LANCASTER — For Mona Riendeau, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way!” That’s the philosophy Riendeau has lived by throughout her life and during her 50-year career working in the laboratory at Weeks Medical Center. It has served her well.
There was no great plan in Riendeau's career path. It began simply by looking for a good job to support herself and her family. She found that job on Oct. 12, 1965, after walking into Weeks and saying, “I want to work here.” She immediately liked the welcoming, relaxed atmosphere of the hospital. Today, Riendeau looks back on her 50 years at Weeks with great pride.
“Weeks means family to me,” Riendeau says wiping a teary eye. “I’m honored to have served four generations within the community.“
When Riendeau started at Weeks she really didn’t know what she wanted to do, or realize it would lead to a lifelong career. “I started by drawing phlebotomy in the lab and doing whatever was required of me,” she says. “It’s a miracle that it all happened.”
Riendeau did have the plan to become a medical secretary. She took classes at Becker Junior College, but she “hated them.” It was the few classes having to do with lab work that really interested her. When she later learned about a program to train lab technicians run by Dr. Robert Christie, she decided to sign up. Later, to further her education, she attended night classes twice a week. She did this while working full time at Weeks and part time at Androscoggin Valley Hospital in Berlin.
“I would work at Weeks from 6 a.m. till 2:30 p.m., go home for a short rest, then be at AVH from 4 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. Then back to Weeks at 6 a.m.,” Mona says. “I traveled throughout the North Country for classes to get ahead. I eventually got my medical technician degree and then my medical technologist degree. Where there’s a will ...”
Riendeau worked full time at Weeks and part time at AVH for 26 years. While she’s since left AVH behind, she still draws labs for Country Village Healthcare Center/Holton Point twice a week. She’s being doing lab work there for 35 years.
Even with all her freelancing, Riendeau has always been committed to Weeks. “I’ve had a lot of fun while working at Weeks,” she says. “We had many laughs along the way. I’ve worked with some great people in and out of the lab, and some terrific physicians, through the years. I’m still good friends with my first lab supervisor, Ruth Ann Bernier.
“When I first started in the lab, we were still using frogs to test for pregnancy by injecting them with the woman’s urine. The doctors would play jokes on us all the time by putting a frog in a coffee cup so it would jump out when anyone took a sip. I still say laughter is the best medicine,” Riendeau says.
The biggest challenge she faced was being on call for the hospital. “Being called in always seemed to happen at the strangest times. Once I was out at a fancy ‘shin ding’ wearing a fancy black gown. The patient was really surprised to see me all dressed up to draw blood,” Riendeau says. “Another time I had to rush in to draw labs with curlers in my hair.” Despite the bad timing, “I never questioned the need to be called in. It was all in the best interest of the patients.”
Riendeau dedicated service has even influenced her grandchildren. All three grandchildren chose healthcare for their careers. “Dagan is a certified orthopedic physician assistant, Adam is an interventional radiology technician, and Katelyn is a doctor of physical therapy. All three graduated with honors and I am very proud of them,” she says.
During her 50 years at Weeks, Riendeau has also seen numerous changes and improvements. “The lab staff works very hard,” she says. “When I first started everything was done manually. We didn’t have the technology we have today. We could not keep up with today’s volume if we were still processing tests like we did when I first started. The computer also has helped a lot. No more paper logs. It also has cut down on time as well as alerting the lab and providers to critical results.”
The lab itself also has been transformed. “In the past we used to drink, eat, and smoke in the lab. That’s not allowed today. The coffee pot used to be next to where they tested urine. The blood draw chair, which was an old-fashioned school desk, used to be right in the middle of the lab. Things have definitely changed for the better,” she says.
Riendeau doesn’t see herself retiring, although she may cut down to three days a week next year. “I still have a big house to take care of,” she says. In her spare time, she likes to work in her flower garden and visit the Oxford Casino. “I won $6000 one time. And it’s fun to get out of town,” she says. And Riendeau loves to have fun.
As to her 50-year legacy at Weeks, Riendeau says: “I’m proud of my phlebotomy skills and that I’m frequently requested by patients. I’d like to be remembered for always being here.”
Medical technologist Mona Riendeau will celebrate 50 years working in the laboratory at Weeks Medical Center on Oct. 12.