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2009: Stars

Kim Wilson-Smith is part of the Nutrition Services Team at Fremont Medical Center

People sometimes joke about the quality of hospital food, but thanks to the efforts of Nutrition Services Supervisor Kim Wilson-Smith and the qualified staff of Nutrition Services, the patient food as well as the cafeteria food at Fremont Medical Center is excellent. As Kim notes, "You know the quality and selection of our meals are good because people from surrounding businesses come to Fremont for breakfast, lunch and sometimes dinner. Plus, our prices are the best in town!"

Kim began at Rideout Health as a volunteer in one of the business offices at Rideout. In 1992, a position opened up in Nutrition Services at Fremont and she applied for it. That was the start of a 17-year career with Nutrition Services. Today Kim supervises the kitchen and cafeteria staff at Fremont, making sure the department is up to standards and that the needs of the patients, hospital staff and visitors are met with satisfaction.

She hasn't forgotten her roots, though. "As a supervisor, I try to listen and be fair to all employees. I've been on the other side of management, and I know how most employees feel," she explains. "I roll up my sleeves and pitch in to help with cooking, cleaning, stocking and so forth. I do what it takes to get the job done. I've always been a team player, and I'm part of a good team."

In addition to caring about the needs of her staff, Kim cares deeply about the needs of patients and their families. "I visit with patients to see how they feel about their meals and other services that Nutrition Services provide for them. Then as a team in Nutrition Services, we make any necessary changes in order to improve and accommodate their wishes and needs," she says. "In general, our patients like comfort foods that remind them of home. Our mission in Nutrition Services is to exceed our customer's expectations in courtesy, quality and service, because we care!"

Kim grew up in Gary, Indiana and moved to California in 1985. Kim is married to SMSgt William A. Smith, who is stationed at Beale Air Force Base and has four children. Kim's favorite pastime is collecting dolls, especially
celebrity Barbie dolls.

Does she ever miss Indiana? "I definitely don't miss the winters and all the snow," she replies. "Plus, I look forward to being a part of the team here at Rideout Health for many years to come."

Bev Moyle Has an Eye for Details

When your job entails scheduling all the appointments for Home Health nurses with an average of 280 patients, supervising the billing, dealing with state and federal paperwork, and serving as a member of the quality assurance team, it helps to have an eye for details. Home Health Office Coordinator Bev Moyle claims she inherited hers.

"I'm a 'nitpicker' who is very detail-oriented," she chuckles. "It's a skill I inherited from my mother. She worked for a company that built military equipment, assembling user's manuals and other technical information. Healthcare is equally technical, with lots of government regulations that are constantly revised. I have done a lot of reading over the years to keep up with all the changes."

A native of upstate New York, Bev moved to California at age 18, fresh out of high school, and went to work in quality assurance for a Silicon Valley electronics firm. "My husband and I moved to Gridley in 1976 to raise our family," she recalls. "We love the small-town community, and our daughter and son - who are now adults - and our granddaughter still live in the area."

Bev joined the Pharmacy staff at Biggs-Gridley Memorial Hospital in 1989 and subsequently worked as an Administrative Secretary before helping to organize their Home Health agency that later merged with Fremont-Rideout Home Health. "I had always been interested in health care," she notes. "I didn't think I could be a nurse, because I am a bit squeamish, but I knew I was good at paperwork. My coworkers are an amazing group of healthcare professionals, and I'm glad to be able to help with the paperwork to make their important job of caring for our patients a little bit easier."

Paperwork is not Bev's only skill, however. She's also known as an excellent cook and baker. In fact, her White Chocolate Piña Colada Fudge recently won a prize in a Fremont-Rideout holiday recipe contest. Her love of cooking is rivaled only by her love of traveling. Over the years, she has gone on cruises to such far-flung locales as Italy, the Mediterranean, the British Isles, Scandinavia, Russia, the Panama Canal, South America, Hawaii, the Caribbean, Australia and Alaska.

Bev's children share some of her personality traits and talents: Her son is a professional cook, and her daughter is a paralegal - another job that requires an eye for detail. There must be something to that heredity thing!

Roshni Krishna Honors Patients in Their 'Sunset Years'

A native of the Fiji Islands, Roshni Krishna was a kindergarten teacher there before she moved to the United States in 1996 as a new bride. As she made that big move from one country to another, she also moved from one career choice to another, going back to school to become a certified nursing assistant.

