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South Nassau Communities Hospital is 'home away from home' for 50-year employee

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Kathy Fletcher, a unit secretary at South Nassau Communities Hospital, has been working there for 50 years and counting — and she wouldn’t want it any other way.

Fletcher, 69, of Freeport, began her career as a nurse’s aide at the hospital. Nineteen years old at the time, she planned to gain some experience and move on to nursing school. She loved South Nassau’s “family-feel” and wanted to stay there, even before hurting her back in the ‘70s made her rethink nursing as a career.

After the injury, she became a secretary for the B-2 and C-2 units, formerly the ICU step-down and medical-surgery units. She then transferred to the behavioral health unit, which was H-1 at that time. Fletcher is still secretary for the unit, now on D-4, which she calls “home.”

“I’ve seen the hospital grow a lot,” Fletcher reflected. “The main entrance changed. Some units closed, some re-opened. I used to work at the original H-1, which is now E-1 cardiology. It was 24 beds, then 28 beds, then 36 beds …”

As her small, local hospital grew into a major medical center, Fletcher never lost the sense of community she felt there. “It’s a homey place to work,” she said. “From the director to head nurse to staff, we’re all a little family.”

The unit secretary is among the first people to greet visitors and patients when they enter the division of the hospital. Jeanne Tetro, an assistant nurse manager at South Nassau, has worked with Fletcher for 30 years and spoke of her kindness and efficiency. “She’s very good to patients,” Tetro said. “If you need the doctor, she calls them. She trains new clerks and we know that if Kathy trains them, they know how to run the unit.”

Tetro added that Fletcher contributes to the community spirit with her generosity and knowledge of the hospital.

“She knows everything and everyone in the other units,” Tetro said. “We’re all like a family — we go out together and just love being around each other.”

Daina Kakana, D-4 unit manager, said Fletcher’s “dedication to ensuring the unit functions effectively is immeasurable.”

“She’s always available to assist and troubleshoot whatever the day may bring at the unit,” she added.

While it’s not always smooth sailing helping patients and visitors who may be in distress, Fletcher said, her job is “challenging, but rewarding.” Between her support system of administration and staff, “there’s always someone there that will listen to you,” she said.

Fletcher takes pride in “how our unit has increased in size and the care that patients get on D-4,” she concluded. “The staff really cares about the patients and each other. That’s why we work so well together.”