After 42 years as a nurse aid at Bothwell Regional Health Center, Cookie Poole decided it was time to retire, making her last rounds during a 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. shift Dec. 30-31.
Poole’s friends, family and coworkers gathered in the BRHC cafeteria Friday afternoon to celebrate her long career and to wish her well in future endeavors.
“She’s comical, a lot of patients like her,” said Nursing Director Estella Frazier. “If she tells you something’s wrong you better go check the patient — she knows what she’s talking about and has a lot of experience here. She wants things done the right way and her work shows that. You don’t find too many people that really care about what they do. It’s going to be a big loss to the hospital.”
“I’m a people person. I love working with people and I meet a lot of people here,” Poole said. “I just love doing my job. I love the work, I like to treat my patients like they’re family.”
Poole began her career at BRHC in the pediatrics ward in 1972. After 10 years she was moved to the float pool, where employees were assigned to various places in the hospital, and then she moved to the 3 Southwest nursing unit in the 1990s.
“When I first started here, we had the float pool, and you knew Cookie would be there,” said Ja Hickman, director of quality management. “She made your eight-hour shift enjoyable.”
During her time at BRHC, Poole saw her fair share of changes in the hospital and in the medical field. She also saw many employees come and go, and even helped train many of the current nurse aids, including Tiffany Schoen, Irina Lopez, Shelley Wasmer and Angie Norwood, who together make up what Poole calls her “team.”
“She’s a hard-worker and makes work fun,” Schoen said. “She’s popular, every patient knows her.”
“She always has her work done, you never have to wonder if she’s going to get something finished,” Wasmer said. “And she’s always fun.”
Poole even has her own Facebook fan page, created by a former patient’s family. The page, titled “Cookie Poole the Nurses Aid,” has 243 likes, and a post about Poole’s retirement on the BRHC Facebook page was welcomed by a large outpouring of support from the community, something Poole’s daughter is used to.
“Growing up in Sedalia, I couldn’t go to the store without someone asking me if I’m Cookie’s daughter,” Contessa Poole-King said. “She’s a fixture here at the hospital. I can’t go anywhere, even today, without someone asking me about her, and then telling me a medical story about how my mom helped them or a family member.
“She’s dedicated. She’s dedicated to the hospital, she’s dedicated to her patients. In terms of care she takes great pride in her job. She’s the model employee.”
Throughout Friday’s celebration, countless people came up to give Poole a hug. Some shared memories they had with her over the years, and some gave her well wishes for the future. While her coworkers are sad to see her go, her family is looking forward to spending more time with Poole.
“I’m extremely proud of her,” said Poole’s husband, Noah Poole. “I’ve witnessed her dedication and how she cares for her patients. She’s the type that’s always glad to see when a patient is doing better. Most of, if not all, her patients, she includes in her prayers.
“I worked from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. for 28 years and she worked 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. She’s retired now, so we can start our second growth together. Spend the rest of our lives growing together.”
As for retirement plans, Poole said she and her husband, who is also retired, plan to take some vacations and take it easy for awhile. She said she’d also like to help with home care, spending time with those who live by themselves.
“I wanted to retire now so I could still be in good health and enjoy my retirement,” Poole said. “I’m going to miss the people, my coworkers. I’ll miss taking care of my patients. It’s been a good place to work. I’m ready, but I’ll miss everyone.”