"It was a bit of an adjustment moving to the U.S., but in some ways my life is much the same as it was in Fiji," she says. "I still work at a regular job and have a fulfilling home life. The main difference is that I really prefer working in the field of medicine. I like to help patients and their families."

After working for John Muir Hospital in Walnut Creek, Roshni made yet another move, joining the staff of Fremont-Rideout's skilled nursing facility in Yuba City, The Fountains, when her husband was transferred from his job in the Bay Area. Because many of her patients are residents at The Fountains for long periods of time, she gets to know them well and has a strong emotional attachment to them.

"Many of our patients are elderly, and I love working with older people," she notes. "I recognize that we are all getting older, and I appreciate how hard these people worked throughout their lives. I want to honor people in their 'sunset years' and provide them with the gentle, loving care they deserve."

Outside of work, Roshni spends most of her time with her 10-year-old daughter and 8-year-old son, helping with their homework and after-school activities. "My own personal hobbies include swimming and travel," she says. "Every year I travel back to Fiji. I also have traveled to Canada, and I hope that soon I will be able to visit Australia and New Zealand, where I have relatives."

Roshni plans to return to school for her licensed vocational nurse certification when her children are older, but she doesn't intend to leave The Fountains, where she was recognized as a STAR performer for her outstanding patient care. "I never expected such an honor," she confesses. "I don't do my job to gain recognition - I do it because I truly love my work. Nevertheless, I was so grateful to receive this award."

How appropriate that someone who honors others should be honored, too.

Brenda Edens Shares Her Compassion and Understanding

While she was growing up, Brenda Edens often helped take care of her younger sister, who was autistic. That experience helped Brenda gain a sense of compassion and understanding for people who are "different." Today, as a Certified Nursing Assistant, she shares that compassion and understanding with her patients at The Gardens, a residential care facility in Yuba City for people with Alzheimer's disease or other types of dementia.

"I started out in the medical field 18 years ago, working at a nursing home in Folsom," she recalls. "At first, it was 'just a job,' but I discovered I had a knack for working with Alzheimer's patients. It was what I was meant to do."

A member of The Gardens staff for four years, Brenda works the evening shift from 2:30 to 11 p.m., helping patients with their daily living tasks and providing their medications. Another important part of her job is to help patients and their families cope with any problems that arise and to give her patients as normal a life as possible.

"People with Alzheimer's can sometimes have dramatic mood swings and personality changes, and it takes patience and experience to work with them," Brenda says. "Part of my job is to help the patients' families understand the disease, so that they know the erratic behavior is part of the disease, not the fault of the person. The families are generally very appreciative, since many of them have played the role of caregiver and they know it can be hard work.

"While working with Alzheimer's patients can be difficult, it also is really rewarding because we develop a bond," she adds. "It is such a great feeling when a patient smiles at me and with a light in her eyes says, 'Oh! It's you!' I love being able to make patients laugh, bringing them out of sad moments and making their day."

When she's not working at The Gardens, Brenda is often working in her own garden - all five acres of it. "Working outdoors is not just a hobby," she says. "It is also a great way to relieve stress!"

Daryl Keech Provices 'Intensive Care'

A self-described "adrenaline junkie," Daryl Keech, RN thrives in the fast-paced environment of the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at Fremont Medical Center, where he has worked for nearly 25 years, caring for critically ill patients recovering from surgery, respiratory failure or cardiovascular disease.

"More than any other area of the hospital, the ICU allows me to work closely with the physicians in determining the best treatment for our patients," he explains. "Because of our common experience, the physicians have learned to trust me, and I enjoy being able to help not only our patients, but their families, as well."

Born at Rideout Memorial Hospital in Marysville and a lifelong resident of the area, Daryl often knows his patients or their families. "Since I have worked here for so many years, I've taken care of multiple generations of families," he says. "It's not uncommon for a patient to say, 'Oh! You've taken care of my parents!' That personal connection is important to me."

Daryl's decision to become a registered nurse was something of a mid-life career change. He worked in sales for several years, but in his mid-30s he went back to school to study nursing. "While in nursing school, I learned to embrace my poverty since I was no longer working in sales," he chuckles. "I never regretted the move, though, because I believe nursing is a noble profession."

When he's not working, Daryl spends much of his time raising his large, "blended" family. He and his wife, who have been married for six years, have six children between them, ranging in age from 12 to 21. "I try to keep up with their activities and accomplishments," he notes. "Plus, the 'Bank of Dad' is always open."

