“I can’t imagine working anywhere else”
In 1978, FMO senior clerk Wendy Ulriksen and maintenance worker Barry Collins took their first shifts at VGH. It was the beginning of careers that would see each of them serving the hospital for the next four decades.
In the beginning
“I was only going to stay for two weeks,” recalls Wendy. “It was a temporary position after completing the medical stenography course. Forty years later, I can’t imagine working anywhere else.”
For Barry, finding a career at VGH was following in his mother’s footsteps. “My mother, Pat Collins, worked here beginning in 1956,” he says. “She suggested trying a job here. In 1978, I began working in Patient Transport. It was such an interesting place. I decided to stay and see what I could accomplish.”
For both Wendy and Barry, VGH was more than a place to work — the friends they made helped the hospital feel like a second home.
“For the first 20 years, VGH was like a small city,” says Wendy. “Everyone knew everyone even if you did not know their name. I still see some of the old timers from those days and we still exchange greetings.”
Making a difference to patient care
Though their work was primarily behind the scenes, Barry and Wendy are proud to recognize the impact they made on patient care.
“For 18 years, I have been the ‘lamp man’. I never ‘left anyone in the dark’ and there was always a ‘light at the end of the tunnel,’” Barry says with a wry smile. “I feel a sense of pride knowing that, although unseen to most people, I have a hand in maintaining a clean, stable and healthy healing environment for many people.”
“I once had a head nurse chastise me because I said that I was only a clerk,” Wendy recalls. “She reminded me that without the clerks and other support staff, the hospital wouldn’t function. She was right! I know that I have made a difference.”
Fond memories and surprising stories
Both Wendy and Barry have many fond memories of their time here, as well as a story or two! As Wendy recalls:
The best story during my time here was when I was working in the Stores Department. It was the Sunday of a long weekend. A doctor phoned me from the OR to tell me that he needed leeches ASAP. They were urgently needed for a patient who’d just had a five-hour surgery on his hand.
We actually did stock leeches here at VGH but we did not have enough for the case. I phoned the vendor in New York and explained the situation; they managed to get the leeches on a flight into Tacoma arriving that evening. Because they are considered an endangered species, the leeches could not fly into Canada without a special permit and those were only issued on Tuesdays.
I phoned my supervisor and he agreed to drive to Tacoma and pick up the leeches. I then phoned the various border crossings explaining this was a medical emergency and asking if they could help us facilitate importing the leeches. They agreed. The leeches arrived and the patient’s hand was saved because of all our efforts!
I always wished I could have met that doctor and patient.
The road ahead
After 40 years, both are sad to leave behind the friends they’ve made, but they’re looking forward to their next adventures. For Wendy, travel is her first priority. “I have many places still on my bucket list,” she says. And for Barry, he’s looking forward to spending time with his wife Shelly. “She’s my best buddy,” he says with a grin.
Congratulations to you both. You will be missed.
Tags: Health Human Resources