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Morris Hospital bids farewell to longtime nurse leader

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Even after 45 years, Carol Havel, RN, MS, vice president of patient care services at Morris (Ill.) Hospital, said there’s nothing quite like walking onto a nursing unit and getting a feel for the pulse of the hospital.

A self-described “hospital person through and through,” Havel said that is one of the things she is going to miss most. “I didn’t ever want to be anything else,” Havel said in a news release. “I always wanted to be a nurse. Always.”

After 4-1/2 decades — most which were spent at Morris Hospital — Havel retired on Jan. 11. The timing was as she had planned when she was promoted to the position of vice president of patient care services five years ago.

Nursing leader

It was just a week after graduating from Methodist Medical Center School of Nursing in 1968 that she began to work at Morris Hospital in obstetrics on the 3 to 11 p.m. shift. The nurses wore caps and were required to wear skirts that reached a designated length below the knee. Havel’s starting wage was $2.72 an hour.

After a brief stint away from Morris Hospital, Havel returned in 1970 and took her turn at charge nurse on the midnight shift and then became nursing supervisor. She went back to school to get a BSN and tried physician’s office and school nursing. Yet, she knew hospital nursing was her true love. So in 1978, she returned to Morris Hospital as in-service director, followed by a master’s degree and promotion to assistant director of nursing. In 2000, she became education manager and was promoted to her current position in January 2008.

“Carol has made tremendous contributions to our organization over the past 45 years,” Mark Steadham, president and CEO of Morris Hospital & Healthcare Centers, said in the release. “She will be long remembered as one of the most influential nursing leaders in Morris Hospital’s history.”

As part of the hospital’s succession plan, Havel has been working side by side with Kim Landers, RN, MS, NEA-BC, who was the assistant vice president of patient care and moved into the vice president role on Jan. 11.

Job memories

When asked what she is going to miss most, Havel talks about the patients — even patients from decades ago whose stories resulted in such warm and tender moments that Havel will never forget them.

“I have had lots of special patients I remember,” said Havel, who was touched when a woman recently told her she’s in a picture in the woman’s daughter’s baby book from 1968. “We had one patient who turned 21 when he was in the hospital and we celebrated with him. We’ve granted the wishes of dying patients. Those have been great moments.”

Havel also spoke about her role as project manager when the outpatient wing was built and her involvement in preparing for the first Joint Commission survey in the 1970s. She has enjoyed being part of disaster planning and drills and seeing the process play out in real life scenarios, such as the explosion at Quantum Chemical Corp. in 1989 and most recently, the Milton Pope School bus accident.

“I’m going to miss the fantastic people here and being able to make decisions — whether long-term or short-term — that are good for the patients, staff and community,” Havel said. “I’m just a hospital person.”

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