Daryl also enjoys gardening, tending to the landscaping on his one-acre property in the foothills. "Gardening," he says, "reflects the seasons and natural order of life, much like my job."

For the next season in his own life - eventual retirement - Daryl dreams of moving to the mountains along the southern border of Colorado, near his wife's home state of New Mexico. For now, though, he is simply pleased to be named a Fremont-Rideout STAR Performer, joking, "And it only took me 25 years to do it!"

When It Comes to Patient Care, Juan Sigala Delivers

Sometimes patients need continuing care - including medical equipment and supplies - when they make the transition from hospital to home. For the past 13 years, Juan Sigala has met those needs, working as a Delivery Driver for Sierra Health Care, an affiliate of Rideout Health that offers 24-hour service, 365 days a year, including holidays.

"I deliver home medical equipment, set it up and help instruct patients and their families in how to use it properly," Juan explains. "I really enjoy being able to help patients, providing a personal touch as well as the equipment they need to live comfortably at home. I think of these people as 'my' patients, and I take my job very seriously."

Juan actually joined Fremont-Rideout 16 years ago as a housekeeper at Rideout Memorial Hospital. When he learned about the opening for a driver at Sierra Health Care three years later, he jumped at the chance. "I wanted to be able to work with patients," he says. "It's a rewarding job that gives me a feeling of being helpful to patients and the community. It's also a learning process every day, because each patient's needs are different."

Many of Juan's patients are referred by Hospice and are facing terminal illnesses. "Working with these patients and their families can be very emotional," he notes. "I lost my own mother a year ago, so it gives me a strong sense of compassion for other families going through the same thing. It makes me want to do the best I can for them."

Outside of work, Juan keeps busy as the director of a church choir that participates in services every Sunday at Our Lady of Guadalupe in Live Oak and once a month at St. Joseph's in Marysville. A self-taught musician, he sings and plays the guitar, bass and mandolin. He teaches other people in the choir to play instruments, too. "My wife Yolanda, our 9-year-old daughter and 5-year old son are part of the choir," he says. "In addition to Sunday services, we also put on Christmas programs for the community. We enjoy sharing our love of music."

Although Juan does not sing and play for his patients while on the job, he has provided the music at church services for them on occasion - once again delivering his own special personal touch.

Carol Saavedra Goes Above and Beyond Her Duties

Working as a housekeeper in the Surgery Department at Rideout Memorial Hospital, Carol Saavedra is known for going above and beyond such standard duties as keeping the surgical suites sparkling clean and ensuring that the shelves are stocked with dressings, drapes and other surgical supplies. She also helps with lifting patients onto operating tables, getting them blankets - whatever the surgeons ask her to do.

"My work is really more than what people might consider 'housekeeping' - it's challenging and exciting because it helps contribute to quality patient care," she says. "I'm willing to jump in and help out in any department, and I always try to keep a smile on my face. You try to do your job well because you care, but being recognized s a STAR Performer is very, very special."

Carol joined Fremont-Rideout 16 years ago and has spent the past seven years in the Rideout Surgery Department. "I've worked on every floor at both Rideout and Fremont Medical Center," she notes, "but I especially enjoy this job. I've learned so much. I've even been allowed to observe surgical procedures - always with the patients' permission - which has truly been an educational experience."

Born and raised in Gridley, Carol has a large family in this area, including two sisters, two brothers, her husband of 30 years, a grown daughter and three grown sons. But her six grandchildren are her pride and joy.

"I'm almost always doing something with my grandkids in my spare time," she says. "We love to go fishing and camping, especially in the area up around Ft. Bragg, where we walk or ride horses along the beach. I also enjoy teaching the kids how to bake - both the boys and the girls. They love to experiment with recipes and create new things in the kitchen."

Since Carol now lives on a five-acre property, the grandchildren have plenty of room to romp around, as do her multiple pets: two long-haired guinea pigs, a miniature Russian hamster, two cats and two dogs - a Chihuahua/Dachshund mix and a miniature Pomeranian.

With all that activity at home, Carol's work might seem calm by comparison.

'Midnight Girl' Linda Windham Writes in Code

Most people have a pretty good idea of the work performed by hospital staff like nurses and medical technicians. But what does a Certified Coding Specialist like Linda Windham do?

Linda maintains and assures the accuracy of patients' medical records, including the complex system of codes that health insurance providers use to determine the proper reimbursement for specific medical procedures. This crucial job requires a comprehensive knowledge of medical terminology, anatomy and physiology, as well as an understanding of the diagnostic and treatment procedures used for various medical conditions. But there's another challenge in Linda's job, too.

