Mercy laboratory director retires after 22 years
Mortensen: 'It's been a good run'
A good boss or coworker in any profession can be hard to find.
So, letting go of one is even harder, which has been the case for those who have worked with Loren Mortensen, director of laboratory services at Mercy Hospital Cassville and Aurora, for over two decades.
After 22 years at the post, Loren Mortensen officially retired. Unlike most retirees who have one party, Mortensen, who managed laboratories at both the Cassville and Aurora locations, got two in his honor.
"He's the best boss I ever had," said Norma Clinton, medical technologist at Mercy. "We're not happy to see him go. We depend on him, he keeps us calm. We're thankful to him for his service."
Mortensen's colleagues and friends bid him farewell at a party Thursday at the Mercy Cassville location, presenting him with gifts and a memory book filled with pictures and handwritten messages from each sharing what he had meant to them.
"I've had a blast working at Mercy," Mortensen said. "I think it's time. We have so many good people who put the patients first. I'm really pleased to have been a part of that. I'm thankful to [my colleagues] for their service at the hospital and making me look good and doing the work."
Mortensen started as a lab tech on the night shift. After 15 months, he was promoted to director, managing staff and daily operations between the two hospital locations. During that time, he was responsible for running lab operations including purchasing and finances, quality control and lab testing.
"I hadn't planned on being the director but it worked out that way," Mortensen said. "It was a good run."
During his time at Mercy, Mortensen said he also served at South Barry County Ambulance District for eight years and previous to that, served eight years for the Roaring River Road District. He also has served as vice-president of the Vietnam Veterans of America Barry County chapter and plans to continue in that capacity.
"Mercy encourages employees to be involved in the community," he said.
Along with the people he's worked with, Mortensen said he has enjoyed working for the Mercy hospital system, too.
"It's a special place," Mortensen said. "You get to know patients on a first-name basis. You're taking care of your neighbor."
Even with the sense of accomplishment and community his work has brought him, work has not been without challenges, he said.
"I think the biggest challenge was to mirror two labs with the same policies and procedures, same equipment and even some of the same staff," Mortensen said. "For instance, if there was a shortage in one location, staff from the other could help fill in gaps."
Mortensen's method of management has been one of working with peoples' strengths and talents, which he says has served him well over the years and has resulted in ideas being implemented for the betterment of the hospital and patient care system-wide. Doug Stroemel, president of Mercy Hospital Cassville and Aurora, said Mortensen and members of his staff have been influential in developing a software program in the laboratory information system.
"Each person has a different talent and just working with them putting that to use," Mortensen said. "I think that makes them happy. I'd let them work with it, develop it and run with it and I think that's what makes things run better. It's little things like that make all the difference. It's not what we do but how we go about getting things done.
"Our technologists developed some ways to monitor quality control. Some of those steps that we built and implemented were used system-wide. And just from building on that concept of working with peoples' talents. My job has been easy because of the support of those I had working with me."
Stroemel said he appreciated and remembered how Mortensen helped him when he first came on board at Mercy as a manager.
"When I first came here in 1996 as a new manager, he was very welcoming and helpful to show me what to do, such as what reports to complete and those types of things," Stroemel said. "He was a great mentor. It's nice to have someone show you the ropes. He always insists on quality. You can't vary from that, especially in a lab and medical setting. He's just that type of person, very caring, consistent and always willing to help. He's going leave some big shoes to fill."
"It's been a lot of years and all great," Outpatient Nurse Pam Rupp said in Mortensen's memory book. "We will miss you but hope only the best for you."
Pat Ratliff, cook at Mercy for 24 years, who stopped by to give Mortensen a hug, said she will miss him coming by to get coffee each morning.
"I'm going to miss his smiling face," she said. "He always has a good morning for you."
Mercy Executive Director Nicki Gamet said she will miss him, too.
"There's a generation that's leaving the work force and taking all that experience and knowledge with them," she said. "He's taking all that with him. I will miss his dependability. He was the type of leader we knew we could give problems to and knew they would be taken care of. In health care, we strive for care to be better and he wouldn't get defensive about it but would always try to make the process better for the patient."
Mortensen said his initial retirement plans include working around the house and moving somewhere where the weather is warmer. One item of note on his bucket list is to visit his homeland of Denmark to explore some family heritage and ancestry that he he hopes he will have time for now that he is retired.
"My wife and I want to do some traveling, and I want to continue my fishing habits and play drums in a band again," he said.