Much has changed in 50 years of health care
There have been a lot of changes in health care since Gloria Everhart began her employment at what was then known as Jefferson County Memorial Hospital in 1970. She reflected on the many changes as she celebrated a 50-year anniversary of her employment late last fall.
“Things we did back then don’t happen now,” Everhart said.
Nearly all health care facilities are tobacco free today, she said – and JCH&L has had a tobacco free campus for a number of years. But in 1970, there was a cigarette machine in the main lobby and many staff members could smoke in their departments.
In her early years, she worked in medical records and the business office – and the business office worked 7 days a week, including holidays. Business office staff had to transmit information to Omaha at the end of each day for billing purposes, and retrieve reports promptly at 8 a.m. each morning so that bills could be generated on site. In current times, there are medical personnel in the facility 7 days a week every day of the year, but business office staff get weekends and holidays off.
Computers weren’t available on site when Everhart began her career. Patient information was kept on index cards. Medications were looked up in a black book for proper billing.
“It was not automated,” she remembers. “Back in the day you did a lot of handwork.”
She remembers typing forms and papers with carbon paper for extra copies – and what a headache it was if you made a mistake to correct all those carbon copies. She wondered if there was even still a typewriter in the building.
“You didn’t want to make a mistake typing,” she said.
She remembers a time in her early years where there was a computer system which had discs about 16 inches in diameter that had to be rotated, so the newest disc was kept in the safe. Even when computers were more prevalent, there was no dedicated Information Technology (IT) staff to assist. That department – which now has 4 staff members and is involved in every area of the facility – came later. And with no computer in her early years, there were also no passwords.
The number of employees has steadily grown over the years. Everhart couldn’t remember an exact number of employees in 1970. Records show that when the facility opened in 1963, there were 60 employees. By 2000, Everhart has records to show JCH&L had 155 employees. In 2021, there are currently 255 employees. Payroll for those employees has changed from paper checks once a month, to paper checks every two weeks, to electronic deposit every two weeks.
Back when she was first in the business office everyone dressed up for work. Business office staff wore dresses, hose and dress shoes. She even remembers one staff member getting sent home for not wearing hose. Today’s dress is much more “business casual,” she said. In her early years nurses wore white dresses, white hose, white caps and of course white shoes. At one time, different departments that wore scrubs wore specific colors. Today’s nurses and other ancillary staff typically wear scrubs in a variety of colors.
The facility itself has changed a lot in 50 years, Everhart said. There have been many renovations and additions over the years, and the addition of the Fairbury Clinic as an attached facility will be a great step, she said. The fitness center was added in 1996, along with a new therapy area and new front lobby. A new surgery area was added in 2009. Cedarwood assisted living (a joint project of JCH&L and Bryan Health) was added in 2004. And a major renovation converted the hospital to all private patient rooms and made a number of changes in ancillary services in 2015.
Even the facility’s name has changed. When Everhart started her career it was Jefferson County Memorial Hospital. In the late 1990s it became Jefferson Community Health Center. And today it is known as Jefferson Community Health & Life.
Health care itself has changed. In her early years, there were 49 hospital beds, and patients stayed much longer than they do now. She remembers some patients who came every year for a stay, maybe for a physical, maybe just to get something checked out. Insurance companies didn’t have the criteria they do today which are required to be met for a hospital stay.
Everhart started her career as a part-time business office staff member, then began also working part time in medical records when that department needed help. She even remembers attempting to do transcription – but “that wasn’t for me,” she said. She later became a full-time business office staff member and worked on payroll and on accounts payable. She served as business office manager at one time in her career. Today, she works in human resources, and still has a major part in payroll.
“I like doing what I do,” Everhart said. “It’s been a good 50 years.”
She said there have been lots of challenges with changes over the years, but she has adapted as she needed to.
“It’s always good to learn new stuff,” she said.
She’s been glad to help out with community events and activities through the years – parades, county fairs, health fairs and such.
She remembers some humorous incidents over the years. Like when a Medicare claim went out for a patient who lived in Western, Nebraska, and the Medicare office told the JCH&L business office they needed a town, not a region. She remembers when fax technology came along she wondered what she would ever use that for. And not so many months later she was asking people “do you have a fax machine? You could just fax that to me.” She remembers the years that JCH&L paid $5 a month for employees for their health insurance. It’s much more than that now – and employees pay a portion of the cost, as well.
Her 50th year of employment was marked by a global COVID-19 pandemic. She said she had never in her 50 years seen anything like it. She said she was proud of her facility and her coworkers for all that they have done to help patients and the community.
“I have never seen anything like it,” she said.
She wonders how much different JCH&L and healthcare will look in the future. She doesn’t have a goal set for retirement just yet.
“I still enjoy what I do and enjoy my coworkers,” she said.