"It's true what they say about doctors' handwriting - at times it can be difficult to read," she chuckles. "Accuracy is very important in what we do. If we have trouble reading what is written in a patient's chart, we might have to consult the physician or other members of the health care team, asking for clarification."

A Fremont-Rideout employee for 22 years, Linda works in the Health Information Management Department. When her 28-year-old son was younger, she worked the day shift. Once he turned 18, though, she switched to the night shift, coming in at midnight - which is how she earned the nickname of "Midnight Girl" from another employee. "I really like working at night," she admits. "It's peaceful and quiet, so you can get a lot of work done before the regular business day begins."

Linda's coworkers readily attest to her being a STAR performer, with comments such as: "Linda is worth her weight in gold." "They'd need five people to replace her." "I know I can always go to her with any questions I might have."

She is also known among her colleagues for collecting "vintage" clothes, which she finds at fairs and shops in the area. That hobby dovetails nicely with her keen interest in ballroom dancing and also led to her joining the Sacramento Art Deco Society 10 years ago. " I heard about the society at a Vintage Fair," she explains. "We help to preserve historical art deco buildings from the 1920s-1940s."

When she's not working, collecting, dancing or preserving art deco history, Linda enjoys time with her son and grandson. "I adore my grandson, who is 8 going on 50," she says. "He always knows exactly what he wants - he runs the house."

Christopher Smith puts patients 'at ease'

As an Army officer, Christopher Smith used to issue the command, "At ease!" to young soldiers. These days, as a registered echo-vascular technologist at Rideout Memorial Hospital, he performs echocardiograms and Doppler ultrasound imaging of veins and arteries. To put his patients at ease, he uses humor, humility
and the human touch.

"I approach my job with the orientation of showing love for everyone," he says. "By providing the element of human contact, I let patients know there is nothing to fear."

Christopher joined the Army after graduating from Humboldt State University and working as a truck driver. In the Army, he received his nursing training and specialized cardiovascular training. He has worked in cardiovascular technology for the past 24 years. He moved to Yuba City from Santa Fe, New Mexico a little more than two years ago.

"My wife and I wanted to be closer to family," he explains. "We also got tired of the desert and wanted to do more gardening - which serves as my 'therapy.' We really like the small-town environment here, too."

Christopher is known for being generous with his time, going out of his way to help others. "There's no such thing as a 'typical day,' he remarks. "We never know what's going to come our way at the hospital. I do whatever I can to be helpful. We have the best set of co-workers and staff I've ever had the privilege to work with."

Ron Worthy is 'Mr. Fix-It'

Ron Worthy learned his craft while serving in the United States Air Force. During his 20 years of service in ground support, he worked on various types of equipment at Air Force bases in Merced, California and Okinawa, Japan before transferring to Beale Air Force Base near Marysville. Since retiring from the Air Force, he has been plying his trade for 11 years in the Engineering Department at Fremont-Rideout, currently working mostly at Fremont Medical Center.

"My co-workers and I basically take care of all the electrical equipment, plumbing and heating in the Fremont-Rideout facilities," Ron says. "You name it, we fix it.

"Working in the private sector is different from being in the military," he adds. "I still try to do the same high quality of work, but now instead of spending most of my time in a workshop, I do more work around people, repairing things for patients while they're in the room - their TVs, their beds, their bathrooms and so on. The patients are always very appreciative, which makes you feel good."

There is no such thing as a "typical day" for the staff in the Engineering Department. "We're always going from one job to the next," he explains. "For example, during the recent hot spell, we spent a lot of time doing air conditioning work. The variety of work is enjoyable. It keeps you busy; keeps you thinking. We certainly don't have a lot of time to sit around."

Ron jokes that in his spare time, he's still doing maintenance work - at home. He also spends a lot of family time with his daughter and grandkids who live nearby. His son, who followed in his father's footsteps and joined the Air Force, is currently serving in Iraq, and Ron is eager to have him return home safely to his wife and daughter living in Utah.

While Ron was surprised to be named a STAR performer, he says: "I do try hard, and it's nice to be recognized. But all the guys I work with are good."

Nursing Student Kristy Kugelman Learns from Her Patients

Sometimes people with Alzheimer's may have trouble remembering what they ate for dinner last night. Often, though, they will be able to tell stories from their life experiences in remarkable detail. As a Personal Care Assistant at the Gardens Alzheimer and Dementia care facility in Yuba City, Kristy Kugelman has learned a lot of those stories - and much, much more.

