Sharon McCagg, RN, describes working at Virginia Mason Sand Point Pediatrics as spending time among good friends. It’s a big reason why she has devoted her professional life to the clinic — all 50 years of it.
“It just seems impossible I’ve been here 50 years,” says Sharon. “Mainly because I don’t feel that old!”
Sharon was just 21 when she interviewed to fill a nurse position at the clinic, 33 years before it became a Virginia Mason facility. The small practice didn’t employ a bookkeeper, leaving Sharon and a nurse colleague to handle the billing, too. Eventually the clinic needed four bookkeepers to manage the increasingly complicated insurance requirements, which helped motivate the physician owners to sell the practice.
Sharon wonders if modern insurance plans are one reason parents bring their kids to the clinic more frequently. “Parents used to wait until their kids were really sick or hurt to come in,” remembers Sharon. “But now we see them when they need reassurance, and they need a lot of that from us these days.”
Married 47 years, Sharon and her husband raised three children as working parents. She notes that she never had to worry about the Internet and social media, among other things, that require a ne
w online vigilance from today’s parents. Her son once described her parenting style as something like fishing: she has the confidence to cast out the line, only reeling her kids back in if there was real trouble. It’s the same no-nonsense style that informs and comforts scores of parents she works with today.
“I have stayed in pediatrics not only because I love the teaching aspect, but I get to stay up-to-date on what is current in parenting,” says Sharon, who now spends her part-time schedule answering the clinic’s consulting nurse line. “No call is ever the same, each approach has to be tailored, and there is a constant learning curve.”
Sharon attempted to retire twice, each time needing several weeks off work to attend the summer Olympic Games, where her twin daughters were competing in rowing. Before the Sydney, Australia games she enjoyed a big farewell party complete with cake. But even during the celebration her hopeful colleagues asked when she could come back.
Despite continually working, Sharon has found time to maintain her outside volunteer work and advocacy for children. In 1999, she received the Anna Clise Award for Individual Achievement for her leadership and support as a Seattle Children’s guild member, and later served nine years on the hospital’s Guild Association Board. Sharon and her husband still mail 1,200 copies of Seattle Children’s well-known calendar from their home each year. Sharon also served on the board of Youth Eastside Services, chaired a panel for United Way and earned the Golden Acorn Award in her tenure as president of the Lake Washington School District PTA.
With such a busy life (Sharon’s also a grandmother of five), might celebrating her 50th anniversary be a good reason to retire? “If I felt like I was a step behind I’d consider it, but I don’t feel like that,” says Sharon. “I get to help with everything from a kid who’s fallen on the playground to the new mom who wonders how many diaper changes are normal. It’s always interesting. I love coming to work!”
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