Every day at 9:53 a.m., Elizabeth Lyle clocks in for her 10 o’clock shift at Northeast Georgia Medical Center in Gainesville.
As a patient care technician, Lyle works in the Sam Jones Cath Observation Unit inside the hospital’s outpatient services building, where she assists patients preparing for and recovering from non-emergent cardiac catheterization procedures, in addition to offering support to the nurses.
“It’s busy, usually — real, real busy,” she said.
At 77, Lyle is a mother, grandmother and great-grandmother — and she’s Northeast Georgia Health System’s longest tenured employee with 55 years of service, for which she was recently recognized during the organization’s annual service awards ceremony.
When Lyle joined the health system in 1967, the hospital was a five-story red-brick building. She heard by way of her aunt, who was then a unit secretary, about the hospital’s need for a certified nursing assistant. Then-director of nursing Betty Sue Harris conducted the interview, and Lyle got the job.
“I’ve been here ever since,” Lyle said. “I just love doing what I do; I do a lot of behind-the-scenes things that I don’t realize I do until I’m off. I used to work on the floor, (where) you did a lot of emotional support to reassure the patients that you were going to take care of them.”
For Lyle, friendliness is serious business.
“I’m a people’s person, I don’t meet strangers,” Lyle said.
“Sometimes the nurses have to come to the room (where) I’ll be talking to patients and say, ‘Come on out of there,’” she added with a chuckle. “Over the years I have met a lot of people that I wouldn’t have met (otherwise) by working here.”
Lyle said she’s often recognized in the grocery store and other places around town by patients who’ve come through the cath observation unit, who approach her and say hello.
Lyle’s late husband of 21 years, Eugene, also worked at NGMC in Gainesville as an operating room technician.
Lyle is eyeing retirement next year, though she won’t make a full exit from the workforce, necessarily; she plans to become a greeter at a local funeral home.
Her work ethic, she said, was inherited from her mother, who committed herself to working hard while raising three children on her own.
“She was a single parent; I’m the oldest, then my brother and my sister,” Lyle said. “Mama never did get any help from the government. She worked. She taught us to work. I’m still working; my sister, she’s 72 and she’s still working; my brother, he retired twice.”
Lyle said she’s grateful to have had such a longstanding relationship with NGHS.
“Some jobs, you get pushed out when you get older and slow down a little bit,” she explained. “The medical center has let me hang around. Even though I’m a little slower, I’m still here.”
Naturally, some days on the job aren’t as upbeat as others. But even when she has a tough shift, Lyle still tries to keep her chin up and not let one bad day taint the rest.
“I just go home and take a shower and get ready for the next day,” she said. “I thank God that I’m able to do this and try to say my prayers every morning that he’ll give me the strength.”