"I knew I wanted to go into nursing, so I applied for the job to get some practical experience," says Kristy, who will enter her fourth semester of nursing school at Chico State in the fall. "I've worked here part-time during the school year and nearly full-time during the summer for more than a year and a half. It's a small facility, so we can spend one-on-one time with patients and get to know their stories. After awhile, you feel like one of the family."

In spite of juggling a busy schedule with school and work, the 26-year-old Kristy is known for always being dependable and willing to help whenever and wherever she is needed at the Gardens. "I truly love my job, and since it's something I enjoy, I try to do my best," she explains. "I know I'm making a difference for my patients. And their families are relieved to have their loved ones in a place where they're getting safe and professional care."

With a year and a half left to go before she earns her nursing degree, Kristy is already looking toward a long-term career with Fremont-Rideout. "The staff at the Gardens - and at Fremont-Rideout as a whole - are dedicated people who are great to work with," she says. "They are planning to expand the facility here at the Gardens, and once I get my RN degree, I hope to work in an area like this or in some other aspect of elder care such as hospice."

Wherever her nursing career takes her, Kristy is sure to be a STAR.

Doris Myers Sets A Friendly Tone

When people are in the hospital, they and their families are often under a lot of stress and need help with everything from finding a phone book to summoning a nurse. That's why Doris Myers, a Ward Secretary at the front desk in the 3 West unit at Rideout Memorial Hospital tries her best to put them at ease.

"Nobody wants to be a patient, so I try to make people feel welcome and help with whatever they need," she explains. "No matter how busy you are, it's important to take the time, put a smile on your face and focus on their needs. I try to keep things friendly and lighthearted, which makes it a better day for other people - the staff as well as the patients and their families."

Doris, who also has worked as a Cardiac Monitor Tech, became interested in joining the hospital staff 10 years ago because her brother-in-law works for Fremont-Rideout in Engineering. "I love my job because it's busy and exciting," she says. "You always feel like you've accomplished something. Plus, my coworkers are wonderful. I see so many displays of compassion and heroism among the nurses. I try to follow their example in making people feel better."

Many of her experiences at work have touched her heart. "When you work in a hospital, you witness the whole spectrum of human emotions," Doris says. "One time, when a patient passed away before the family could get there, I assured the daughter that the nurse had been with him at the time and held his hand until the end. Then she and I hugged - the entire family was moved."

In what little "spare time" she has, Doris tends her roses and plays guitar. She also travels to Maryland frequently to visit her daughter and grandchildren. Her work is an extremely important part of her life, though, which is evident when she states: "I don't plan to retire until they have to
kick me out."

Helping Others Is Kristy Silveria's 'Bottom Line'

Before joining Fremont-Rideout two and a half years ago, Director of Employee Relations Kristy Silveria was working for Sears as Manager of Operations and Human Resources in Tracy. Her primary motive for changing jobs was to move "home" - she was born at Fremont Medical Center and most of her family still lives in the area. But she soon discovered another source of motivation.

"In the retail world, everyone seemed focused on the 'bottom line,' the financial success of the organization," she explains. "In the world of healthcare, everyone's job has something to do with helping people. I find it motivating to work in such a compassionate, caring environment."

An outgoing person with a "can-do" attitude, Kristy serves as a liaison between employees and management, working to resolve issues that arise in the workplace. "I work with various department leaders and employees to create programs that help improve employee morale," she says. "We also are creating 'best practices' for Employee Relations, incorporating ideas from other organizations that work well. We're making a lot of positive changes."

Kristy graduated from Yuba City High School and earned her bachelor's degree at Chico State University. She now is finishing up her master's degree in Human Resources Administration. Most of her spare time is consumed by working on her thesis, but she also enjoys traveling to locations such as Italy, Hawaii, Mexico, New York and the Caribbean. In addition, she is active in various efforts to raise funds to combat juvenile diabetes, inspired by her niece who has the disease.

"I enjoy helping people," she says. "I like feeling that I am an asset for people and that I can help them resolve difficult situations and make their work easier."

Claudio Martinez Provides the 'Tools' for Quality Patient Care

For 15 years, Claudio Martinez worked in the Endoscopy Department for Rideout Memorial Hospital, assisting physicians with colonoscopies and various other endoscopic procedures. A year ago, he transferred to the Feather River Surgery Center as an Operating Room Technician.

