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CentraState Stories

CentraState Stories2021-10-21T09:10:48-04:00

CentraState is lucky to have longtime employees, volunteers, and supporters who have many cherished memories and reflections of their experiences here. Do you have a special memory at CentraState as a patient, a supporter, or a neighbor? Submit your story here.

Employee Stories

“I started at Freehold Area Hospital in 1979, and although I’ve had several other job offers, I never had a reason to leave. I enjoy the family atmosphere here, and CentraState has allowed me to maintain work/life balance, which to me was more important than furthering my career.

Before coming here, I did some modeling and took a course to become a travel agent, but nursing was in my blood. I had applied to a few other hospitals in the area. My husband was working nights, so I was looking for a night shift job, too. In hindsight, I’m glad that this hospital called me first.

This place is very special to me. I met my two best friends in the world here in 1979. I have grown personally and professionally. I started on the night shift as an LPN on 3 North. I went back to school a few years later to transition from LPN to RN. I worked in the Critical Care Unit for 14 years. On the weekends, I’d open the blinds in my patients’ rooms and we’d watch hot air balloons drift by. The hospital was surrounded by cornfields, barns, and silos. The cafeteria was just a small room with tables. At night, an employee sold scoops of potato salad or tuna salad for 25 cents.

Back then, critical care nurses were used throughout the hospital, so I did shifts in holding, endoscopy, IV therapy, the Lyme clinic, the ED, nursery, orthopedics, cardiac rehab, post-partum and nursing supervisor.  I visited schools and talked to kids about careers in medicine, and was named Nurse of Month. I served as president of the Nursing Council Committee and even got the mayor of Freehold to sign a proclamation for Nurses’ Week.

At times, I felt like a jack of all trades and master of none. That all changed when I moved to Infection Control and Epidemiology. In that role, I was at the top of my game as an Infection Control Professional. Dealing with challenges like hospital acquired infections, meningitis, Ebola, COVID-19 and employees health issues which broaden my horizons. When employees at the municipal building became suddenly sick from flowers, we jumped into action. Luckily, we learned that it wasn’t an act of bioterrorism. Every challenge brought new knowledge.

I’ve seen several administrations lead the hospital, and each one brought something different to the table. I’ve seen our nurses earn Magnet designations and other professional certifications. In the early days, the nursing supervisor wouldn’t hand you your paycheck if you weren’t wearing your white cap. We made $4.16 an hour while the cashier at the supermarket was paid $6 an hour. Now, nurses here are recognized and rewarded for what they do.

I can’t express my gratitude to this hospital enough for supporting my journey as a nurse and affording me all of the opportunities that I’ve had. I have respected this hospital and have gotten it back in return. You can’t ask for anything more than that.”

“I started at here per diem in March 1981 while I was a student in the respiratory program at Brookdale Community College. Freehold Area Hospital was just starting its Respiratory department and was looking to add more therapists. I joined the department full-time the following year. I’ve worked several different shifts over the years and was promoted to clinical coordinator of the department in 2002.

Since I started working here, the community has grown, and the hospital has grown along with it. What was once farmland looks much different now. There are more staff here—and more patients—and our equipment is much more technologically advanced. Our manager and medical director empower us to think critically about the therapeutic approach for each patient. As such, we have made a positive impact on the quality of life of hundreds of patients.

The hospital staff has been stable, so people have gotten to know each other very well. There are many of us in CentraState’s Silver Club, which recognizes 25 or more years of service. Even people who have retired come back each year to reconnect with their co-workers at the annual induction dinner. That’s something that doesn’t happen at a lot of other hospitals.

I’ve stayed at CentraState all these years because I love this community. I relocated to Freehold and raised my family here. Our administration has employees’ best interests at heart and respects our staff. We are a community hospital and that’s what makes us special. I have the utmost confidence in CentraState to care for me and my family.

And, I love my job. I always have. Seeing a patient do well, seeing the positive impact I’ve had on their quality of life, and watching them leave here healthier than they were before is what I love most.”

“I’ll celebrate 40 years at CentraState this July. I originally applied because it was close to home, and over these four decades it has become my home.

I started working at Freehold Area Hospital in 1981. I was 23 and fresh out of X-ray school. The cafeteria was tiny and included a smoking section. Back then, producing images required developer, fixer, and film. Now, everything is done digitally. Switching from film to our PACS system was one of our department’s biggest challenges. Luckily, I love technology, so I rolled with punches and learned a lot during the conversion.

I’ve grown a lot here, starting as a diagnostic tech, then moving to special procedures. I also was a clinical instructor and a mammography tech. I have felt supported by my supervisors at every step. Mandy Wortman has been my boss for the last 20 years and has been a wonderful mentor.

I can honestly say that my department is like a second family. We work hard, help each other out, and laugh a lot, just like brothers and sisters. We all genuinely care for one another. In our group, we’ve gone through children, divorces, and coming out together. We’ve shared our problems, and no matter the issue, everyone is caring, supportive, and fun. One of my favorite memories is racing down Main Street on stretchers.

Students and co-workers have left CentraState, only to return because there’s no other place like it. We’re different from other healthcare systems in the area because we’re still a community hospital that’s growing. Patients are not treated like a number here. We take each person’s individuality into account when we provide care and treat them like family. Even with the changes to the hospital’s physical size and technology, we’ve remained a caring, family-friendly hospital. That’s why CentraState has been able to stand alone for so long and still succeed.

