Longest-serving employee in HHS history celebrates 55 years of nursing
No wonder Barb Linkert feels so at home at Hamilton General Hospital (HGH). The registered nurse has worked at HGH for a whopping 55 years, making her the longest-serving employee in Hamilton Health Sciences’ history.
“I’ve spent my entire career at Hamilton General Hospital,” says Linkert, who has no immediate plans to retire from her part-time job on the 4 West cardiology and vascular surgery ward. “I love it here.”
Linkert’s relationship with HGH started when she was a nursing student fresh out of high school. “The Hamilton Civic Hospital’s School of Nursing was located on hospital property until the 1970s and that’s where I did my training,” says Linkert, who studied nursing for three years before accepting a full-time position in 1966. She even lived on HGH property, since the nursing school’s student residence was on the hospital grounds.
“I really love nursing.”
Of the 106 students enrolled with Linkert in nursing school, 92 graduated. “My graduating class held a reunion every five years until a few years ago when we started getting together every two to three years,” says Linkert, who met her closest friends through nursing school and continued working with some of them for nearly four decades. “They turned out to be my family away from home.”
Linkert worked full-time for 41 years, retiring in 2007. But her well-earned rest lasted only three days. “My manager phoned me three days into my retirement and asked if I’d like to come back part-time. I was happy to take the position.”
“I think that nursing at Hamilton General Hospital is what I was meant to do with my life.”
She currently works four shifts a month. “I never expected to be working for this many years but here I am. I really love nursing.”
Linkert is an inspiration to colleagues including her manager, Magda Wojtkowski. “She’s a hard worker who loves our patient population,” says Wojtkowski. “She’s very compassionate, and passionate about her role as a nurse. She is full-heartedly here for her patients and her colleagues.”
Outside of work, Linkert is very active. “I do a lot of walking. I have lots of friends and hobbies. I’m passionate about crafts, especially jewelry-making.”
Growing up in Stratford, ON, Linkert dreamed of becoming a nurse. She worked as a teen volunteer – called a candy striper — at her local hospital and applied to nursing school after graduating from high school.
“I applied to nursing schools at Hamilton General Hospital and Toronto Sick Kids. I was accepted to both but I chose Hamilton because I would receive a broader, more general education and I had family here as well.”
Looking back on her career, Linkert says she made the right choice. “I think that nursing at Hamilton General Hospital is what I was meant to do with my life.”
Linkert started her career at the old HGH on Ward 36 – a medical floor that went on to care for chronic patients, gastroenterology and cardiology patients. “My core group of nursing friends all worked on the same ward and we never transferred to other areas because we loved working together.”
When the new HGH was built, the nursing friends moved to 4 West. Linkert’s longtime friends have since retired but she has made many new ones. “I love working with all the new nurses. They’re very respectful and caring.”
She also appreciates the team approach by physicians. “When I started my career, we weren’t as involved with doctors in caring for patients. Now it’s more team based. They’re very interested in our input and we work together. Doctors respect us and we respect them.”
Linkert, who is in her 70s, laughs as she recalls the time her colleagues found a video online about a 90-year-old nurse who was still working. “They showed it to me and asked if I planned to work until I was that age. I said, `No way.’”
Even so, she has no date in mind for retirement. “I still feel that I have something to contribute, and I’m very fortunate that my health has allowed me to carry on,” she says. “Also, it will be hard to leave all the people I’ve gotten to know. They’re all so nice and gracious to me. Nursing at Hamilton General Hospital is a part of my life that I’m not quite ready to give up.”
Join our team
Are you interested in a meaningful career in nursing? HHS is holding a virtual Nursing Recruitment Fair on Sept. 21 and 22 from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. both days. The fair includes an introduction to HHS, and information on benefits, compensation and training followed by breakout sessions with different program areas. Pre-registration is required.