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50-Year Baptist nurse honored at retirement reception

The system nursing department hosted a retirement reception for Martha Ullrich, system director of surgical services, who has spent her entire 50-year career with Baptist. Before leaving her work family, she took time to answer some questions about her five-decade career.

What is your fondest memory of your time at Baptist?
My memories of my time at Baptist are rich. I have worked with the most wonderful staff in the country and have loved every position I have held, so this is a difficult question. One of my fondest memories was actually my training as an operating room tech. I was blessed to be taught by one of the greatest folks in the world. Joyce Robinson was my instructor, and she knew how protected I had grown up, so she treated me with kindness, respect and taught me how to be accountable for my own actions. To this day she remains a great mentor for me. In addition to having a nursing mentor, I was mentored by some of the most well know physicians in the country. Names that come to mind include: Dr. Eustace Semmes, Dr. Francis Murphey, Dr. Richard DeSaussure, and many, many more.

Can you share a funny story from your time at Baptist?
When I was in OR tech training, I was circulating for one of the general surgeons and he was a big cut up. Being a very green student, he said to me, “Martha, go get me an Otis Elevator.” I dashed out the door to go to the instrument room and just as the door closed, I heard fits of laughter coming from the room. At that moment I realized I had fallen for the world’s oldest joke.

What advice would you give our nurses?
Always keep the patient at the center of your world. Never lose sight of why you became a nurse. Work hard and play hard and always depend on God to set the pace for you. No position in nursing is easy, but the rewards will far outweigh the hard work. Love what you do and if you don’t love your job, remember a nursing career can be vast.

Why did you stay at Baptist for 50 years?
I was 18 years old when I came to Baptist, so it quickly became my home. It seemed like the natural progression for my career. In addition to a formal education, I was blessed to work among brilliant people who always raised the bar to broaden my skills. I always thought of Baptist as family.

What areas/facilities did you work in during your time at Baptist?
My career started July 1963 when I began my OR tech training at Baptist Memorial Hospital. I was hired as an OR tech on Jan. 20, 1964 shortly after the completion of the program. I was an OR tech until 1970, when I finished my nursing education at Memphis State (University of Memphis). I was a staff nurse in the OR for a year.

After a year I became the head nurse of neurosurgery. I have lots of stories from that phase of my life. I held several titles in the OR during the next several years, including the director of surgical services at the Medical Center. In 1997, I moved into a system role and the rest is history.

I have been blessed to see Baptist go through many, many changes, some were great and some not so great. We have gone from one hospital to 17 and back to 14. As I watched the centennial documentary, it seemed so surreal to me because I remembered much of the history of Baptist. Baptist is and always will be a major part of my life. Both of my children were born at the Medical Center. Both have worked for Baptist in different roles. It is easy to say we are a Baptist family. I have often been accused of bleeding blue. Easy for me to say, “I love my ‘job'” and it is difficult to leave it.

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