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Pat Flentie announces retirement


Pat Flentie, LPN and lead nurse at the Onaga Clinic, has announced that she will retire effective June 30. Flentie has worked at Community HealthCare System for more than 45 years. When she started working at Onaga Hospital on July 1, 1974, she knew instantly it was where she wanted to be.

Flentie looks back on many changes during her tenure at CHCS. When she first started, nurses worked 8-hour shifts 5 days a week and every other weekend and were paid once a month. “Staffing usually consisted of one RN, one LPN, and three or four nurse aides, depending on the number of patients,” Flentie said. Flentie and the RN had many responsibilities, including all patient assessments, all IV and IV medications, and caring for labor and delivery and emergency room patients along with radiology testing. Flentie remembers learning to take plain film X-rays, developing the films, and hanging them to dry. She was also called upon to administer the ether drip to women who were delivering babies. “That was one thing I was not prepared to do, but soon it came naturally,” Flentie said.

Documentation differed greatly from today’s methods. “All medications were written on med cards, and they were color-coded for the time they were to be administered. For instance, yellow could mean before meals and times were indicated on the cards. Report was given from a paper CardEx. The only documentation for the assessment of a patient was abnormal findings, flowsheets for vital signs, input and output, meal consumption, etc. It wasn't unusual for the shift documentation to consist of one line, such as ‘Up ad lib. Good day,’” Flentie said.

The shift to Electronic Health Records is one of the biggest changes Flentie recalls. “Initially, documentation in the clinic was on large index cards. They had just switched to charts when I joined the clinic in 1989. We needed to know more about coding and budget, which was not even mentioned in our schooling,” she said.

Expansion of services offered by CHCS is another major development that Flentie has witnessed through her career. Lab services expanded, a dedicated Birth Center was established, CHCS started providing surgery, and specialty clinics were established and grew in terms of both the number of specialties offered and patients served.

“Pat has shown extraordinary dedication through her career at CHCS, and her knowledge and experience have provided a positive example for all of us to follow,” said Merica Surdez, CHCS chief of provider and clinic operations.

“We will deeply miss Pat at the Onaga Clinic, but we thank her for a job well done and wish her the long and happy retirement that she has earned,” Surdez said.

Flentie looks back on many fond memories. One is working the 3:00 to 11:00 p.m. shift with Joann Willis on weekends. Joann’s husband, Barney, would bring their youngest son, Tim, to see her before they settled in for the evening so he could tell his Mom good night. Another memory involves an ambulance ride that Flentie said must have looked “like a spoof on Laurel and Hardy.”

“We had a little too much help at the scene loading the patient onto the cart and ended up with their head at the foot end. We needed the head in the ambulance first to be able to manage the patient, and therefore we were unable to lock the cart down.  One of the doctors (no, not Dr. Tom) rode in the back with us and accidentally sat down on the portable oxygen tank, loosening the connector, which got everyone's attention. That was a quick fix. There was a dip from the street into the ER parking lot. When we hit that, the back doors flew open. Luckily, the cart did not go rolling out of the door and down the street. We managed to get the patient safely inside the ER doors,” Flentie said, noting that they are now able to laugh at the situation even though it wasn’t funny at the time.

Flentie said she couldn’t have worked alongside a better provider in Dr. Tom Walsh. “He has taught me so much over the years about commitment, compassion, patience and loving what you do. He is always willing to explain and answer any questions,” Flentie said, and has been a good friend. “I will miss him and his sense of humor, along with his fudge, more than anything,” she said.

Dr. Walsh said Pat has been an amazing nurse. “I have had the good fortune of working with Pat for a large number of years, and it is fair to say that Pat has become like family to me. She is not only extremely dependable, but she is also quite loyal, except for those occasions when she insists on rooting for the Centralia Panthers,” he said, joking about their friendly school rivalry.

“Pat has worn many hats in our organization and can still write down on her notepad what I need even when she is in full conversation mode with another party. Pat will be greatly missed by many staff and patients, but no one will me her more than I will,” Dr. Walsh said.

Flentie hopes her patients know that she and her co-workers strived to do their best on any given day. “I love getting to know my patients, hearing their stories of their families, their joys and sorrows, their interests, what makes them ‘them.’  I will definitely miss seeing them.  I want them to know they all had a part in making me the nurse I am, and I have enjoyed taking care of each of them,” she said.

In retirement, Flentie plans to enjoy family and friends, attend her many grandchildren’s activities, and travel. Flentie has four children and 19 grandchildren (2 deceased) along with 7 step-grandchildren, 2 great grandchildren, and 1 step-great grandchild. She was married to her high school sweetheart for 31 years before he passed away. She hopes to learn to play the piano and to learn Spanish as well as pursue other hobbies such as quilting, crocheting, embroidery, and reading. 

Flentie offers her thanks to all who played a part in her career. “I couldn't have asked for a better place to work. CHCS has become my second home. I will miss everyone immensely, but I am looking forward to no schedule, no alarm, and taking off at the drop of a hat,” she said.

Her advice to recent graduates in healthcare is simple: Love what you do.

“Choose a specialty that you love, whether it is rural healthcare, surgery, trauma. Do your best each day. It may not always have the outcome you want, but you can feel good about yourself because you did your best at that given time. Ask lots of questions. There's a ton of knowledge among the staff who have had their boots on the ground and know the ropes,” she said.  


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  • Betty Ellis | Apr 19th 2021 @ 10:49 AM

    Pat has been my mainstay all of these years and I literally would not be here without her. In my younger years healthcare was financially prohibitive and seldom had health insurance. Pat and Dr. Tom always took this into consideration when prescribing meds or treatment options. As I progressed to an insured patient I still chose to seek limited care to what I deemed necessary. Pat and Dr. Tom were always so patient with my non-compliance and saw me through more in my life and health experience t

  • Pat Massie | Apr 19th 2021 @ 1:34 PM

    Sounds like your dedication in nursing has been will be missed! Thanks for your commitment to our hospital system!

  • Marlyn Parrett | Apr 19th 2021 @ 2:01 PM

    CONGRATS PAT!!!!! enjoy your retirement!!!!! THANKS for all you've done!

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