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When sisters Penny and Sherri landed jobs at UHN in the early 80s, they never could have anticipated staying with the organization for over 30 years.
On Feb. 26, Penny Hackenbrook-Rogers and Sherri Hackenbrook-Gibney attended UHN's annual
25 + Year Service Club Wine & Cheese Event at the Eaton Chelsea Hotel to reminisce with long-time friends and colleagues and celebrate their careers at UHN.
This year, approximately 1,710 employees and volunteers will have completed 25 years or more service at UHN.
The early years
Born and raised in Mattawa, a town in northeastern Ontario, Penny and Sherri grew up in a large family with four other siblings. After high school, the two went their separate ways – Penny to Algonquin College and Sherri to Carleton University – although they wouldn't be apart for long.
Soon after graduation, Penny's friend convinced her to move to Toronto and apply to UHN. In 1982, she started as a ward clerk in the medical ICU and neuro-surgical ICU.
"As a small town girl, I had never considered moving to Toronto," says Penny.
"When I started at UHN, it was still called The Toronto Hospital. At the time, I figured this would be a solid 'stepping stone' job until my next move."
Penny, now the Director of Application Management & Health Records and Transcriptions, Shared Information Management Services (SIMS), would indeed have many moves throughout her career – however they would all be within the organization.
Penny's UHN journey: From ward clerk to applications and health records
In the mid-80s, while employed as a ward clerk, Penny was seconded to SIMS to work on Ulticare, a computerized patient record system now known as the electronic patient record (EPR).
A few years later she worked on the HealthLink initiative – a joint venture by seven GTA hospitals and early forerunner to
Connecting GTA – a project aimed at securely sharing patient health information across the GTA.
In the late 90s, Penny worked on the Toronto Medical Laboratories Ultra Lab system implementation and in the mid-2000s, became EPR Manager, responsible for managing day-to-day operations of the electronic patient record system.
In 2010, she became Director, Application Management Team and a few years ago, added the health records and transcription portfolio.
"Making the switch from a clinical position to an administrative supportive role has been hugely different – the five years I spent on the frontline close to patient care helped me in my role implementing systems," says Penny.
"Now when clinicians talk to me about work processes, I have a more informed perspective."
Sherri's UHN journey: From ward clerk to education specialist
A few years after her big sister started at UHN in 1982, Sherri, now a Senior Education Specialist with SIMS, followed suit and began her career as a ward clerk in the Cardiovascular ICU and Surgical ICU South.
In 1991, Sherri secured a position as an administrative assistant supporting donor coordinators in the Multiple Organ Retrieval and Exchange Program at the Toronto region office integrated into UHN's Multi-organ transplant Team (now part of Trillium Gift of Life Network).
"I remember the early days of transplants working in the ICU – it was a huge production. We had to order special sterile carts and isolation for patients," says Sherri.
"It's amazing to see how this process has evolved so quickly over time – it's more of a routine procedure now."
Sherri can still remember writing to donor families to let them know what happened to the organ or when a recipient would come into the office to thank the team.
"It's still a highlight of my career – remembering how grateful patients and their families were. They would thank us for giving them their lives back."
In 1998, Sherri shifted gears and joined SIMS, working with the education team. She later joined the SIMS Project Management Office to work on the Medication Order Entry Medication Administration Record (MOEMAR) project – integrating electronic order entry and administration of medications into EPR with the goal of reducing medication errors.
A few years later, she found her true passion rejoining SIMS Education as an Education Specialist. In 2010 she was promoted to Senior Education Specialist.
What it means to grow with an organization over 30 years
Penny and Sherri agree the key to a successful organization and fulfilling career is a combination of continuous growth, a positive attitude and inspiring colleagues.
"While we've been here for a long time, we haven't done the same thing – there has always been so much opportunity to grow and evolve with the organization," says Penny.
"I've been an employee and patient at UHN and I wouldn't want to be treated anywhere else – I feel a strong sense of commitment to this organization and I'm especially inspired by UHN's commitment to strong female leaders as role models."
Sherri adds that the right attitude can also go a long way.
"Often people are in a hurry to get ahead quickly – but you also need to enjoy the journey along the way."
"If you've got the right attitude, you will get there."
Penny will celebrate 33 years with UHN this October and Sherri will celebrate 31 years in November.