I’m glad that I chose to work at Freehold Area Hospital. The mentorship, support, love, and respect that I get from my co-workers has helped me to grow into the person and leader I am today. We’re building a new interventional radiology wing, and when I retire in three years, that will be my legacy.”

“I had been working at Riverview Medical Center for almost 10 years when I took maternity leave to have my daughter. It was 1971 and Freehold Area Hospital had just opened, so I applied for a part-time nursing position. I had mentioned on my application that I had been running staff development at Riverview, and that experience got me the job. The director of nursing said that the person they had hired didn’t work out and asked if I could fill in. With a new baby and an ailing mother, I knew I couldn’t take a full-time job, so I helped write the nursing department’s policies and procedures until they could hire someone full-time.

The hospital was only licensed for 120 beds when I started. The Emergency Department was just two rooms: A code room with two beds and another room with four stretchers. Despite its small size, the hospital offered me a flexible schedule and professional growth. I had many jobs at CentraState, including night supervisor, IV therapist, and educator. When my daughter started school, I came on full-time with the Education Department. In 1989 I took a position at Applewood with the executive vice president of the hospital. When he passed away, I moved back to the main hospital for a one-year role educating staff about our new computer system. I went back to working nights every other weekend after that position ended. During that time, I had built a home care company, which I eventually sold to the VNA. In my 50 years at the hospital, I earned three graduate degrees: a master’s in education, a doctorate as an educational specialist, and an MBA.

But, of course, no job is without its challenges. When you work nights, you never know what you’ll face. It requires you to think on your feet and use whatever resources are available. I remember when a toilet in the hallway in the ED overflowed at 2 a.m., sending six inches of water throughout the department. Each staff member grabbed a wet vac and vacuumed the floors in between their patient care tasks. We also had several small fires that required evacuating patients from their rooms. I quickly learned not to worry when a fire alarm went off because the fire department comes quickly! Then, of course, there was Hurricane Sandy, electrical blackouts that put the entire hospital on backup generators, and the storm when I walked two miles in the snow to get to work. Luckily, I enjoy a challenge and this work has kept me sharp.

I get upset when people criticize the hospital. We have an exceptionally caring nursing staff. My family members have received care at other facilities and say the experience is not the same as what they’ve had here. Our nurses live in this community and take pride in caring for their neighbors, friends, and the people from their church.

Our board’s biggest achievement in these 50 years is the addition of our wellness complex. The future of healthcare in the country is preventing and managing diseases—and we’re helping both our patients and our staff take control of their health. I’m a regular in the gym, where I take Pilates classes four days a week. I’ve even taken a vegan cooking class. The services at the center can’t be beaten.

I consider CentraState my hospital. We opened it and have seen it through a lot of transitions. While I only work per diem now, I want to continue to be involved in the hospital. I believe that working is good for you. When I’m not at work, I’m usually in my garden or spending time with my daughter and grandchildren. I find my work at CentraState equally therapeutic.”

“Like any hospital, CentraState has had its challenges over its 50 years of operation. However, its greatest assets are in knowing what it is—and isn’t—and focusing on delivering those core services well.

We know, as a community hospital, that we can’t perform transplants or cardiac bypass surgery, so we focus on doing everything else very well. We have a good cancer program with access to clinical trials. Our ambulatory care building is a special place for our community and exposes more people to our facility. The creation of the PHO also was a huge accomplishment. The organization has helped many doctors navigate the transition from fee-for-service to fee-for-value care.  We’re lucky to have had an administrative team over the last 20 years that has been very engaged. I’ve lived through several administrations, and this administrative group views all the changes in healthcare strategically. They see what is coming in terms of changes in healthcare and develop a strategy—or even pivot strategies—to adapt.

Fresh out of fellowship, I joined the staff at CentraState in 1987. I was partnered with another doctor, and Freehold looked like a good place for us to practice. In the 1990s, I was first secretary/treasurer of the medical staff, then assistant chief of staff, and subsequently chief of staff. I also served as medical director of the ICU, chair of the Critical Care Committee, and assistant chair of the department of medicine. I’m currently president of CentraState’s Physician-Hospital Organization (PHO) as well as serve on the Critical Care Committee of the medical staff and on the hospital’s Board of Trustees, where I chair the Quality of Patient Care Committee.

For most of my time here, CentraState has been a small community hospital where everyone knows each other. We had medical staff parties and other employee gatherings, and many of the people who worked here also lived in the community. As the hospital has grown, however, that close-knit group has given way to a larger and more specialized medical staff.

When I came here, the ICU was only eight beds; then it grew to 14 beds, and then to 26. We’ve increased our staff and our patient volume, and it has been gratifying to see it expand. My office environment has changed as well. When we opened, we had to deal with HMOs, which were a new concept. Since then, we’ve adapted to changes in Medicare reimbursement, value-based purchasing, quality metrics, increased accountability, and electronic medical records, which was a huge change from paper charts. But by and large, the biggest challenge in my career was COVID-19.

Before the pandemic, we were averaging 14 patients in the ICU. When COVID-19 hit, our volume spiked to 35 patients, all of whom had the virus and were on ventilators. It was an extremely intense time marked by long hours and high stress. But our staff watched out for each other. Everyone collaborated, and everyone—doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists, physical therapists, transporters, and more—had each other’s backs. Our camaraderie got us through an extremely uncertain time.

