By CHRIS MORRIS
NEW ALBANY —
In a few weeks Ruth Heideman will retire after 46 years of service at Floyd Memorial Hospital and Health Services.
But she won’t be riding off into the sunset. No way could she spend more than four decades at a place and then just walk away. Beginning in 2014, Heideman will be volunteering, working two to three days a week in the hospital gift shop and using her energy as vice president of the auxiliary.
“I would be surprised if she didn’t [stay in some capacity]. This place has been so much a part of her life,” said Mark Truman, vice president of operations for Floyd Memorial. “She can’t walk away from it. It will be good to have her around.”
Officially, however, Heideman is retiring as a paid associate at the hospital after working 46 years as a registered nurse and spending the last three as executive director of the Floyd Memorial Hospital Foundation.
The hospital looks nothing like it did when Heideman first arrived as an emergency room nurse in 1968. There have been several expansions and improvements. She has been there through them all, and Wednesday afternoon, a section of the newly remodeled hospital cafeteria was the site of a retirement party for Heideman where several well-wishers came by to share stories and talk to the lady who has played such a big part of the hospital’s history.
“She has certainly done a lot to shape nursing at Floyd Memorial,” said Kevin Inman, director of nursing. “Ruth is a wealth of knowledge and is still a great nurse and patient advocate.”
Heideman, 67, began her career working in the hospital’s emergency room, before it was staffed with doctors, and only had eight beds. The nurses took care of minor medical issues and would call the doctor who happened to be on call that day when one was needed. She later was in charge of the emergency room and surgical unit. She stayed in nursing until three years ago when she took over as executive director of the foundation.
She has worked for four chief executives and said there were times prior to this year when she considered retirement.
“There have been a lot of changes,” she said. “There were times when I didn’t know if I wanted to stay. But this is my home. I told the directors the other day I have probably spent more time here than my own home. It’s like a small community here.”
Heideman said there is one associate at the hospital with longer tenure. She also said she is looking forward to working as a volunteer at the hospital and with the auxiliary. As executive director of the foundation, Heideman has worked closely with the auxiliary in the past three years.
Truman said he is glad she is sticking around, even if it’s as a part-time volunteer.
“It’s always important to have historians for an organization,” he said. “People like Ruth keep you grounded in the history ... that is why we are here. What do we mean to the community? She will be the first to tell you that our No. 1 focus is patient care. We care about each other and I think that sets us apart from other organizations.”
There are plenty of people who care about Ruth Heideman, and many attended Wednesday’s event. While she will no longer be a full-time employee, she will still be around the hospital a few days a week, and mentally, for the rest of her life.
“I love this hospital,” she said between hugs from friends. “This hospital has meant so much to me and my family.”