“I always treated the people like I would want my own family to be treated,” Toney said.
That motto of hers is extended not only to patients, but to her co-workers, supervisors and employers.
“I worked with so many good doctors, and I always had good supervisors,” the 73-year-old said.
As a patient access representative, her daily job duties at the hospital included handling patient registrations and compiling addresses, employment matters and other paperwork, among other tasks.
“Not every day was the same,” Toney said.
It’s been a long time coming, but now Toney is ready to retire after 52 years with the hospital in Gainesville.
“It is just time to move on out. I’ve been there a long time,” Toney said, laughing.
The Gainesville native started off as a ward secretary in the then-Hall County Hospital when she was just 21 years old in 1963. She remembers the date exactly — Nov. 11 — because her birthday was on Nov. 27 and President John F. Kennedy was assassinated on the weekend in between.
On that day, she was a bit nervous before her job interview, because she didn’t have any experience in the field.
“I knew nothing about anything medical-wise,” Toney said.
A friend of hers who drove her to the interview said she would learn it eventually. And she did through just being around the hospital for so long.
She eventually moved on to the admissions department, where she stayed for 44 years before accepting the job as outpatient registrar in 2010.
Toney even planned to save money to attend nursing school eventually, but never got around to it.
“Time passes so quickly, especially when you’re my age,” Toney said.
A little more than two years ago, the hospital staff surprised Toney with a celebration marking her 50-year anniversary.
They played video clips highlighting her time with the hospital up to that point, not realizing she would retire two years hence.
At that point, she herself hadn’t even thought about retiring.
“I never would have thought I’d have been here so long,” Toney said back then. “It’s just my home away from home; it always has been. I don’t have any thoughts about (retirement) yet. Everybody asks me (when), but I just keep telling them as long as I’m in good health and my bosses like my work. I like it and I love to meet people.”
About 50 co-workers joined in on the fun and helped her celebrate, including CEO Carol Burrell who presented Toney with the Torch Award.
“Betty has been welcoming everyone with a great smile and a level of care that made you feel at home, almost as if the person taking care of you was your own mom,” Burrell said at the time. “Co-workers, hospital staff and patients see Betty not as a fixture but as the exemplary image of what serving a patient with care and compassion looks like. I would say she epitomizes our values.”
The same hospital staff gathered for Toney’s official retirement party Wednesday in the Auxiliary Conference Room on the first floor of the Women & Children’s Pavilion in Gainesville.
“When we celebrated Betty’s 50-year anniversary with NGHS, we all recognized how much change she has seen in our organization: from Hall County Hospital to Northeast Georgia Medical Center; from typewriters to the first computers; and from paper to electronic registration,” Burrell said. “Betty’s loyalty to our organization and patients is truly inspirational. It is because of her continuous dedication, work ethic and positive attitude that we will always consider her one of us,” Burrell said.
Toney said before she made her big decision to retire, she looked for some guidance and consultation with the man upstairs.
“I prayed about it. I asked the Lord about it, and he said it was time,” Toney said.
Part of her decision to step down came in September when she fell ill. She took time off from work to get better.
For the five months since, she has kept herself busy. She plays bingo, explores her interest in photography and crochets occasionally. She also likes to keep track of and collect old family photographs from vacations or gatherings.
“I don’t have any children myself, but I have plenty of nieces and nephews,” Toney said.
She goes to church at Calvary Baptist Church in Gainesville, where her great-nephew preaches.
When she can, she helps out with the children and Sunday school at the church.
But Toney still misses the day-to-day routine of working. Her official last day with the hospital was Jan. 21.
“I already miss the people (at the hospital),” Toney said. “They made me so happy.”