I’ve had a satisfying career, without a doubt. I’ve been very involved in many aspects of the development of CentraState because for our practice to be successful, the hospital needs to be successful. It’s been important to me—and our group—that we’re part of the positive changes happening at our hospital.”

“Over the last 40 years that I’ve worked at CentraState, the hospital has had its good times and challenging times. No matter what was happening, though, I always felt supported by our team.

I applied to be a night shift nurse at CentraState, then known as Freehold Area Hospital, in 1980. In contrast to the current demand for nurses, there were fewer job opportunities in nursing. I started in the medical/surgical unit, located then on 1 West. After several years I transitioned to the ICU, and after several more years, I decided to try a new path in home care, although I remained per diem in the ICU.

Less than a year later, I returned to a full-time RN position in the Post-Anesthesia Care Unit (PACU) because I missed the faster-paced and more dynamic environment. Little did I know I would spend the bulk of my career there, as the PACU team became a second family to me. After 30 years in PACU, during which I received the Nurse Excellence Award in 2011, I decided to try something different by moving to Ambulatory Services.

I have now been an RN in Ambulatory Services for four years. After years of cultivating my nursing knowledge and skills under the guidance of wonderful mentors, I now find myself paying it forward as a mentor to newer nurses and other members of our team.

Despite its fast-paced, dynamic environment, the hospital has always been a community-oriented, warm environment where everyone supports each other. No matter which unit I was working in, we always acted like a family and extended that same caring attitude to our patients.

I’m a fairly positive person, so I don’t remember any particularly bad times, but there were certainly some challenging experiences. For instance, I remember when we treated our first AIDS patient and later when we had to face the prospect of caring for Ebola patients. Although that fortunately didn’t happen, I now realize the trepidation we as healthcare providers experienced in the face of Ebola returned when COVID-19 arrived in the U.S.

The level of uncertainty brought by the pandemic was unlike anything else I experienced in my nursing career. It was a very stressful time for frontline workers. We struggled to care for seriously ill patients while reassuring our loved ones and managing our own anxiety and fears. During that same time, however, it was truly uplifting to see our community support us with kind words and various donations.

The hospital has certainly grown and is much busier now. Over the years, the hospital digitized many aspects of charting, and the forthcoming transition to Epic is expected to advance our system further. There are new procedures, new doctors, and new faces—and we’re still growing.

Outside of work, I consider myself an adventurous person. I love to go hiking, and I’m looking forward to a family hiking trip to Montana that was rescheduled due to the pandemic. At work, though, I’ve been content to stay at CentraState. I’ve had 40 years of good times here working with great people, and I look forward to seeing what the future holds for CentraState Medical Center as it continues to grow.”

“I consider myself very lucky that I’ve had three careers: a solo practitioner, a hospital administrator, and a partner in a group practice. In my more than 30 years with CentraState, I’ve been able to explore several types of careers in medicine.

I was living in Marlboro when I joined CentraState in 1984. I moonlighted as a house physician here before becoming an attending in 1986. I started a solo cardiology practice, seeing patients at both Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick and CentraState. I spent a lot of time driving up and down Route 18!

I’ve filled many roles at CentraState. In addition to serving as chief medical officer for seven years, I’ve been chair of the Critical Care Committee and director of the Critical Care Unit, physician advisor to the Quality Improvement, secretary/treasurer of the medical staff, assistant chief of staff and chief of staff.

About 20 years ago, the community didn’t think that our physicians were very good. So, our medical staff decided that everyone should be board-certified in their respective fields. Since then, the level of competence of the physicians at CentraState has increased steadily. We rebuilt our standing in the community, which enabled us to build out the campus. We’ve achieved things that typically only larger hospitals—with deeper pockets—can do, like developing the Linda E. Cardinale MS Center and earning Advanced Primary Stroke Center certification from The Joint Commission. Building the Fitness & Wellness Center was also a smart move because it provides a safe place for patients with health conditions to exercise.

It was fun being an independent hospital when nearly every other hospital joined a system. It was a David and Goliath situation for a long time, and we were able to be successful even as a small hospital. Unfortunately, the financial realities of operating a hospital these days make being independent untenable now, but it was fun holding out as long as we did.

The field of cardiology has changed dramatically over the years. It’s become more interventional, with more procedures. The staff in the Cath Lab are great, the new lab will be state-of-the-art, but we’re in a bind at CentraState because we can’t put stents in here. It’s difficult to convince our patients that it’s safe to have a catheterization at CentraState when we can’t perform stents. So many cardiologists are taking their cases to other facilities. Looking ahead, I’m hopeful that with our new Cath Lab and the new laws surrounding cardiac procedures we can start doing stents. Right now, it’s a catch 22.

I’m very proud of CentraState. We are doing amazing things here, and we just keep innovating. I’m curious to see what changes the merger with Atlantic Health brings. I hope we retain our community spirit because that’s what makes us unique.”

“A lot of thought went into my decision to practice at CentraState. I had relatives in the Freehold area and wanted to settle down in a place where I could raise my family. I joined the staff in July 1986 because my wife and I thought this community would be a great place to live and work.

