Now Aurora Lakeland Medical Center, Elkhorn, the former Lakeland Hospital is in its 100th year of serving the greater Walworth County community. It was established in 1917. (Heather Ruenz photo)

Two longtime employees of Lakeland Medical Center share their stories

By Heather Ruenz

SLN staff

A hospital in Walworth County has been serving the greater community for 100 years. The former Lakeland Hospital, Elkhorn, was established in 1917. In 1995, it joined Aurora to become Aurora Lakeland Medical Center.

Two longtime employees recently shared their history with the hospital – as well as why they have remained there throughout their entire careers.

Jo Dewart began working at Lakeland on July 17, 1973, on the night shift as a certified nursing assistant on the medical floor. She’s the first one to admit surprise about staying employed there 44 years.

“I was going to work here for the summer and make enough money to drive out to Maine,” Dewart, a Delavan Township resident, said.

“But it was a damn, good summer, obviously, so here I am,” she added with a hearty laugh.

Jo Dewart (on right) a 44-year employee of Aurora Lakeland, said her coworkers – including Susan Stefanovich, have kept her working at the same place, despite initially planning to stay only one summer. (Heather Ruenz photo)

Dewart is a health unit coordinator at Lakeland – a position she’s held more than once in different units within the hospital. Over the years, she has held many positions, including CNA in the Emergency Room; materials handler; and pharmacy technician.

“I took the boards in 2010 to get certified as a nurse and picked up many hours in nursing while working those other jobs,” she said.

In addition to connecting with the people she’s worked with, Dewart credits Lakeland Hospital – and then Aurora – for her longevity because of their willingness to let employees move around within the facility.

“I like that we could try different jobs and they offered classes for a variety of things, so I could learn new things as I went along,” she said.

Dewart said in her opinion, Lakeland has been around 100 years because it’s a community hospital and is community driven.

“It’s always been like a family here – everyone helped everyone and we all know what’s going on with each other. There’s always change and that keeps it from becoming stagnant. I like that we continue to grow,” she said.

“We have patients I’ve seen for 40-plus years and people that were born here, work here now. Aurora has done well keeping us current and that’s been challenging but we’ve done well,” she continued.

In her position as health unit coordinator, Dewart said her job includes a variety of tasks.

“I’m on the medical floor mostly but also help in ICU. I do the assignment board and get the phones set up for the nurses and aides. I do folders for admissions and make sure strips are run when needed for telemetry,” she said.

Other duties include coordinating patient transfers in and out of Lakeland, ordering supplies for the floor and assisting with discharge papers.

“I also talk to and coordinate with the doctors a lot, and basically do whatever nurses need done to help them do their jobs,” Dewart said.

Dewart has been, or is, involved with many groups and organizations in the greater community. She was an emergency medical technician with the Elkhorn Rescue Squad (but has since retired), is a member of the United Church of Christ in Williams Bay and American Legion Post 95 in Delavan, is a voting inspector for the Town of Delavan, and continues to volunteer at numerous events in the area.

“I also travel a lot with a group of 12 women called, ‘The Old Broads’ but that’s a whole other story,” she said.

Dewart offered advice to those entering their careers or beginning a new job – in any field.

“Stick it out. Things change all the time so something you don’t like today could be different tomorrow. And if you don’t like something, talk about it because most of the time there are people that will listen,” Dewart said.

“No job is smooth all the time but most are the majority of the time. But, if you’re unhappy, leave,” she added.

 

It’s a good fit

Dr. Jeffery Scherer, a radiologist at Lakeland since 1985, is celebrating 32 years of employment with the hospital this month.

As a doctor in the U.S. Navy, he took care of pilots and said he’s thankful for that experience as it led him to radiology.

“A friend in the Navy introduced me to it. I’ve always been a visual person so it’s a good fit for me. I’ve never regretted going this route one bit,” Scherer, of Delavan, said.

He said while looking for a job in the area – his wife owns a business in Delavan – his choices were Janesville and Lakeland, the latter of which had an opening.

Dr. Jeffery Scherer, a radiologist at Lakeland for 32 years, said the people he works with and the advances in technology have helped him enjoy his career. (Heather Ruenz photo)

Scherer, much like Dewart, said forming relationships with his coworkers has been “the best part. Even when Aurora bought us 20 years ago or so, everybody pretty much stayed. The people are the biggest thing.”

He said Lakeland joining Aurora has been a positive thing, for the hospital and the greater community as a whole, as well as his job.

“It brought us to the next level, with new equipment that’s more in-line with the industry so it’s been good,” he said.

Scherer said when embarking on a career, people should consider a few key points.

“It comes to whether you’re a big city person and like the hustle-bustle or are a small town person where sometimes everyone knows your business, whether you want them to or not. But they also have your back,” he said.

Scherer said pursuing a career in the medical field will offer a lot of opportunities.

“You can go anywhere and if you work for someone like Aurora, once you get in their system, you can work at any of their facilities,” he said.

Scherer, who estimates he reads anywhere from 60 to 70 scans a day as a radiologist, said he continues to be impressed with advances in technology.

“From the ease that radiologists can now read X-rays and offer immediate second opinions – when called for even if they’re not in the area – to the on-screen dictation we use now, it’s amazing,” he said.

Scherer said he’s hoping to retire within a couple of years.

“I don’t want to be one of those that hangs on too long, but I thoroughly enjoy what I do and working here.”

 

About Lakeland

According to statistics from 2015, Aurora Lakeland serves a population of 93,000 in Walworth and Racine counties. It offers a 24-hour emergency department, more than 100 beds and has nearly 600 caregivers on staff.

In the year 2015, Lakeland admitted 2,976 patients, served 73,292 people through outpatient services, delivered 750 babies, recorded 15,124 patients in the emergency department, and performed 3,359 surgeries.

Offerings at Lakeland include: rehabilitation, birthing, cardiology, inpatient dialysis, gastroenterology, hospice services, imaging, inpatient treatment for infectious disease, nutrition services, occupational health, orthopedics, a pharmacy, pulmonology, sexual assault nurse examiner program, sleep disorders treatment center, urology and a volunteer services.

In 2018, a rural residency program is expected to open at Lakeland, which currently holds several accreditations including being a level-three trauma center.

For more information about Aurora Lakeland Medical Center, W3985 Highway NN, Elkhorn, call (262) 741-2000 or visit aurora.org.

 
 

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