Saturday, March 21, 2009

Her Whole Life Was Nursing

Last month I read in The Post-Standard the obituary of Margaret Eklund, who died at age 91. She was the first Director of Nursing at Community General Hospital, having joined the organization in April 1962. One of the original administrative team, Ms. Eklund was employee #0006.

Community opened on January 1, 1963 and Ms. Eklund built its policies, hired its nursing staff, and established a culture of of excellence and caring.

I did not know her, but in the weeks since Ms. Eklund's passing, I have asked some who knew her for their memories. Ms. Eklund set high standards for herself and for all with whom she worked. She was meticulous and demanding, and her starched whites, including cuff links, were legendary.

When Syracuse General Hospital merged with Community in 1964, Ms. Eklund brought the nurses from General into Community's new organization. The transition was "very skillful, very amiable," remembers Charles Calligaris, Community's Associate Administrator (employee #0002).

“Ms. Eklund was a very effective Director of Nursing," Mr. Calligaris recalls. "She supported her staff. The nurses were professional, and they felt good about themselves.”

With General Hospital came its nursing school, and Ms. Eklund also served as Director of Nursing Education until the nursing school transferred to Onondaga Community College in 1968. A student from that era recalls some hijinks -- students going to the hospital roof to let off steam. As she recalls, a bit ruefully, “Ms. Eklund didn’t appreciate any fooling around.”

Ms. Elund’s obituary reads: “She fought lifelong to set the highest standards in healthcare for all and for the elevation of as well as respect for the nursing community.”

Remembers Charles Calligaris: “Her whole life was devoted to nursing.”

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