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WakeMed Women Making a Difference: “Nurse Betty” McGee

Humble. Soft Spoken. Caring. Dedicated.

These are just some of the first words that come to mind when describing WakeMed’s longest-standing employee, Betty McGee – known more affectionately in the community as “Nurse Betty”.

At 75 years old, Betty has worked for WakeMed for 54 years (this September) with plans to retire later this year. She’s experienced WakeMed’s earliest days with the beginning of integration, the hospital’s expansion, technological innovations and many more milestones along the way, leaving her with enough memories to last a lifetime.

Below, Betty shares her story.

Early Days

The year 1963 was an eventful year in the history of our nation and in my life as well. It was the year President Kennedy was assassinated, and our country was in the midst of the Civil Rights Movement. It was also the year I joined the WakeMed family.

My first experience with health care in our community began the first day of my nursing career at WakeMed, only one month after graduating from the Wilson School of Nursing, and three weeks after getting married.

My new husband and I settled near the Oakwood neighborhood in downtown Raleigh, so I only had a short drive to and from work. Traffic, however, was not an issue at the time.

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Working at WakeMed

On September 9, 1963, I arrived on the WakeMed Raleigh campus in my ’63 Chevy Impala. I was excited about starting my new career, and I was looking forward to my first paycheck. I made $260/month back then.

As I stepped inside the entrance of the 5-story, beige building, I remember feeling at ease. At 21 years-old, I was either too young to know better, or perhaps I actually felt clinically prepared.

As I made my way down the hallway, dressed in a starched, white uniform and the nurses cap on my head bouncing with every step, I was in awe at the brightness of the long hallway. The hospital was only 2 years old and still smelled new. I was convinced that this light and airy hospital was where I belonged.

That special sense of belonging was reinforced by the warm greetings I received from the staff upon my arrival in Labor and Delivery, where I would spend the next 16 years of my nursing career.

Back then, we boiled and autoclaved (sterilized) everything ourselves. We mixed our own baby formula and made our own linen packs. Nothing was disposable. Even IV fluids were in glass bottles – and what a mess and noise those made when they shattered on the floor!

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Fond Memories at WakeMed

In 1979, I decided to join the staff of outpatient surgery, where I remain today.

While every day brings new challenges, I truly love what I do.

My years at WakeMed have provided me with enough memories to last a lifetime. The births of my three sons were most memorable. However, the death of my first born shortly after his birth in 1965 and the death of my husband in 1977 were indescribably heart breaking.

But with the help from my personal family as well as my WakeMed family, my two sons (who were 7 and 9 years old at the time) and I worked through our grief and became stronger as a result. The many kind deeds by hospital employees and physicians served as a reminder that we were not alone.

Thanks to WakeMed, I have managed to prosper and meet the needs of those young sons while watching them grow into men of integrity with families of their own. They, too, treasure the fruits of my labor and are exceptionally proud of WakeMed’s legacy.

*Sadly, Betty’s youngest son passed away in 2016 at the age of 46 from a sudden heart attack.

Many, many achievements of this organization (too numerous to name) are etched into my memory. Most vivid, however, was the day the helicopter arrived.

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As I stepped through the door of the Trauma Center and spied the shiny red and white helicopter with a WakeMed logo, I knew our organization had arrived.

WakeMed Throughout the Years

From the 5th floor of the hospital opening in 1963 to the completion of the Patient Tower and Visitor Entrance, I remain in awe as WakeMed continues to grow by leaps and bounds.

I take great pride in our organization, and I am thankful to have been a part of its growth. The main campus has evolved from a small, five-story building to a “virtual city on the hill,” not to mention all of the other facilities bearing our logo.

Over the years, thousands of people have contributed to WakeMed’s growth, and I believe WakeMed will continue to prosper as we move forward. Our doors are always open to whomever enters.

From the down trodden, homeless souls to the most accomplished – we will continue to provide the best care.

That is our mission today – just as it was from the beginning. It is simply the right thing to do.

betty-mcgee-nursing-schoolLeaving a Legacy of Love & Caring

Fast forward to 2017. It seems almost unbelievable that six years have passed since WakeMed’s 50th anniversary celebration where I shared many memories with our WakeMed family, and I continue to serve with great pride alongside 8,500 fellow employees under the outstanding leadership of Ret. Admiral Donald Gintzig.

Our corporate footprint is steady and strong as we march forward to a future of challenging health care needs. I believe WakeMed will continue to stand tall with the “best of the best” while honoring our mission statement:

WakeMed is committed to improving the health and well being of our community by providing outstanding and compassionate care to all.

This same motivating force will serve WakeMed well into the future.

As far as my legacy is concerned, perhaps I scattered a few petals of hope and kindness as I traveled along life’s pathway.


About Betty McGee

Betty is a nurse in Day Surgery at WakeMed’s Raleigh Campus. When she isn’t working at WakeMed, Betty enjoys writing and spending time with family. After she retires, Betty plans to travel and possibly publish her memoir.

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