Julie Bird says her work in medical technology is a hidden job in health care.
“Everyone knows what a nurse, radiologist, doctor, therapist is. But when you tell someone you are a medical technologist, they have no clue what that is,” she says.
In that role for Bolivar’s Citizens Memorial Hospital, Bird prepares and analyzes blood, body tissues and fluids for doctors and researchers in the diagnosis of diseases.
She works as a laboratory manager and has spent the entirety of her 20-year career at the Bolivar health care system. She says CMH is small enough that she is active in many different areas of the laboratory operations.
“Working at a rural facility allows me to see this process from drawing the patient’s blood, to running the test, setting up the culture, resulting the microbiology results and even getting blood units ready to transfuse,” she says. “I am able to work every shift and do every job we have in our laboratory.”
As a manager, she still has patient contact, noting many days she’ll draw blood for them. She also quite often conducts the lab work herself.
“I work in every department in the lab – blood bank, chemistry, hematology, coagulation and even microbiology,” she says. “I am a very hands-on manager.”
Bird works closely with the information services department, which she says allows the health care system to have a multicounty reach through its clinic and long-term care facilities. Part of her work with the department is helping to upgrade and build a new information system to better serve patients.
“We are making improvements to streamline our services not only to the hospital, but to our outlying rural communities that we serve,” she says.
In the laboratory field, Bird says she tries to be an advocate for her employees. She has had numerous staffers start out as phlebotomists, strictly drawing blood samples from patients. They then go on to be trained in her lab to tackle approved testing, developing a love for the job and desire to go on to school to get a formal education.
“I make it a point to work around their school schedule if they want to continue working with us while they train,” she says. “This allows them to continue their education and hopefully stay with us as an employee as they grow into more advanced positions.”
Bird takes pride in her staff being able to keep the lab going, even when it’s been three or four techs short at times.
“It is my proudest moment when I see my co-workers and employees work together for the betterment of the patient,” she says. “That’s what it is all about and why we do what we do. No other reason. We are here for them.”
Bird’s passion extends outside the lab, as she’s an active member of the Stockton Lake Sertoma Club. She devotes time away from work every September to help organize Stockton’s annual Black Walnut Festival. The Sertoma Club is a nonprofit organization with a goal to provide funds for youth in the community, and she says the club has given back $50,000 the past three years it has been in charge of the festival.
“I look forward to the festival week more than ever now, getting to soak up every minute of my time spent in the community I love,” the lifelong Stockton resident says.
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