In my time at CentraState, I’ve pushed the hospital to broaden its cardiology services. I helped open the first Cath Lab here and served as chief of the lab for eight years. I put in the first balloon pump at CentraState and have advocated for better equipment in ICU, including better pacemakers.

I’ve watched the hospital grow—and experienced the growing pains that go along with construction. Years ago, I walked into a patient room during one renovation project to find a mouse sitting on the bedside table. I grabbed the mouse with my gloved hand and put it in a box as it tried to bite me. I let it go outside only to find it back in the room an hour later! Other fun memories include playing on the hospital’s softball team and socializing with other doctors after hours. It’s always nice to see your colleagues outside of the hospital and talk about things other than work.

People who keep doing good work keeping working, and together we’ve gotten a lot of sick patients through tough times. Our nurses are sensational and help make our service the best they can be for our patients. I know that my patients will have a good experience when they need a stress test, echo, or another ambulatory service.

I think CentraState’s greatest achievement has been surviving and remaining independent for as long as it has. The hospital’s administration prides itself on constantly improving and moving the organization in the right direction for our community.

I’m looking forward to the completion of our new Cath Lab, and I’m hoping that in the next year or so, we’re able to treat STEMIs here. The tides are changing, and I think it’s only a matter of time before everything falls into place and we can treat high-risk patients.”

“I knew I wanted to be a scientist in fourth or fifth grade. My cousins and I would talk about our future, and I always talked about being in a laboratory. Decades later, there’s still no place I’d rather be.

In 1980, while I was pursuing my LMT at Brookdale Community College, I did my internship at CentraState. By April of that year, I had finished the program and was working here part-time on the evening shift. I later moved to the night shift for about 17 years. We were trained in all departments—special chemistry, ER stat lab, histology, and histochemistry—so if there was an opening in another department, we could fill in or transfer if we wanted a change. I took the medical technology equivalency exam, then earned my bachelor’s degree in medical technology from Thomas Edison College (now Thomas Edison State University). My supervisors always supported my education and encouraged me to advance my career.

In the hospital’s early days, the Lab was in a tiny area across from where the OR is now. Microbiology was housed in a long closet with four chairs. If the person at the far end had to go to the bathroom, we all had to get up to let them out. We moved to the basement before the Lab expanded into space previously used by Radiology.

Lab techs went to the floors to draw patients’ blood, not phlebotomists. I remember being nervous the first time I had to draw a baby’s blood. The night shift staff performed maintenance on the machines in Lab. I went to training in California to learn how to troubleshoot issues. Getting computers in the Lab was a big learning curve. We went from using paper forms to printing master logs and replacing tapes each night. People were allowed to smoke in the lab years ago, and it wasn’t until 1983 when HIV/AIDS was discovered that we were given gloves to wear if we wanted to. We processed urine samples without gloves for many years. We had lab coats, but they weren’t liquid-resistant like they are now. And, back in the day, we used pipettes in our mouths to handle acids, bases, or even ickier stuff. Suffice it to say, we wear a lot more PPE and are a lot safer now!

Last year I celebrated my 40th year at CentraState. I really love this place. It’s my second home. We’re a big family in the Lab and care about each other a lot. We will come in on our days off if necessary or stay late to help another staff member. When we’ve had bad snowstorms, some of us have stayed at the hospital overnight so the morning shift wouldn’t have to risk coming in the next morning on icy roads. We grew up together, had kids together, and now we’re watching our children’s kids grow up. So many of the people I started with are still here. Even if we move to different shifts, we catch up at the annual hospital awards dinner or the holiday party.

What once was a little general hospital now offers everything from cancer services to cardiology to wellness. Now, patients don’t just come in when they’re sick. They can come to the wellness center to use the gym or take low-cost classes that help them live healthier. I’ve taken a few classes myself, including one on transcendental meditation that has helped me relax and sleep better.

And our administrative team has gotten better, too. Some of the previous executives weren’t the right fit. Mr. Gribben’s leadership has helped many employees feel more confident about the future of the hospital. He’s tried to keep us informed about things like the merger with Atlantic Health and our COVID-19 response so we’re not left in the lurch. The hospital got some bad publicity years ago, but I have a lot of faith in all of the departments here. I have no problem recommending CentraState and its doctors to my family and friends.

It’s hard to believe it’s been 40 years. A good portion of the reason I’ve stayed so long is people. The rest is that I truly love what I do.”

“I always wanted to be a nurse and applied to Freehold Area Hospital in 1976 during my first year in college. I worked as a nursing assistant on a surgical floor and did some float shifts in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) and Critical Care Unit (CCU) for two summers while home from college. I became an LPN after my junior year of nursing school and graduated with a bachelor of science degree in nursing (BSN) from Niagara University in May 1979.

Immediately upon graduation, I was hired full time as a graduate nurse and became a registered nurse (RN) after passing my boards in the fall of 1979. Although I worked at the hospital for three summers prior, June 1979 was my official start at what is now CentraState Medical Center.

I worked in ICU/CCU for a few years before I had my first of our three daughters in 1982. After a brief maternity leave, I accepted a position as Cardiac Rehabilitation Coordinator. In Cardiac Rehab, I conducted stress tests, educated patients about heart health, and started the hospital’s first exercise group just for cardiac patients. I continued in this position through the birth of our second and third daughters in 1985 and 1989, respectively.

