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Quite a Career - Nurse Celebrates 50 Years in Charlevoix

Published on Aug. 31, 2021

Mary Terryberry, RN, celebrates 51 years of nursing this year. All but one of those years have been at the hospital on the beautiful Lake Michigan shoreline in Charlevoix.

As one might imagine, she enjoys her job.

“I like working in Charlevoix, it has been a great place to work,” she said. “It’s always felt like family. A lot of people you are taking care of are people you know. I have actually helped deliver third-generation babies.”

Caring, Dedicated Environment

As manager of Munson Healthcare Charlevoix Hospital’s Maternal/Newborn Department, Mary has helped introduce dozens of Charlevoix area residents into the world over the years. When she arrived in Charlevoix a half-century ago after spending a year working at a hospital in Midland, she found a small hospital with caring and dedicated staff and physicians. One of the doctors still on staff was noted Charlevoix physician Gilbert Saltonstall, MD, who was instrumental in bringing the hospital into the modern era.

“I loved Dr. Saltonstall,” she said. “He was just ending his career when I was beginning mine.”

Charlevoix Hospital Chief Nursing Officer Bernadette Cole, RN, calls Mary “the pillar of the Charlevoix OB department and an icon of this hospital.”

“Mary has led this organization through countless changes over the past 50 years in both the care of the mother and newborn, as well as the building of a new birthing center and then an addition to that center. Mary is an awesome coach, mentor, leader, caregiver, friend, and team player,” she said.  

First Thoughts of Nursing

As a young teen, Mary remembers her first thoughts about becoming a nurse. She grew up on a dairy farm near Elsie, and at 16 spent a year working as a volunteer candy striper at a nearby community hospital in St. Johns.

“I got to know some of the nurses there and there was one nurse that I bonded with really well. After watching her work with patients, I thought this is something I want to do,” she said. Mary went on to become a nursing assistant and after graduation headed to Saint Joseph Nursing School in Flint.

Once in Charlevoix, Mary gained experience in all areas of the hospital including the ICU and Med-Surg areas. Around 1975 she began specifically working in the OB unit. There have been countless moments in that department over the years that have reaffirmed her career choice.

“Being with a new baby is such an emotional feeling. It is just such a privilege to work with patients during this time in their life,” she said. “Even after 50 years, being in a delivery still feels like ‘this is the greatest’ in being able to share the experience with them.”

Nursing Opportunities

Fifty Years of Change

Fifty years of nursing also has meant a world of change in how care is provided and patient experience. When she first arrived at the hospital, surgical and maternity patients typically would spend at least a week in the hospital. Fathers were not allowed in delivery rooms. There were no IV pumps and no computers for charting patient care.

And looking back on her career, she sees one thing she would do differently if she could – get a bachelor’s degree before her children arrived. Like most schools for registered nurses then, Saint Joseph’s required three years of education.

A highlight of the past 50 years is helping the Maternal/Newborn unit evolve and blossom.

“When I first started, the OB department was not much of a department,” Mary said. “Just being part of developing this department into what it is today and it being a place where people want to come and have their babies has been rewarding.”

Outside of nursing, the mother of three enjoys spending time with family and grandchildren and traveling on adventures with them.

Any plans for retirement?

“I am looking at next spring,” she said. “But even after I retire, I still plan to work per diem. I like my job.”