Feb. 15, 2018

Verlyne Broadway holds up the pin she received in the room her co-workers decked out to honor her and her milestone anniversary.
Verlyne Broadway holds up the pin she received in the room her co-workers decked out to honor her and her milestone anniversary.
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It’s been 50 years since the Medical Center’s Broadway debut

Published on Monday, October 4, 2021

By: Gary Pettus, gpettus@umc.edu

Verlyne Broadway was 17 when she came to the Medical Center to start the first job of her life, in the only place she would ever work.

She has outlasted or survived 10 U.S. presidents, nearly a dozen Mississippi governors, nine or 10 vice chancellors, the rise of computers, mullets, mercury thermometers, avocado refrigerators, the Village People, Betamax,  the eruption of cable news, the Great Recession, epidemics, pandemics and multiple predictions of the end of the world.

But the world has not ended, yet, and neither has Broadway’s employment at UMMC, where her current job is helping make that world safe for surgery, which it so desperately needs.

Verlyne Broadway says she enjoys her co-workers, including the younger ones who helped her make the transition to computers. "Teach them?" she says. "They teach me."
Broadway says she enjoys her co-workers, including the younger ones who helped her make the transition to computers. "Teach them?" she says. "They teach me."

She works in a department that is, she said, her “last stop” at UMMC, a place where her responsibilities are more personal and gratifying than its name might imply: Sterile Processing (SPD).

“The most interesting thing about my job is just knowing you’re playing a part in the lives of people who are about to have surgery,” she said, “making sure the instruments are clean and sterilized properly.

“You put yourself in their shoes; if you had to have surgery yourself, you would want everything to be done right.”

As a certified Central Service Tech, Broadway has been helping making sure instruments are ready for the OR  for about 12 years now; but she has held other jobs since she arrived at the Medical Center in 1971 and sustained a record of steadfastness acknowledged with the awarding of a commemorative pin last Tuesday on her 50th work anniversary.

On the day of her 50th work anniversary, Verlyne Broadway is visited by Dr. LouAnn Woodward, who congratulated her with only the second-ever awarding of a 50-year pin.
On the day of her 50th work anniversary, Broadway is visited by Dr. LouAnn Woodward, who congratulated her with only the second-ever awarding of a 50-year pin.

“This is the only 50-year pin I have ever gotten to give out,” Dr. LouAnn Woodward, vice chancellor for health affairs and dean of the School of Medicine, told Broadway. It has been six years since Frankie Gaines  reached the first 50-year milestone.

“This is such an honor,” Woodward said during the brief ceremony staged near Broadway’s work area. “Thank you so much for your 50 years of service; it is amazing.”

Apparently, it was only the second 50-year pin ever awarded at the Medical Center, and among those who witnessed the second pinning were Broadway’s sister, Bettie Wilson of Jackson, and one of her daughters, Keisha Kimbrough of Jackson, who grew up with a mom who, she said, “was always clocking in early at work, always working hard for us and working overtime.”

A Jasper County native brought up in Paulding until she was 14, Broadway was born the youngest of five children. “My mother was a housewife,” she said. Her dad was a farmer until he moved the family to Jackson and began building houses as a carpenter’s helper.

Verlyne Broadway earned the second-ever 50-year pin awarded at UMMC.
Verlyne Broadway earned the second-ever 50-year pin awarded at UMMC.

About three years later, Broadway, a 17-year-old Lanier High School student who really wanted to work for a living, joined a jobs program she calls “Trade and Industrial.”

“I saw other people at school who had nice clothes on and they had jobs,” she said. “I really wanted to work to just be able to buy me some clothes, I guess.”

She went to school half a day and spent the rest at UMMC. “After I graduated, I just stayed at the hospital,” she said.

In the obstetrics-gynecology area, she started her first job, as a nursing assistant, in the days of nurses in white caps and smocks, IV fluids in glass bottles, and mercury in thermometers.

The Medical Center had been open only 16 years, and in the cafeteria, Broadway could see traces of the place where a wall had once stood as a barrier. “One side for whites, and one side for Blacks,” she said.

“But they had knocked the walls down by then; it was open when I came in,” she said. “And I was well-received here.”

As the first person in her family to go into health care, she worked for three years alongside the people she had once hoped to be.

“It was my intention to become a nurse,” she said, “but I got sidetracked along the way. I was a pretty good student, but I wasn’t too good in math and science, and I knew you have to be good in that.”

Certainly, she was good at sums; her years at UMMC began to add up.

“For one thing, I just needed to work,” she said. “That’s why I’ve stayed. I had three children, but I became a single parent. I had to work and the job was close to my home. I would just get sick thinking about going somewhere else, to a new environment.”

But, inside the Medical Center, at least, her environment did change. She moved next to what she says was called “the Suction and Equipment Department,” in orthopaedics.

