A half-century of service

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By John Barnhart

Bedford Memorial Hospital has been around for 53 years. Nelson Hurt has worked there for all but three of those.

Last week, at an employee awards lunch, the hospital honored Hurt for 50 years of service. Hospital Director William Flattery presented him with an engraved watch in a presentation box with a plaque. Hurt received a standing ovation from his fellow employees as he went forward to receive it.

Hurt still works in the same department where he started, although he now supervises a crew of 18. It's now called Environmental Services, but back in 1958, it was called Housekeeping.

"I came here for spring cleaning in 1958," Hurt said.

This was originally a part-time job and Hurt still has the stub from his first paycheck. He earned $55.10 and took home $53.85. Of course, back then, gasoline was 22 cents a gallon, a box of rice cost 15 cents and a loaf of bread went for 13 cents.

The hospital apparently liked Hurt because it offered him a full-time job after that spring cleaning. He was the only man in the department. In fact, for 16 years, he was the only man in the department.

"They worked the devil out of me," Hurt recalled. "Every time they lifted a chair or table, they called me."

Over his half-century of work, he has worked under 12 different hospital administrators and 11 different supervisors.

He has liked working there.

"It was more of a family," he said. "Everybody was concerned about each other."

Back then the hospital was much smaller and, of course, had a much smaller staff. The long term care section didn't exist then and the emergency room entrance was beside the old front entrance. The entrance would have been to your right as you face the pillars on the building's old front. There is a window where the emergency room door was and the emergency room nursing station was where the long term care nursing station now is. The space now occupied by the hospital's auditorium housed the emergency room and the hospital's lab. The x-ray department was across the hall.

Hurt recalls that ambulances had to back up to the emergency room door to unload a patient.

Along with substantial growth in the hospital's size, he's seen the addition of five medical offices and the adult day care center.

He's also seen technology improve. When he started, there wasn't any electric equipment for Housekeeping. Everything was performed manually. Floors were mopped with a two mop system. Cleaning water was put down with one mop, and taken up with another. This still left a wet floor behind. Now, the machines they use leave the floor dry. Hurt said that not only is this safer, but the machines are much more efficient. One person can do a lot more.

One fact hasn't changed. Hurt sees the department's work as being critical for safety at the hospital. The employees are the front-line defense in infection control.

Hurt said that he saw, over the years, some friends leave for higher paying jobs, but he said they always seemed to have less money than he did. He said that his mother gave him some advice, 50 years ago, that he took seriously.

"It's not what you make, it's what you do with it after you make it," she told him.

Hurt built a house in 1972 and it's now paid for. He also raised three children. His daughter, Janet Poindexter, works at Wachovia and a son, Tony Hurt, works for Smyth. His youngest, Nelson Hurt Jr., works in Lynchburg.

He still likes his job, which is why he stayed, and this went along with another bit of advice his mother gave him. She told him that he will be much better at a job that he likes, than one he doesn't.

Hurt noted that he came for spring cleaning in 1958 and and he's not through yet.