Spending nearly five decades with one organization is no small feat, but Ada Bryant has accomplished just that at the Marshalltown hospital through several ownership and name changes. Now, with 46 years of experience under her belt, she has decided to retire, but not before taking a look back at her eventful and fulfilling tenure.
Bryant grew up in the small town of Northwood, and after graduating from a vocation and technology college in Faribault, Minn., she found her very first job as a lab technician at the Marshalltown hospital.
Being from Northwood, which has a population just over 2,000, she said Marshalltown seemed like a metropolis, and Bryant still remembers the day when she first started working at the hospital in 1976. It was Labor Day weekend, and the workload was hectic, to say the least.
“It was busy, and I remember calling my — of course, this was long before cell phones — and I’m in a phone booth in the hospital parking lot uptown, it was pouring down rain, and I called my mom and said ‘ Oh, I hate it here, it’s just too crazy, I want to find another job in a small town.’ Well, my mom said, ‘You have to stay there at least, at your first job, for one year,’ and here I am, 46 years later, so you know, it got better.”
Bryant spent most of her career working the bench, and she said she did a lot of blood banking through the hospital’s donor program. Calling donors and then subsequently drawing blood for use in transfusions was one of her most important day-to-day tasks.
Ironically, Bryant originally took the job at the Marshalltown hospital because she wasn’t going to have to do a lot of blood banking (it was another lab tech’s department), but as she started to do it more, she found that she actually enjoyed it. it. Bryant eventually took over in the blood banking area and remained in that position for about 41 years.
Throughout her time as a lab tech, Bryant had the opportunity to see medical science and technology advance, and one of the biggest changes she observed was in the use of donor blood in surgeries.
“Things are so much better now, surgery wise, for blood usage and even with staying in the hospital. You don’t get to stay in the hospital very long. Back then, even a cataract surgery, you were in the hospital for several days, and now you’re only there a couple hours, so it’s changed a lot over the years,” Bryant said.
Even lab testing was very different when Bryant first started. While testing used to be a manual task, it is now conducted in large chemical analyzers most of the time.
While most of her career was spent at a lab bench, about five years ago, she took on the role of lab supervisor and traded her bench for a desk. The transition was a bit of an adjustment.
“You know, you worked here for 40 years at that time, and you think you know everything, but then you come on the other side of the wall here, and you realize how much you didn’t know yet,” Bryant said.
She became supervisor around the same time as when UnityPoint took over, and Bryant said they had been great to work with for the last five years. In the nearly five decades Bryant has worked at the hospital, the name and management has changed multiple times, something that gives her a chuckle.
“I always laugh. I’ve worked at five different places and never left the building,” she said.
When she first started in 1976, the hospital was called Marshalltown Area Community Hospital, and that has since changed several times. It was also called the Marshalltown Medical and Surgical Center and then Central Iowa Healthcare before it finally became UnityPoint Health — Marshalltown in 2017.
Bryant said there was also a short period of time where the hospital contracted the lab out to the Cedar Rapids based company Health Enterprises, but Bryant always remained in the same facility, although she did finally switch buildings when the hospital was moved to the new location. on South Center Street earlier this year.
Management and names aside, Bryant has enjoyed her time working for the community at the Marshalltown hospital, and she was glad to be able to have a connection with the patients who walk through the doors, even though most of her work is behind the scenes.
“The one thing that I’ve always enjoyed about this size hospital is that we still have that connection to the patient. We see the patients and I’ve actually become very good friends with several patients over the years that had to come in a lot, whereas, at the big hospitals you’re just a number. You never see a patient, where here, we’re actually going to the ER, going upstairs and so you get that connection with the patient,” Bryant said.
Bryant plans to retire in late August, and she is excited to spend time with her husband, who is a retired police officer. They have plans to travel, and they have a cruise planned for the near future.
Bryant feels she has been very lucky to be able to enjoy her job, and looking back on her career with the Marshalltown hospital leaves her feeling nothing but fulfilled.
“I’ve just always been happy that it was something that I enjoyed doing,” Bryant said. “Going to work every day, there’s always going to be bad days, and some days, it’s just a job, but if you had to go to work to something that you hated doing, that’s even harder. So you want to enjoy what you do, and I’ve been very blessed that I’m always very happy with what I have chosen as a career.”
Contact Susanna Meyer
at 641-753-6611 or