From a nursing perspective, I’m proudest of the relationship we have with the c-suite and administration, nursing is at a point where it’s respected and acknowledged that it’s an important part of the organization. When we say there’s an open door policy and respect from whatever level the associate to the president or CEO, that’s genuine. If you don’t raise your hand and bring it to someone’s attention, if you do it for the right reason and not because you have a frustration, people will listen. I think that’s an environment we have here. I want people to think of me as someone who listened. That I was willing to take risks and to approach ideas and change with openness and that I was inclusive of any of the staff that is in the organization.”

Why I picked now to retire …

“After I got over being anxious in the middle of the night, I knew I was ready and it was time, because we’re in a good spot and nursing is in a good spot. We have some really great nursing leaders. And I marvel at the quality of nurses we are recruiting, who are coming in the door for the right reasons. They usually have had some experience, or some exposure themselves or within their family, where they saw great nursing care and decided that would be their passion. It’s time for transition to happen. It feels right. But it’s tougher at some times than others. I can be driving into work …” [Bev dabs at tears filling the corners of her eyes and takes a few moments].

Let’s talk about your plans for the future …

“I’m going to give myself a year to figure it out. I have seven grandchildren from the ages of 19 to 8. They aren’t in town, but they’re not far away. So there will be school programs and sports during the week that I can attend now. Maybe I will do some consulting. Would I stay here? No. For one thing, I’ve observed people who have retired from leadership roles and seen them kind of linger. And I’m not a lingerer. My friends are here and I want to keep my friends. I’m sure they might call me to give them some advice, but there are people here who know the right things to do.”

My final reflections on 48 years at Memorial …

“Very few people stay in an organization this long. In this day and age, I don’t expect someone to stay this long, to stay 48 years. But I tell people, if there’s ever a place where you could stay, and where you get the opportunity to do so many things over a career, it’s here. All you have to do is look for it and be part of it and it’s here. There are so many opportunities that the question is not what opportunity, it’s which opportunity do you want to go for.”