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A record of service: Morphew has helped manage medical records at SWMC for 40 years

WORTHINGTON -- To say technology has changed Julie Morphew's job at Sanford Worthington Medical Center would be a gross understatement. Morphew, who is employed as a release of information technician at SWMC, is marking 40 years of employment wit...

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Julie Morphew stands among an archive of medical records at Sanford Worthington Medical Center. (Ryan McGaughey/The Globe)

WORTHINGTON - To say technology has changed Julie Morphew’s job at Sanford Worthington Medical Center would be a gross understatement.

 

Morphew, who is employed as a release of information technician at SWMC, is marking 40 years of employment with the hospital this year. She originally came on board as a lab secretary, and it was a time at which medical records were organized much differently than they are today.

 

“Part of the lab secretary’s job was that I had to spend an hour a day working in the medical records filing paperwork,” Morphew recalled last week. “That hour ended up being about four to five hours a day because they were so backlogged on filing and finding these reports. There were no computers at that time.”

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Morphew had graduated from Adrian High School in 1974 and gone to attend Faribault School of Practical Nursing, where she became an LPN. She then worked at McKennan Hospital in Sioux Falls, S.D., before moving back to Worthington and working full-time in the Ahlf Drug pharmacy department. Meanwhile, she also worked every other weekend as an LPN at Worthington Regional Hospital.  A year after that, she applied for and was hired for the lab secretary opening. The job certainly had its share of challenges early on.

 

“Let’s say you had been in the emergency room,” Morphew described. “We would keep files on the desk there with the letter A, the letter B, the letter C and so on, and your emergency room record would stay there for about three months before going to the permanent record. A lot of times it would be tough to find a record, though.

 

“I would get calls in the middle of the night from supervisors - they’d have someone in the emergency room and they‘d been in there a week ago, but they couldn’t find the record. Toward the end, I would just come to the hospital in my pajamas.”

A very brief hiatus Morphew continued in that job until the early ’80s, when she lost her job because of cuts. That unemployment turned about to be about as short-lived as possible.

 

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“I was laid off for one day and brought back because I was told, ‘we need you on medical records, or HIM (Health Information Management),” Morphew said. “I was hired back part-time, but then increased to full-time after a few years.”

 

It was also in the early ’80s when she working in the lab and told her co-workers she was going out for lunch. An hour later, she returned from downtown Worthington’s Johnson Jewelry with a diamond ring on her finger. She would marry husband Pat - who she met on a blind date - in 1983.

 

“Pat had been working as a mechanic at Worthington Sports Center,” Morphew recalled. “Later, I wound up supporting the family while Pat went back to school and earned a degree at Augustana.”

 

Following his education, Pat became - and continues to be - an employee of the Independent School District business office. Meanwhile, the way medical records were managed at the hospital gradually evolved.

Change is good “I’d say in the last maybe 20 years, I’ve kind of moved over to the release of information department,” Morphew said. “Let’s say another health facility calls - the Orthopedic Institute, for example. ‘So and so had an MRI of their knee, can you fax us the report? Can you send me to radiology to have the images pushed?” Anybody that is not a Sanford facility that is calling, I’ll work with. … And patients will also come in say they need paperwork to go to Rochester, for example.

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“I like it that I don’t have to mess with all the paper now.”

 

The need for interpreting for multiple languages has been another significant change for Morphew, as is the fact she doesn’t have an actual supervisor in Worthington in her department. Skype and email come in handy on that front, she said.

 

In fact, Morphew added, she’s only had three different supervisors in the 40 years she’s worked at the hospital. She was initially hired by Arlene Leckband, who had a memorable way of kicking off each day of work.

 

“She started off every day with, ‘If you don’t have enough work to do, let me know,’” Morphew said. “Then she’d slam her fist on the desk and say ‘get to work.’”

 

Morphew has enjoyed a long and fulfilling career despite it not being what she envisioned back in the mid-’70s. Due to health reasons, she struggled working nights and evenings, but her interest in health care led her to remain in a different - yet related - line of work.

Family tradition It’s a line of work that is a family tradition of sorts. Her mother, Audrey Reisdorfer, was a well-renowned nurse for many years, and her sisters Joan and Patty are both U.S. Navy captains as well as nurses. Her daughter Jodie, born in 1984, is an RN at Sanford Clinic in Sioux Falls as well as a health coach.

 

“I remember being told, always go into health care because there will always be a job,” Morphew said. “There are always going to be sick people, so you’ll always have a job.”

 

The Morphews also have a son, Mark (born in 1987), who recently moved to Montgomery and is co-director of the gymnastics program in New Prague. Jodie, meanwhile, is married to Luke Lovejoy, a mechanic in the Air National Guard in Sioux Falls - they have three children (twins Jack and Ellie, 5, and Will, 4).

 

Morphew enjoys spending time with her grandchildren in her free time, and helps her daughter often with her son-in-law’s frequent activation. She walks three miles a day with friend Linda Kuhle, enjoys cooking and reading multiple newspapers, and helps out at St. Mary’s Church.  She and her husband enjoy traveling, and they look forward to a trip to Colorado Springs, Colo., in May to see a niece graduate from the U.S. Air Force Academy.

 

Despite her outside interests, Morphew has no immediate plans to put an end to her multiple-decade career.

 

“I like what I do and I like my co-workers both in Worthington and in the network,” she said. “Worthington is fortunate to have a health care facility that provides such exceptional care.”

Ryan McGaughey arrived in Worthington in April 2001 as sports editor of The Daily Globe, and first joined Forum Communications Co. upon his hiring as a sports reporter at The Dickinson (North Dakota) Press in November 1998. McGaughey became news editor in Worthington in November 2002 and editor in August 2006.
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