La Grange – As one of the first employees that day surgery patients see when they come to Adventist La Grange Memorial Hospital, Tonya Smith exudes a friendliness that puts nervous patients at ease. With her calm, reassuring voice, Smith is especially adept at assisting elderly patients. For those reasons and more, the patient care technician was named the hospital’s 2008 Employee of the Year.
“Tonya is one of our hospital’s most valuable employees and a true team player,” said Rick Wright, the hospital’s chief executive officer. “She puts patients and their families first, always taking the time to personally escort lost family members to the right area.”
Smith, a Chicago resident, has worked at Adventist La Grange Memorial Hospital since 1993. Patient care technicians work at a patient’s bedside under the direction of a registered nurse to ensure the comfort and wellbeing of the patient and his or her family. But Smith wears many hats. When her department was short staffed due to employees out sick or on leave, Smith took on other responsibilities willingly, noted her manager, Ellen Hilsabeck.
“Tonya is always flexible to meet the unit’s staffing needs,” said Hilsabeck, clinical coordinator of the day surgery department. “She will often take patients to the operating room when she knows that her colleagues are busy. She consistently goes above and beyond for patients, families and employees in other departments. I don’t know what we’d do without her.”
Patients often compliment Smith by name when employees inquire about their hospital visit during standard post-operation phone calls, Hilsabeck said.
According to Smith, helping others – patients and co-workers – is the best part of her job.
“Preparing for surgery can be a scary experience for patients,” Smith said. “My goal is to make the experience more comfortable for them. If I can do that with every patient every day, then I’ve done my job.”
Smith was recognized at Adventist Midwest Health’s annual Employee of the Year celebration, held Feb. 4 at Maggiano’s Little Italy in Oak Brook. Each Employee of the Year receives a plaque and a $1,000 check.