"I love working with the staff at the Surgery Center where we perform same-day surgery procedures, but I still help out in Endoscopy whenever needed because I want to make things better for everyone," Claudio notes. "I decided to become an OR Tech because I've always liked helping people. It's a good feeling to know I'm making a difference for our patients - it's very rewarding."

Born in Mexico as the second oldest in a family of seven siblings, Claudio moved with his family to Yuba City when he was 8 years old. He entered the third grade not speaking a word of English. "Fortunately, Cedar Lane School had some good bilingual teachers," he says. "That is when I started learning to speak English."

At age 18, Claudio graduated from Lindhurst High School. His parents and siblings could not attend his graduation as they had moved back to Mexico. "Luckily, I had a couple of high school counselors who looked out for me, and I could go to them if I needed advice," he recalls.

After high school, Claudio worked at various jobs for a couple of years before joining Fremont-Rideout in 1987. He worked his way up to a position in Central Supply a few years later. "About that time, I met my wife," he
notes. "She encouraged me to go on to school and learn the 'tools' for becoming a surgical scrub technician. I
went to school during the day and then worked the night shift. I was away from home so much that my dog didn't even know me anymore."

Claudio spends most of his spare time with his wife Sally and their four sons, ages 19, 15, 13 and 11. "These days, since it's football season, I spend a lot of time taking my 15-year-old to football practices and attending his games," he says. "As for my oldest son, he is attending Yuba College, and I hope he will consider pursuing a career in medicine - perhaps nursing - since it would be nice to have him working for Fremont-Rideout also."

Josephine Valencia Sets the Record(s) Straight

Keeping patients' medical records in proper order, accurate and up to date is a demanding task, especially when those patients may require a long-term stay in a skilled nursing facility such as The Fountains in Yuba City. For the past 10 years, Ward Secretary Josephine Valencia has analyzed patients' medical records, along with informing and calling the physicians to come in for their monthly visits in a timely manner, keeping all admission, discharge, laboratory logs updated, coding new admissions with the appropriate codes and sequencing, transcribing doctors orders and filing all the records.

"Making sure our patients' medical records are accurate and up-to-date is important for ensuring continued quality of care," says Josephine. She joined the staff at The Fountains 14 years ago as a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) and then completed the additional training to work in medical records.

A native of Roseville, Josephine decided to pursue a career in the medical field years ago when she and her husband lived in San Jose. "I worked in a nursing home there, and I really enjoyed it," she recalls. "Later, when we lived in Modesto, I got my certification as a nursing assistant, and then we moved to Yuba City in 1994."

Josephine has always enjoyed caring for patients, whether working as a nursing assistant or helping them in her current job. "I especially like working with elderly patients," she says. "They all have such interesting stories - some make you laugh; others make you cry. I don't have as much patient contact now as I did when I was a CNA, but patients still come to me for various needs. I'm always happy to do whatever I can to make life better and easier for them."

In addition to keeping track of medical records, Josephine has been busy setting some "records" of her own. Now married for 30 years, she has three grown children - ages 29, 27 and 23 - and five grandchildren. Those are great numbers in anyone's record book!

Diane White Is A "Team Player"

When asked why she thinks she was named a STAR performer as a Nursing Assistant in Surgery at Rideout Memorial Hospital, Diane White modestly replies: "I just do my job." And then she adds: "I'm a team player."

Diane asserts that all her co-workers are team players, too. "It takes all of us as a team to get the job done," she explains. "We're all there to provide quality patient care. That's the primary goal, and it's very fulfilling to help sick people get better and recover from surgery. My favorite part of the job is knowing that I'm helping patients - as well as the nurses and surgeons who care for those patients."

Joining Fremont-Rideout in November 1991, Diane has seen lots of changes in the ensuing 17 years. "When I started here, Surgery was located in the older section of the hospital," she notes. "Today we have larger, better-equipped surgical suites, and the patient rooms are much bigger and nicer. I've also worked with a lot of great people over the years. The hospital is a great place to work. We have a sense of 'family' here."

Born in Sacramento, Diane was raised in the Marysville/Yuba City area and attended Yuba College. Although her two sons are grown, they still keep in close contact, with the 37-year-old living in Yuba City and the 34-year-old living in the San Francisco Bay Area. She also has two grandsons who are the joy of her life. Her husband, Ricky Otto, works locally in construction.