“I was telling one of my daughters about that the other day,” she said. “You know how when you have a broken leg, you go into traction? We had to know how to put the traction on the bed for patients.”

Her inter-Medical Center journey wasn’t over. After another four years or so, she lit on Central Supply, starting, more or less, with a clean sheet. Lot of sheets, actually. And gowns.

“Linen would come in from the laundry and we folded it and made the linen packs, then sterilized them,” she said. They shoved them into the autoclave, a kind of steam pressure cooker/cleaner the size of an industrial oven. And so, Broadway became a killer of bacteria, viruses and spores – a skill that would serve her well at her “last stop,” which came next.

Helping Verlyne Broadway, center, celebrate her 50th work anniversary are her sister Bettie Wilson, lef, and daughter Keisha Kimbrough.
Helping Verlyne Broadway, center, celebrate her 50th work anniversary are her sister Bettie Wilson, lef, and daughter Keisha Kimbrough.

There in the basement of the Medical Center, since around 2009, Broadway has been sterilizing trays and instruments, including those for surgery – “from start to finish,” she said. “When they come in, they go to the decontamination area and we make sure they’re clean.

“We make sure nothing is missing.”

She places the instrument sets into a sterilizer and puts "the biological" into the incubator to make sure all the living bacteria are dead. “And then it goes to the floor whenever it cools down,” she said. “That takes about three hours.”

Broadway handles instrument sets teeming with hemostats, scissors, forceps, retractors, spreaders, scalpels, laparoscopic instruments. They are vital for such specialties as orthopaedics, neurology, general surgery, ophthalmology, transplant surgery and more. “There’s just so many,” she said.

How many? “Some trays have up to 160 instruments,” she said. “And there are probably more than 750 different sets.” There are trays for different areas – “at Wiser Hospital for the mothers and the babies, surgery trays for the OR and trays for the ER, which are smaller.

“There are trays they use on the floor for draining the sutures,” she said.

When she’s not shooting down germs, she likes to watch cowboys shooting at each other. Her favorite TV show, she said, is “Westerns.” She also enjoys reading – mysteries and, of course, Westerns.

“I also like to look at the news,” she said. “One of my hobbies is watching the news all day and keeping up with current events.”

Broadway can watch the news during the day because she works at night. She took a late shift some time ago when her mother had to have surgery.

For the past dozen years or so, or about one-fourth of her time at UMMC, Verlyne Broadway has worked in Sterile Processing making sure medical instruments, including surgical tools, are safe for patients.
For the past dozen years or so, or about one-fourth of her time at UMMC, Broadway has worked in Sterile Processing making sure medical instruments, including surgical tools, are safe for patients.

“Someone needed to be with her at all times once she came home,” she said. “I took that shift so I could see about her during the day time.” With a brother and sister, she divided the watch on her mother.

“I appreciated it that I was allowed to work those hours when my mother was ill,” she said. “She never really recovered from it.”

About three years ago, her mother passed away, but Broadway stuck with the later hours, which are now 5 p.m. to 1:30 a.m., she said. “The shift has been so good for me; I really don’t like to get up in the morning.”

She doesn’t have any trouble with the afternoons, though, nor with Saturdays and Sundays, said Shenequa Moton, interim director of Sterile Processing.

“She’s an example for the whole department. She has rarely taken any time off. Last year, we finally got her to stop working weekends.”

Even then, Broadway doesn’t take it too easy; on weekends, she keeps the youngest of her six grandchildren, who’s about 17 months old. “She keeps me going,” Broadway said.

Come Monday, Broadway is still going, said Clarence Williams, one of her supervisors, who was on hand for the pinning on Tuesday. Wearing a tiara and a gold-on-black sash with the inscription “Cheers to 50,” Broadway was appropriately crowned, as far as Williams was concerned.

“I’ve been at the Medical Center for about two years,” Williams said, “and for the last two years, I’ve been telling my staff she’s royalty. She is exceptional. I have to tell her, ‘Hey, slow down and take a few days off.’

“First thing when she comes in, she asks, ‘What do you need me to do? Where do I need to go?’ And she has a way of talking to the young people on the staff. They listen to her, and she has a way of calming them down when they need that.”

Most of the staff are young people, Broadway said. “Teach them? They teach me. When it comes to computers, I didn’t like that change, but they helped me and once I got it, it’s been OK. I enjoy all my co-workers. I try to keep up with them. Young people can run circles around me.”

Broadway is 67, and so she is asked at times if she would like to retire. As of Tuesday, Sept. 28, 2021, at least, she wasn’t sure.

“I need to, I really need to,” she said. “But so many other people have retired and left; I should probably stay for a while.”

If she did retire, she said, I guess I would find something to do around the house. I like to tinker around with flowers. Lilies, whatever flowers I get ahold to, I like to see them grow.

“People used to give my mother a lot of flowers, and I would root them and plant them in the yard.”

So she would continue the calming, cultivating ways that Williams described – just in a different kingdom.