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After 56 years, Nurse Betty retires from PMC

Nurse Betty to turn a hospital - a serious place, filled with many sick people but a place of daily recoveries, too - into more than just operations and tests and procedures.

A doctor named Chad Eller shook his head, not believing Nurse Betty would ever leave. Another doctor, Alex Espinal, refused to believe Nurse Betty could leave.

She has been there since the hospital existed, and before that, too, when it was called York General.

"The best," said Patt Lauckner, herself a nurse 42 years. "Nurse Betty. The one, the only."

In another ward where medicine tried to keep people alive, three nurses - Julie Mumford, Amy Casebolt and Allison Green - took turns hugging Nurse Betty on her last day.

"You can't go," Green said after the hug. "You just can't."

Medicine has changed with technology, but Nurse Betty has not changed.

"Computers are great, but it is people who are medicine," said Nurse Betty. "Patient care will always be a person taking care of a person."

That little nursing hat - a throwback to the days of Ike Eisenhower and Jack Kennedy, to nurses getting kissed by sailors after coming home from wars - well Nurse Betty had to have the hats made special just for her in recent years because she is the last nurse to wear such a hat.

Sometimes, through the doors of a ward, the bouncing hat atop the head is the only thing that can be seen. It is Nurse Betty's calling card, and Nurse Betty's alone.

"I love my nurse hat," she said.

The last couple of years, Nurse Betty had the title "patient ambassador." Her job was to see patients. For Nurse Betty, that means every patient. All of them. Some days, as many as 200.

So Nurse Betty arrived Monday with the sunrise and started rushing around as only Nurse Betty can do. All those new mothers, the babies, get the first visit.

Then it is a zig-zag tour throughout the floors of the hospital, a dizzying experience that no one but Nurse Betty has ever finished because her speed and route are beyond the ability of other mortals.

From 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. today at PMC, there will be a retirement celebration for Nurse Betty. She is supposed to arrive at 11 just for the event, where so many hundreds from her past and present will thank her.

But Nurse Betty has a surprise for everybody. She is going to arrive early, before sunrise, and make one last set of rounds. She will see the patients, look in on them, then see the mommas and babies one last time.

Nurse Betty was asked what she will wear for her last day, her party.

"My uniform!" Nurse Betty said. "I am a nurse. This is what I wear. I will wear it right to the end.

"And yes, I will be wearing my hat."

VIDEO: Nurse Betty makes final rounds

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