Being a cardiac rehab coordinator was a fun, but very challenging role. I eventually went back to Critical Care in 1990 and then went to PACU when a position became available in 1992. I can’t believe I’ve been in PACU for almost 30 years!

There are so many new faces in PACU now, but there are also so many of us who have worked together for 25 or more years. We’ve grown up together, had children together, and have lost family members together. When you work together this long, everyone becomes part of your family.

CentraState has made a huge difference in this community. We offer the services that bigger hospitals do while keeping that hometown community feel. I think that has been CentraState’s biggest achievement over the last 50 years. We continue to reach out to the community and take care of everyone. We’ve come a long way, but there is still much more work to do.

My husband Kevin was sworn in as the Mayor of Freehold Borough right before COVID hit. Since then, my focus has changed a lot. I’m more active in town, helping him respond to the needs of the community. When I retire, I know there is so much more that I can do in town to help keep the Freehold community safe and healthy.

I’m thrilled that CentraState is celebrating this milestone. I feel very fortunate to have been here during the good times and the challenging times. I have worked my entire career at CentraState and I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. Congrats!”

“My first tenure at CentraState started in 1993. I was living in Tinton Falls when I received a call from a headhunter. He said that CentraState was looking for a director of perioperative services. I had worked and managed a PACU before, so I interviewed with Deborah Teasley and was offered the position. Two years later, I was offered a chief nursing officer role at another hospital that was too good to pass up, but I returned to CentraState in 2000.

As director of perioperative services, I oversaw the OR, PACU, Same Day, and Sterile Processing. The role eventually expanded to include Maternal/Child Health. In 2005, when the role of vice president of clinical services opened, I moved into that position. There was a lot for me to learn. I was familiar with some of the areas under my purview, but Pharmacy, Radiology, Laboratory, and Rehab were new to me. Luckily there were great leaders in those departments who were willing to mentor me and share their expertise.

Some of the most challenging times have also been some of the most memorable. When there were snowstorms and the staff stayed overnight, we put together packages of sheets and towels and included peppermint candies so it felt like a hotel stay. I remember fielding phone calls from community members who offered the use of their four-wheel-drive vehicles to pick up staff, and watching the roof overhang blow off the Medical Arts Building during Superstorm Sandy. And, of course, the tremendous challenge of caring for hospitalized COVID-19 patients during a pandemic, something we never thought we’d see in our lifetimes.

One thing that CentraState has been able to do over all these years is adapt. We’ve brought on new service lines, like bariatrics and robotic surgery, as innovations developed in the healthcare arena. We’ve expanded our services beyond the hospital and into the community with five medical pavilions in other geographies. Our MS program, which started small, now serves more than 2,000 patients and has a new infusion center. We’re expanding our cardiac catherization lab into cardiovascular interventional suites that will house three interventional service lines in one location, allowing us to cross-train staff and use resources more efficiently. We’ve achieved Magnet reaccreditation four times and have received multiple external validations about the quality of our care from accrediting entities.

We can provide 95 percent of the healthcare services the community needs, and for the other 5 percent, we will connect patients with someone who can. The community can feel confident that if we aren’t comfortable or competent in an area, we will refer them to a facility or colleague who is. And, not only do we support and care for our external community, but also the constituents within these walls—the CentraState family. As critical of a mission meeting the healthcare needs of those in our service area is, it’s also important to take care of and support our colleagues.

I work with a spectacular group of managers and directors, and it’s been rewarding to see my team grow over the years. They recognize each other’s strengths and talents, can execute on projects, and meet or exceed standards for accreditation. And, I’m well-supported by our CEO, COO, and the other vice presidents. It makes for a pretty satisfying work environment.”

“I was working at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in 1981 when I decided to go into practice with Dr. Steven Bohm at CentraState. I split my time between New Brunswick and Freehold for a few years before choosing to practice only in Freehold.

Over the years, I’ve enjoyed attending staff parties, CME events, holiday parties, wine-tasting fundraisers, and leadership retreats. I’ve participated in the hospital’s golf outings, which unfortunately didn’t improve my golf game! I’ve served on search committees, was chief of gastroenterology, and was chief of medicine. I’ve helped recruit specialists here, including experts in infectious disease, neurosurgery, and vascular surgery. The hospital now has a concerted effort to have subspecialists on staff so patients don’t need to be referred out of the system for certain procedures.

I’ve seen the hospital go through different phases of growth, and it’s always progressed with the times instead of being stagnant. It’s grown immensely in physical size and bed count, and we’ve added ancillary services, a larger ER, and more parking to accommodate the growing community. Our leadership has done a good job of explaining the benefits of a community hospital over larger hospitals. Our nursing staff has won numerous awards for patient care, and the hospital works to get patients diagnosed and treated quickly and accurately. While there’s always room for improvement, the interactions between the departments of GI, Radiology, Pathology, Surgery, and Interventional Radiology are much more cooperative now. Even when the hospital’s reputation was tarnished, our administration kept working to improve the hospital’s relationship with the community. As a result, we now attract residents from Marlboro and Manalapan who wouldn’t have considered coming here 20 years ago.

I’m now in solo practice and rent space from the hospital in the Donna O’Donnell, RN Medical Arts Building. This partnership with the hospital enables me to run my practice more efficiently since I don’t have to get into a car to see a patient who’s been admitted.

