ELIZABETHTOWN-Bonnie Bigelow has been helping others feel better since 1977.
Bigelow, who retired on May 31 from Elizabethtown Community Hospital as the director of quality, started as a RN in January of 1977.
"When I started, I wanted to go to Plattsburgh State and get my diploma, but then you had to live on campus in order to go to school, so I put it off for a few years," Bigelow said.
Instead, Bigelow was enrolled in the Hospital Diploma Program, which took 27 months to complete.
During her time at ECH, Bigelow has been a RN, assistant head nurse, head nurse, head nurse of ICU and CCU, director of nursing and director of quality.
"I have always been open to new things," Bigelow said. "Medicine is about change and being open to change."
Bigelow said that she remembered fondly her first years at the hospital, making the rounds and working with patients.
"When I started out, it was about getting to know the patients," Bigelow said. "They were like an extended family. You get that comfort with each other and the patients know who is taking care of them and we know the needs of each one a little better. Why we succeed at what we do is because we look at the needs of the patients."
Bigelow will take her 34 years of experience with her, something that will be hard to replace according to ECH administration.
"Bonnie's knowledge and years of experience have been invaluable to the hospital," Rod Boula, administrator/CEO of ECH, said. "She witnessed many changes over the years; and, during her time here, she made a significant impact on this facility.
"On a personal note, I have worked with Bonnie for seven years as part of the senior management team, and I will miss her," Boula added.
"Many members of our staff look to her for guidance and reinforcement. She is gracious and patient with staff, nursing students, patients, administration - everyone she encounters," Bonnie Rata, chief nursing officer said. "Everyone will miss her relaxed approach and kind manner."
As for the next chapter, Bigelow said that she has plans.
"I think that I will be spending time at home for a while," she said. "I have put a garden in already. I want to paint the back of the house, and I am planning on volunteering a lot more at church and other places."