For many longtime employees, The Baton Rouge Clinic is much more than a workplace. It’s also a family, a second home, and a caring environment that continues to be a cornerstone in their lives. In fact, approximately 47% of employees have been at the Clinic for over five years.
Cheri Whitmer was a recent college graduate 33 years ago when she began working at the Clinic as a phlebotomist lab assistant. As a single mom, Whitmer was attracted to its benefits package, a schedule that allowed her to be home at night, and the chance to work alongside other single parents. Over time and through life changes, Whitmer realized she had found a home.
“I’ve remarried since I’ve been here. My daughter has gotten married and now I have two grandchildren who come here,” Whitmer said. “Many of us have been to each other’s weddings or funerals when a loved one passes away. When you walk in the building in the morning, people know your first name and greet you. It’s a great rapport. People really care about you.”
Today, Whitmer is a quality clinical assistant and does clinical research, but she also helps out wherever needed. Recently, she ran into a patient she treated three decades ago who remembered her by name.
“The phlebotomist called me and asked me to come treat that lady because she only wanted to see me,” Whitmer said. “To me, that is an honor. I’m proud to say that I work here and that I want to retire from here.”
Rhunell Jordan remembers when she first joined The Baton Rouge Clinic in 1985 as an X-ray technician. Early on, she spoke with a co-worker who mentioned she had been at the Clinic for eight years.
“I thought that was such a long time to be at one place,” Jordan said with a laugh. “Now I’ve been here 36 years myself. At one point, I did interview somewhere else, but I just felt the pull to stay here. One year led to another year and now it’s become a second home.”
Jordan said one of the main reasons she has stayed with the Clinic has been the ability to grow her career. She took an interest in mammography, particularly when new federal standards were passed in the early 1990s. That opened up an opportunity for Jordan to become the Clinic’s mammography coordinator, where she helps patients, physicians and technologists through the mammogram process, all while ensuring they are following necessary regulations.
“I feel like I am doing a service to the community. Helping save women’s lives is a big deal, especially since I’m a breast cancer survivor myself,” Jordan said. “It really is a calling for me. When I tell patients that I’m a survivor and it’s been five years, I think it gives them hope.”
That kind of positive atmosphere is a key focus at The Baton Rouge Clinic and is one reason why Carolyn Fleming still enjoys working there, even after nearly 43 years. Fleming was originally hired as a medical records clerk and now coordinates Clinic physician schedules.
“I love people and the atmosphere here has always been very good,” Fleming said. “It’s a wonderful organization because they have always shown interest in their employees and cared about them. I’ve always been happy here.”
Fleming said she is especially impressed that the Clinic has maintained those values even as it has grown over the decades. When Fleming first started, she estimated the Clinic employed about 35 physicians and had one location. Today, the Clinic has hundreds of doctors across all specialties, as well as multiple satellite locations in the Baton Rouge area.
“It’s been amazing to see how it has grown, but the environment has not really changed,” she said. “I’ve always admired and respected my supervisors. Everybody has always been easy to work with. I always try to come in and smile every day and find the best in everything, and it’s a lot easier when you work in a good environment.”
For Julie Chenier, that environment has included learning from Clinic physicians and staff who have served as valuable mentors. Chenier began working at the Clinic in 1984 when she needed externship hours to complete a medical assistant degree. After graduation, she joined the Clinic full time, eventually working with an endocrinologist, serving as assistant director of nursing and then moving into her current role as clinical educator.
“I feel like I was almost a child when I started and now I’m still here and still growing,” Chenier said. “I’ve always been able to expand my knowledge and learn new skills. I’ve never really wanted to leave the Clinic because there’s always been so much growth and it’s become a part of my family.”
Chenier is so closely tied to the Clinic that she spends more than two hours commuting back and forth to her job each day. But for her, that travel time is a small price to pay for the chance to continue working alongside her trusted colleagues and friends.
“I plan to retire from here,” she said. “The Clinic is really the only place I trust, even for my family. I know everyone here is committed to patients and to providing the best quality care, and that’s what I want for everybody. That’s something I’m proud to say I’m a part of.”
The Baton Rouge Clinic recognizes that the success of every organization is largely defined by its employees. Each year, the Clinic hosts an awards banquet to recognize employees for their years of service, as their commitment to the Clinic is a key element in the delivery of compassionate, quality care.
To read more Baton Rouge Clinic Anniversary Stories by The Advocate, please click here.