Sure, there are services that CentraState doesn’t offer, but we have state-of-the-art technology and the care we provide is more intimate, more friendly, and more efficient. It’s hard to beat this hospital in that regard.”

“When I was growing up, there weren’t any hospitals in the Freehold area. My two children were both born at Jersey Shore Hospital; my daughter in 1966 and my son in 1969. This was around the same time that Freehold Area Hospital was in the planning stages. I thought that building the hospital was such an important milestone for our community that I became a charter member, helping form the Millstone Township Hospital Auxiliary in 1965 to help raise money for the project. When ground was broken to build the hospital, my parents and I attended the ceremony. My father captured the opening of the hospital on film. We were all very proud to be a part of bringing a hospital to the Freehold area.

I have been an advocate for CentraState through its auxiliary, foundation, and board of trustees. I served as president of the Millstone Township Hospital Auxiliary before joining the board of the Freehold Area Hospital Auxiliary (now known as The CentraState Associated Auxiliaries) and eventually serving as its president. I was initially asked to serve on the system board for CentraState and subsequently asked to serve on the hospital foundation board in 2000. These two positions were and still are a good avenue to meet people, network, and promote the hospital.

I have many memories of the hospital through the years. I even worked there briefly. I had moved to another state for a while and when I came back in 1971, I needed a job. I interviewed and was offered a job as a receptionist in the emergency department on the first night it opened. Three patients came in that night, and because I couldn’t hear the ambulances coming, it startled me every time the doors to the ER opened. A short time later I was offered a job in the musical field that I was trained in. I decided to accept a position teaching music in Jackson Township and continued my efforts to support my hospital.

On the board of trustees, our biggest challenge is making decisions about how the hospital will move forward. Several former CEOs and Mr. Gribbin have done an amazing job of moving our hospital forward and keeping it a community hospital. In my opinion, one of the best decisions was the addition of the Wellness Center and creating the history wall that connects the hospital to the wellness center. I’m also extremely proud of our nurses who have achieved Magnet status four times. They are so compassionate and loving, and I don’t think they get enough credit for all that they do.

When I’m out in the community and someone has a comment or complaint about the hospital, I tell them to write to the administration. If the administration doesn’t know about a problem, they can’t fix it. On a positive note, it’s always good to hear what we’re doing well.”

“It’s hard to comprehend that I’m retiring from CentraState after 42 years. It took a long time to make this decision. It’s been such a joy ride, but I’m excited about my next chapter.

I joined CentraState—then called Freehold Area Hospital—in October 1979. I had just gotten married and lived in Maryland when my husband, who was from New Jersey, accepted a position in his home state. I knew nothing about New Jersey or the hospital, but I applied anyway. The nurse manager of the Emergency Department interviewed me, and although I’d never worked in an ED before, I got the job. I was promoted to administrative supervisor in the ED before transferring to Cardiology in 1990—a perfect fit for raising a family. I’ve been the administrative director of cardio-pulmonary services for about 20 years. I’ve stayed at CentraState because everyone here is warm and caring. They love what they do, and it shows. Quite simply, it’s not the place; it’s the people.

It’s been an honor and privilege to watch this organization grow. In the early years, we watched hot air balloons land in the fields around the hospital. Now those grounds are home to our ambulatory campus. When I started here in 1979, we didn’t have any board-certified cardiologists on staff. Now we have more than 50. When the Cath lab was added in 2005, we were nervous because we’d never done catheterizations before. Now we’re adding an interventional cardiology suite and further expanding our services.

Even with all that growth, CentraState has maintained its community atmosphere. I’ve watched this organization mature and blossom into the state-of-the-art medical center it is today. Our administration has been able to clearly define and implement its strategic plan, and it’s been a pleasure to see it come to fruition. You don’t have to go to a big city to get high-level, compassionate care. And the recent affiliation with Atlantic Health System will help CentraState continue to thrive well into the next century.

When people here think of me, I hope they think of compassion and integrity. It’s been a good recipe for me. In my retirement, I plan to golf, hike, travel, garden, spend time with my grandkids and spend lots of time outdoors. I’m going to volunteer with a rescue horse organization and go where ever the wind takes me. It’s been an incredible journey.”

“While I have many interests ranging from jazz piano to military history to travel to golf, my medical career is what defines me. It’s who I am.

I grew up in Brooklyn, received my medical degree from the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore, and specialty trained at the Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City. When I entered practice in July 1972, I knew I didn’t want to practice in New York City.

I was on staff at several Monmouth County hospitals when I received a call from the administrator of Freehold Area Hospital. The hospital didn’t have any physicians on staff who specialized in either otolaryngology or plastic and reconstructive surgery, so they asked me to join the medical staff. At that time, Freehold, with notable colonial roots, seemed to be a small town with a new community hospital. Although I tended to be academically oriented, I took a tour of the hospital. In addition to my initial practice in Long Branch, I opened a solo practice in Freehold in January 1973 and joined the staff of Freehold Area Hospital (now CentraState).

Developing a practice in Freehold was a great professional decision. I have always been an independent thinker and have relished being in solo private practice. I knew early on that I did not want to work for someone else or have other doctors work for me. I wanted to be responsible for my own decisions and sink or swim on my own merits.

