In today's increasingly mobile work environment, Patricia Trexler is somewhat of a phenomenon.
She has worked for the same organization for more than 50 years, earning her status as the longest-tenured employee at The Lutheran Home at Topton and recognition at the national 2012 Leading Age conference.
During her more-than-half-century history with what is now Diakon Lutheran Social Ministries, she has witnessed evolution of the Topton campus from a home for children to its current primary state as a Continuing Care Retirement Community.
As a child, Trexler lived across the street from what was then called an orphanage; she frequented the campus to visit the children living there. Her mother was later employed as a nurse in one of the first vestiges of senior care on the campus, called the "infirmary," living adjacent to the campus until her husband passed away.
When Trexler married, she and her husband bought a house next to the campus; they lived there for 44 years, during which their sons volunteered at The Lutheran Home at Topton.
With limited career choices for women at the time, Trexler followed in the footsteps of her mother, choosing nursing as her profession. At that time, "you were either a secretary, a teacher, or a nurse," she says. Trexler began her nursing career in a hospital, but left to work at the new health care center at The Lutheran Home at Topton when it opened in 1962. With only four residents and a handful of employees, the center provided a homelike atmosphere for both residents and employees. "It was like a family ... a lot of the main employees lived on campus or close by," she says.
"Trexler’s ability to adjust to a changing environment has allowed her to grow with the organization."
Over the years, the campus evolved to keep up with a rapidly changing world. "We progressed from reusing everything to using disposables; from dispensing meds from stock bottles to using punch cards; from using gloves for almost no tasks to using gloves for everything; from all white dress uniforms to colorful scrubs."
Despite all of the changes in administrations, policies and procedures, Trexler, an LPN, has thrived. Shelly Sweigart, R.N., assistant director of nursing at Topton's Henry Health Care Center, says that Trexler’s ability to adjust to a changing environment has allowed her to grow with the organization. "She has jumped in wholeheartedly and adapted. And she has helped others along the way."
Trexler, who has no plans to retire soon, says she will work as long as she is "mentally and physically able."
The Leading Age award was in recognition of her tenure in serving older adults. Leading Age is a national association of 6,000 not-for-profit organizations dedicated to caring for and serving older adults.
"I went to Denver for the conference and award," she says. "I even got to meet Desmond Tutu. "It was amazing, quite an experience."