On her days off, Diane often heads to the great outdoors. "I love to spend the day relaxing and fishing on the river," she says. "Of course, I love my job, too. Lots of people work for years and years, doing jobs they don't really enjoy. I'm lucky because even on days when we're really busy with unscheduled emergency cases in addition to other surgeries, I enjoy my work. I think that's what makes the difference in how well I do the job."

Don Funicello Keeps the Information Flowing Smoothly

Fremont-Rideout can thank the rekindling of a high school romance for bringing STAR performer Don Funicello to our community as a Network Technician in Information Services.

Don was a single parent living in Southern California and working as a computer technician. "One day, my parents ran into some old friends who asked about me," he recalls. "The friends ended up giving my parents the email address for my high school sweetheart, Georgia. We started corresponding and dating long-distance in 2001. When my son graduated from high school, I moved north to Auburn, where she lived, and we got married in 2005. It was really something to reconnect with her after nearly 35 years."

Part of Don's experience with computers came during his service in the Army many years ago, working on a radar site in Germany. "Computers are much more sophisticated now," he says. "Back then, we had to track hostile airplanes on the radar screen with a grease pencil."

Today, Don helps set up and maintain all the desktop and laptop computers used at Fremont-Rideout. "We make sure all the systems are connected, and we troubleshoot any kind of computer problem people may have," he explains. "In addition to our normal working hours, each of us is also 'on call' from 5 p.m. to 7 a.m. about five times per month, because computer problems don't just happen during the day."

Noting that the world of information technology continues to evolve rapidly, Don remarks: "That's part of my fascination with the job. But I also enjoy making use of technology to help support the hospitalís mission and business of providing quality care to our patients. I recently upgraded the computer systems at the Cancer Center, giving them the highest level of service I could provide, and I like to think it makes their jobs easier."

When he's not tinkering with Fremont-Rideout's computers -or his own - Don enjoys spending time with Georgia, golfing, working out at the gym and watching NASCAR races. "I think I'm too old to take up race car driving, though," he chuckles. "After all, I'm not Paul Newman."

Karen Battaglia Calls Herself the 'Nighttime Spy'

A Resident Assistant on the night shift at The Courtyard assisted living facility, Karen Battaglia doesn't really "spy" on people. But she does monitor her patients closely, checking on them frequently during the night.

"There's no such thing as a 'typical night' for us," Karen says. "No two shifts are ever the same. It all depends on the level of care our patients need on any given night. Things can get hectic at times, but it's great to feel we are making a difference for our patients."

With the encouragement of friends who worked there, Karen joined the staff at The Courtyard almost 10 years ago, after working in another facility and caring for people in their homes for 25 years. "Knowing how much I enjoyed working with older people, my friends kept telling me how wonderful The Courtyard was - and it truly is a wonderful place to work," she notes. "Fremont-Rideout is a good organization to work for. The administrator for our facility always acknowledges our hard work and makes us feel appreciated. The people on the staff are all very helpful and encouraging. I keep learning new things every day."

A self-described "people person," Karen has always gone out of her way to help others. "Over the years, there have been several times when I sort of 'adopted' older people who were alone, bringing them to my home for various holidays," she explains. "I'm committed to my patients at The Courtyard, too. I can't leave the job after finishing my shift without thinking about my patients."

Karen's concern for her patients has even found its way into one of her favorite pastimes outside of work - yard sales. "I love to go 'treasure hunting' on weekends," she says, "and I'm always finding things for my patients."

What else does she do in her spare time? "I love to spend time with my 18-year-old daughter and 21-year-old son," she answers. "They are the pride and joy of my life."

Rick Pilkay Gets Patients Back In Action

When he enlisted in the Air Force in 1979, Rick Pilkay started out as a military police officer. Fortunately for the people of the Marysville-Yuba City community, the Air Force offered him the opportunity to retrain and study physical therapy.

After 21 years in the Air Force - serving in locales as varied as Colorado Springs, England and nearby Fairfield - Rick and his family moved to the Yuba City area in July 2000. He went to work for a local outpatient physical therapy firm and took a part-time position with Fremont-Rideout. For the past year and a half, he has been a full-time Physical Therapy Assistant for Fremont-Rideout Home Health.

"Our patients in Home Health are homebound because of their disabilities," Rick explains. "Our goal is to get patients back to their normal activities and transition them to outpatient physical therapy programs."