In 1983, I constructed the Sattenspiel Surgical Arts Pavilion in Freehold. This was the second private free-standing ambulatory surgical facility in New Jersey. By 1990, I had ended my affiliation at the other Monmouth County Hospitals while remaining on the medical staff at CentraState.

I have always been—and continue to be—enamored by the science and the art of medicine. I performed surgery for head and neck tumors, sinus and ear conditions, and plastic surgery of the head and neck. In time, I reduced my cancer-related practice and concentrated on plastic surgery. The last 25 years of my practice was exclusively plastic surgery for trauma, reconstruction, congenital deformities, skin cancer and cosmesis. A major interest of mine has been to address surgical as well as non-invasive cosmetic concerns. My main professional goals have been to save and improve quality of life through dedicated personal care.

I served as the longest-running chief of surgery at CentraState for 13 years. The Surgery Department was much larger than it is now. Back then, it encompassed general surgery and all of the surgical subspecialties. I was the only chief of surgery at the hospital who wasn’t a general surgeon. I took the role very seriously. My main goals were making sure that the OR ran smoothly and that surgeons delivered quality care. Keeping the peace was a priority. I also focused on education within our department, coordinating weekly educational and quality assurance meetings. Needless to say, being chairman was a busy and intense job!

I believe that hospital CEOs should be physician advocates. This hasn’t always been the case; however, John Gribbin, CentraState’s current long-standing CEO, works well with physicians and has been a superb administrator. He is very skilled, organized, and admired. He respects doctors, and they respect him in return. Under his excellent leadership, CentraState has served the community well. Combining Mr. Gribbin’s administrative guidance with the medical staff’s leadership, the hospital has continued to evolve and expand. It has kept up with the times medically, providing state-of-the-art services. I believe the momentum will continue and our medical delivery capabilities will grow exponentially with CentraState’s alignment with Atlantic Health System.

The medical staff at CentraState is superb, and the hospital provides excellent care. When I retired in November 2020—after nearly 49 years—I had been on the medical staff longer than any other physician. I am proud to have been affiliated with this hospital and feel its medical care and services are comparable to many of the finest large hospitals. During the pandemic, I spent time learning everything I could about COVID-19. I have reviewed and compared COVID-19 response data from CentraState and other hospitals and academic institutions, and I am very impressed with how the virus has been managed here. In this regard, Dr. Jim Matera, the medical staff, and the nursing staff deserve a tremendous amount of credit.

For nearly 50 years, this hospital has served me well and I hope I have served it well in return.”

“My mother drove me to my job interview at Freehold Area Hospital in 1979 because I didn’t know where it was. Back then, it was a little hospital surrounded by cornfields. After the quick interview, the manager told me to get a lab coat because I was starting the next day. I was 21 and had just finished my training as a lab tech. My father had heard about the job from a pathologist he met working as a doorman at an apartment complex in Long Branch.

I started at the hospital part-time and started drawing blood that first day. We didn’t have computers, so we walked into patient rooms with orders on paper slips. We fed data cards into a machine to be read, and each department had a ledger book where everything was written manually. When we got our first computer system, we had to complete the work in both the paper and computerized systems for fear the computers would go down. None of us had used a computer before, and unless you had taken a typing class in school, you were hunting and pecking at the keys. Now things are much more sophisticated. Phlebotomists visit patient rooms with a little computer and use a wand to read ID bracelets and badges.

We only wore gloves, masks, or splash shields if we worked with specimens from isolation patients. We started using lab coats, scrubs, and gloves around 1983 when HIV emerged. It’s crazy when I think about how lax things were. We worked with blood on our hands, ate and smoked in the Lab, and washed our hands when we got a break. We pipetted liquids by mouth, including dangerous serums and reagents. Now, of course, we wear PPE and adhere to strict infection control measures.

When I started, the Lab was in a small space above the Emergency Department. The rumor was that the architect of the hospital forgot to draw the Lab in the original blueprints. Space was at a premium, so they put us in whatever space they could find. Luckily, they built a new lab in the basement about a year later. The Lab has moved several times over the years, and many times we worked around the construction.

When someone on the 3 to 11 shift left, I was offered the full-time position. I didn’t know what I was in for. We encountered patients hemorrhaging in the ED and other challenges that required us to be always ready. There were no trauma hospitals in the area back then, so we handled the victims of the fire at Great Adventure in 1984 and other tragic events. We’d work to get blood from the blood bank to the ER quickly. I remember when two young boys had an accident on mopeds. They were brought here to be stabilized before transferring to a trauma center. We went through 20 units of blood that had been earmarked for the next day’s surgeries, so we had to scramble to recross-match blood for those patients.

I stayed on evenings for eight years, then took an evening supervisor position. I thought about looking for another job at one point, but I became friends with people in my department. We had happy hours, parties, softball games, our own Olympics, bowling leagues, and other off-work events. We had a lot of fun, but then you must grow up switch to the day shift, so I became the day-shift hematology supervisor in 1988.

Many lab techs have been here a long time. There are at least five who have been here nearly as long as I have. We have staff members heading toward retirement, myself included. So, I remind the next generation of lab techs that patients are attached to every specimen we handle. Because doctors make decisions based on our work, what we do can change someone’s life—for better or worse. Nothing is more important than putting out good results.”

