TFHD honors hospital employees
Launi Shellard has delivered babies, dressed wounds and held the hands of the dying during her time as a nurse at Tahoe Forest Hospital.
Meanwhile, across the street Dr. John Englesby often gets to watch his patients grow and mature from the time they exit the womb until the time they receive their high school diplomas.
When Gail Shady isn’t advocating for patients and juggling schedules in the operating room, she’s making annual sojourns to parts of the Third World, where she donates her time and nursing skills to help those in need.
Just what do these three medical personnel have in common beside their employer, Tahoe Forest Hospital District?
All have spent the last quarter of a century – since 1977 – serving the district and the Tahoe-Truckee community.
Last week, all three were honored, alongside other hospital employees, by TFHD for their years of dedication at a special gala at Granlibakken.
When Launi Shellard started junior college at the College of San Mateo, she had no intention of becoming a nurse, but rather an accomplished musician.
“I played the viola and had enrolled as a music major,” she said shaking her head. “Everything changed one night when I found myself sitting in the orchestra pit in a black dress with my viola, thinking, `My God, is this really what I want to do with my life?'”
Shortly thereafter she exchanged her music lessons for nursing courses.
“And I’ve been a nurse ever since,” she said.
When the Bay Area native first began working at TFH in 1977 at age 29, the hospital didn’t even have separate departments.
“It was pretty exciting because you’d go from delivering a baby to setting a broken leg to treating an accident victim, all in one night,” she said.
When TFH opened its Extended Care Center in 1986, Shellard was on hand when the first patients were being admitted and has worked there full-time ever since.
“I was really drawn to the ECC because I love geriatrics,” she says, as she gently massages the hands of one of the residents.
Shellard said the most difficult thing about her job is having to lose people she encounters in the ECC.
“I’ve seen so many deaths,” she said. “If anything, this job has really taught me that life comes full circle. For instance, one of the nurses I worked with when I first started at the hospital is now one of my residents in the ECC. You really see here that life is a circle.”
Shellard is also currently caring for one of her good friend’s mothers, another ECC resident, who obviously adores her caregiver.
“She’s a doll-baby,” said Ruth Ashburn as she smiled at Shellard.
Shellard said she loves getting to know the residents and their families.
“Knowing that [the residents’] time is limited, you really just want to make that time the best you possibly can for them,” she said. “As a society, I don’t think that we treat the elderly and death with enough respect.”
Shellard was also this year’s recipient of TFH’s “Nurse of the Year” award.
John Englesby still receives surprise visits from patients he treated upwards of 20 years ago in Truckee.
“That was before there were even any stoplights in town,” he said. “I guess you could say I’m a local after this long.”
Englesby said he was first inspired to enter the medical field by his own family physician while he was growing up.
After graduating from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, he spent four years in Los Angeles where he performed his residency.
In 1977, Englesby decided to leave behind the city for the mountains, though, and shortly thereafter, he began work with TFHD in internal medicine and family practice.
He now works mainly out of the Truckee Tahoe Medical Group office in Truckee.
“Some of my most memorable experiences were definitely during my first five years here when I was working in OB,” he said. “It’s been great watching those kids I helped deliver graduate from high school and go beyond.”
He also said he’s proud of the work he did to help the hospital develop it’s Intensive Care Unit.
“Since I’ve worked for the district, it’s continued to grow and improve, in fact, it never stops improving,” he said.
He said his favorite aspect of medicine is being able to convert a patient’s complaint into a specific diagnosis and treatment.
“It’s great being able to help people feel better,” he said. “That’s really what internal medicine is all about.”
When he’s not at the office, you’re likely to find Englesby at the Truckee Tahoe Airport, where he’s kept his airplane in the same hangar for the last 24 years.
“It’s practically my second home,” he said.
When Gail Shady first started studying to become a nurse, she was only doing it with the hopes that it might give her the edge she needed to enter into the teaching profession.
“I really wanted to be an elementary school teacher, but the during the time that I was in school, in the early ’70s, there was this huge glut of teachers predicted,” Shady said. “I knew that I would need something extra on my qualifications if I was to get a job so I signed up for my junior college’s LVN program. Not long after I realized, `Hey, I really like this,’ dropped the LVN program and started taking science classes to become a registered nurse.”
In 1976, Shady and her husband moved to the area, and less than a year later, she was working at Tahoe Forest Hospital in the operating room, where she has remained for the past 25 years.
“The best part about working in the O.R. is the camaraderie, the friendliness and the companionship that exists among the staff,” she said. “It’s really a team environment, from the housekeeping staff on up through the physicians. I love the relationships that exist between everyone and just have always felt like I belong here.”
For Shady, the rewards come when everything goes well.
“Especially with c-sections, when the mom’s are happy and the parents excited – it makes you happy and excited,” she said. “Surgery nurses are really patient advocates – looking out for their patients’ interests.”
During her time at TFH, Shady has held numerous titles including staff nurse and manager of surgery. Currently, she works as a charge nurse, responsible for the daily running and day-to-day duties of the department, for example, making sure staffing is adequate.
Outside of the O.R., Shady holds the seat of President of the Tahoe Forest Hospital Foundation, and is an member of the Association of Operating Room Nurses and Interplast, a non-profit organization, which sends medical personnel volunteers into Third World countries to perform various surgical procedures.
“I’ve made about 12 trips so far, and try to go on one each year,” she said. “It’s an extremely rewarding group to be a part of.”
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