Rick notes that there is a big difference between providing physical therapy in the Air Force and in Home Health. "In the Air Force, you're dealing with a younger population, with more problems related to work and sports injuries," he says. "In Home Health, more of our patients are older retired people, and their problems are often related to strokes and orthopedic cases such as joint replacements."

Responses to patient surveys regularly praise Rick's work and skills, and his supervisors frequently receive calls and letters commending his efforts. "It feels good to know I'm helping other people," he notes. "I get a real sense of accomplishment witnessing a patient progress from being bed-bound to having an active life. I love to see patients transition in a positive way and resume their normal activities."

Rick's own "normal activities" include tennis, fishing and spending time with his family. "I met my wife Karen while stationed in England," he recalls. "It took a fair amount of persuasion to get her to move to the states, but I'm a lucky guy and we've been married for 27 years. Our 20-year-old son and 18-year-old daughter attend Yuba College, and our 25-year-old son works in hotel management in Nevada. We've all enjoyed the sense of close-knit community here. It's great to walk into a store and have people call you by your first name."

For Beatriz Mercado, It's All About Customer Service

Every working day for the past 13 years, Beatriz Mercado arose at 4 a.m. in order to get to her job as a Food Service Worker by 5:30 a.m. She spent four years in the cafeteria at Rideout Memorial Hospital, followed by nine years in the cafeteria at Fremont Medical Center, working the breakfast and
lunch shifts.

That arduous, early-bird schedule recently changed, however, when she was promoted to the position of Imaging Assistant in Imaging Services at Rideout Memorial Hospital where she doesn't have to clock in until 1 p.m. "Working the early shift in the cafeteria allowed me to be home with my kids after school," Beatriz says. "Now that they are 24, 22 and 16, I can work later hours. My husband works the night shift at a local elementary school, so he appreciates the fact that now we can be together in the mornings."

In spite of the early hours, Beatriz thoroughly enjoyed working in Food Service. "Over the years, I really got to know the people who came to the cafeteria - patients and their families, as well as physicians and staff," she explains. "I knew
pretty much what regular customers would be ordering, and I always tried to give them great customer service."

Born in Mexico, Beatriz moved to Los Angeles in 1988 before coming to Yuba City in 1991. "I really prefer the small-town atmosphere of Yuba City," she notes. "There are too many people in L.A. "

In her spare time, Beatriz enjoys walking her dogs - a Chihuahua-terrier mix and a Jack Russell terrier. As a "foodie," she also likes to visit Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco, where she indulges her fondness for clam chowder and Ghirardelli chocolates.

At work these days, though, she is still tending to the needs of others. "Fremont-Rideout is really good about helping employees advance in their careers, and they provided excellent training for my new job," she says. "Now I register people for their X-rays and help make films and CDs of the images for them. It's still customer service - it's just not all about food."

Noemi Rodriguez Is a 'Jack of All Trades'

As a Surgery Technician at Rideout Memorial Hospital, Noemi Rodriguez does a lot more than order supplies, clean and sterilize surgical instruments and help set up the operating room. Her co-workers tend to turn to Noemi for assistance with all sorts of tasks because of her 17 years of experience at Rideout.

"I often end up helping people out in other departments," she says. "For example, when other people are out sick or on vacation, I fill in wherever I'm needed. I also serve as a translator for patients and their families who speak Spanish. I'm a 'Jack of all trades' because I do a little bit of everything."

Noemi's interest in the field of health care stems from her childhood and youth in Salinas and Castroville. "My mother was a nurse, and I worked with her in a convalescent home in Salinas," she explains. "Later I worked in an acute-care county hospital in Salinas before moving to Live Oak in 1991 and coming to work for Fremont-Rideout. I really love the work that I do."

When Noemi is not at work, she's still doing "a little bit of everything." Two years ago, she and her husband Ubaldo bought a 20-acre ranch near Oroville. "We raise horses, cows and chickens, so there's always work to be done," she says. "It took me about six months to get used to living on the ranch, but now I love it and wouldn't want to live back in town. Plus, on weekends, three of my grandchildren come to stay at the ranch. They love all the animals and being outdoors."

But Noemi doesn't always stay "down on the farm." She also loves traveling to exotic locales such as Catalina, Ensenada, Puerto Vallarta and Mexico City. Her most frequent travel destination, though, is Bakersfield, where her other two grandchildren live.

"I love having a close-knit family, and the people I work with at Fremont-Rideout are almost like family," Noemi says. "Any time I've needed something like time off to deal with personal matters, they've been there for me."

And Noemi has been there for us, too.

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