When Susie Hayes started her job at Baptist in 1956 as a medical secretary trainee, she never expected to spend the next 60 years with Baptist. Ironically, the first time she heard about the position, she didn’t even pursue it.
“I was 18 years old and finished school. I didn’t want to continue my education at that time and wanted to work for the telephone company. That’s what a lot of women did back then.”
Working through an employment office, Susie did secure an interview and job with the phone company. During the process, the employment counselor called to tell her about the Baptist position, encouraging her to interview. “She set up the interview and I never even went! She called me later and told me I really should go, so I agreed to go just to satisfy her.”
When she arrived at the hospital, however, she was surprised. “I liked what I saw and heard.” One call to the phone company to decline the job and she set her future course with Baptist.
Her position in the radiology department served as a spring board for learning and growth. After a year in her initial position, she eventually ended up as a supervisor for the clerical staff. “Later, I thought I’d like to teach and earned my B.A. in English from Memphis State and eventually a Masters in geography and library science.” Her salary with Baptist, however, matched a teaching salary, so she decided to stay.
Through the decades, she has witnessed history, the advent of technology and more opportunities for women. “At that time, women were nurses or teachers or secretaries. They didn’t even call women administrative staff.”
She has worked through the arrival of CT scanners, ultrasound, electric typewriters and computers. In fact, when the radiology department increased volume, processing patient information maintained in manual files became a burden. “I kept after our leadership and IT department to create an electronic look-up in a word processor.” When she was met with skepticism, Susie persisted. “Finally, Baptist agreed and with our IT department, we created our own homegrown radiology system.”
Susie was there when Elvis arrived in the X-ray department and also was working when Elvis arrived and was pronounced dead. She was there during the Civil Rights era and when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in 1968. When one of Memphis’ largest fires broke out April 1960 at the well-known Russwood Park , located just north of Baptist hospital across Madison, Susie remembers the damage. “All the hospital windows along Madison cracked and broke and all the unexposed X-ray files were exposed and damaged. It was absolutely devastating. The entire stadium and park were gone.”
A petite woman with a friendly fierceness and easy laugh, Susie’s view of life and work remains pragmatic . With a 48-year marriage, two children, three grandchildren and two great-grandchildren, she still has no plans to retire. “I always promised myself if I dreaded coming to work that was the time for me to leave. If I didn’t enjoy it, I wouldn’t be here.”
Raised by a widowed mother during her primary years, Susie remembers picking cotton in West Tennessee and her feelings about getting older—when she was only 16.
“I looked around me at all the older folks and noticed they all had three things: They kept in shape, they had good attitudes and a spiritual life. So, I said, ‘OK that’s what I’ll do,’” she said with a laugh.
She continues to work at Corporate in revenue process and analysis. When asked how many positions she’s held in 60 years, she wasn’t sure. “There have been several,” she said.
Her advice to those coming behind her is as sound as her reasoning. “I’ve seen many people come and go, and many come back. The grass isn’t always greener on the other side and a job is a job. This is a very good place and God definitely had a place for me here.”