“Much like the hospital has changed over the last 50 years, so has my job as a medical transcriptionist.

I took medical transcription courses at a community college before applying for a weekend transcriptionist position in January 1978. My husband and I were living in Freehold Township at the time. He watched the kids while I worked. As the kids grew, I added more hours, eventually taking a full-time position.

Until about 10 years ago, we had to type up the doctor’s notes about each case. The radiologists now dictate their notes using voice-to-text software, then I log into my computer to review the resulting record. I bring any issues to the doctor’s attention and make edits to ensure that the reports are correct.

The hospital has obviously gotten much bigger and busier. There are many more radiologists on staff now. The doctors at CentraState are excellent, and I see several of them for my own care. One thing that’s stayed the same is the people. Throughout my career, everyone from management on down has been willing to help their fellow co-workers. I’ve never felt pressure while at work; everyone is nice and makes it enjoyable.

I’m widowed now, and my two children have children of their own. I’m back to working part-time, filling the rest of my time with my two grandchildren, playing mahjong with friends, or taking day trips sponsored by the local senior center. I still love seeing “the girls” at work. It gets me out of the house for a bit and helps keep my skills sharp.”

“I’ve worked on several units in my 44 years at CentraState, but the 20 years that I’ve spent in Outpatient Infusion have been the most rewarding of my career.

I was a nursing assistant after high school before I went to nursing school. After graduation, I learned there was an open day-shift position on the medical-surgical unit at Freehold Area Hospital. I applied, and the rest, as they say, is history. I worked on 2 West for several years before becoming an evening charge nurse under Betty Baker on 5 North. I moved to Short Stay as an evening charge nurse about three years later, then went per diem for a few years while I had children. I came back full-time in Outpatient Infusion around 2000.

In my time at CentraState, the hospital has transformed from a very basic hospital to a state-of-the-art medical center with services like cardiology, oncology, and interventional radiology that make it possible for patients to receive excellent care close to home. Even the infusion center has changed, moving from a small, windowless room by the Emergency Department to the beautiful Jean Mehr Infusion Therapy Center. This upgrade allows us to offer more diverse medications and treatments to more patients while also providing increased privacy and better amenities.

I’ve gotten to know so many patients and their families over the years. I’ve seen many patients at their sickest, and it’s been rewarding to see so many feel better. And sadly, I’ve seen some patients decline. It can be a challenge to stay positive and supportive. I’ve cried with patients and their families, and have even gone to several patients’ viewings. While nurses often don’t always get the recognition they deserve, I’ve felt appreciated in this role. It helps that my co-workers are like my family. We try to find the humor in life when we’re having a bad day.

But you come to a point in your life when you know it’s time to move on. So, I am retiring this summer to travel and spend more time with my family. This new phase of my life is bittersweet—both exciting and scary—but I’m looking forward to relaxing and enjoying life.”

Volunteer Stories

John Eggert, Chair of CentraState’s Board of Trustees | 24 Year Volunteer

“CentraState is focused on the well-being of our local communities and our clinicians provide life-changing care for people. I know the importance of supporting the community and how it can transform lives.”

John’s affiliation with CentraState spans more than 24 years, serving on numerous hospital committees and boards. He is currently the chair of CentraState’s System board of directors. John credits his deep commitment to supporting the community to his parents and grandparents who believed that community service is an investment in the future and that it is essential to use your skills and knowledge to serve those in need.

Ellen Velmer | 38 Years as a CentraState Volunteer

“Throughout the years, CentraState has proven its devotion to the community and it has been an important part of my life experience; I would not be the person I am without my time at CentraState.”

Ellen began volunteering while working as a teacher and quickly adapted to volunteering year-round. During her long tenure at CentraState, she has witnessed the growth of the hospital and the one constant Ellen truly appreciates is the people who work at CentraState.

Mike and Jane Barra | 14 Years as CentraState Volunteers

“Our volunteering is very rewarding to us and we feel a deep camaraderie and rapport with the patients and staff.”

After Mike was a patient at CentraState, the married couple was so appreciative of the care and compassion of the staff they joined the organization as volunteers. With Mike at the Information Desk and Jane volunteering on different units such as the Center for Sleep Disorders and The Linda E. Cardinale MS Center, the volunteer duo “broadened their involvement in the community” and feel gratified to provide such valuable services to the hospital and the larger community.

Rich Cobin | 10 Years as a CentraState Volunteer

“We bring the shofar into the hospital to mark Rosh Hashanah; this takes my volunteering to another level by bringing the synagogue to people.”

Rich volunteers his time at the hospital by delivering meals to patients with a healthy dose of compassion and time. Easily recognizable by his trademark Yankees hat and watch, Rich always elicits comments from fans and nonfans alike. In addition to delivering meals, Rich also serves in a pastoral capacity by interacting with Jewish patients and connecting them with their Rabbi.

Dottie Christiano | 7 Years as a CentraState Volunteer

“I love the people at CentraState and they are what make the hospital such a special place.”

Dottie’s connection with CentraState began 40 years ago when she delivered her son at the Freehold Area Hospital. Her support and enthusiasm have not waned over the life of the hospital. Dottie is a self-described “Jill of all trades” in her volunteer roles and has found herself staffing a number of positions, including posing as a patient for new residents to help train them with real patients.

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