She was ready to retire, but not ready to quit.
Virginia Bradshaw retired as the director of the McDuffie County Health Department at the end of December, and a reception was held in her honor last Thursday.
After 23 1/2 years at the health department, Mrs. Bradshaw said her first month of retirement has been an adjustment.
"I've always had to be busy doing something all the time," she said. "And at this point, I feel like I've wasted a month. I haven't worked for a month, and I feel like I haven't accomplished anything. I have to live a structured life."
But her life has been full of accomplishments. Mrs. Bradshaw was first hired as a public health nurse at the health department by then-director Janie Evans.
"I hired her when she first started," Ms. Evans said with pride during the reception. "Isn't that wonderful? I know quality when I see it. She's done a beautiful job."
And "a beautiful job" is no small feat when the demands of the healthcare profession keep changing. Mrs. Bradshaw said one challenge has been learning to work with managed care, which she described as a "nightmare for physicians, hospitals and everybody," and tight budgets.
"However, McDuffie County is one of those counties that the board of commissioners works with us really well to ensure that we do get the financial backing that is required," she said.
Her biggest accomplishment was the pandemic influenza drill last spring, when the health department organized and executed a flu outbreak and treatment scenario with 845 patients screened. Although similar drills have been held before in the East Central Health District, Mrs. Bradshaw said this was a first in that it used all volunteers from the area.
As if the challenge wasn't big enough, Mrs. Bradshaw said her staff was manning the shelter from the tornado during the same time the drill was taking place.
"It certainly was a great success," she said. "I think that's not only a great accomplishment for the health department staff, but for McDuffie County, to know that we can bring together that many volunteers that are trained to do something in case we have a major disaster."
But it's the smaller, day-to-day accomplishments that Mrs. Bradshaw cherishes the most. She said the McDuffie County Health Department, as part of the East Central district, has "one of the highest immunization rates anywhere," and she loves the fact that her job enabled her to help all citizens in the county.
"She is just so efficient," Billie Thomas said at the reception. "I always got my flu shots from her, and I wrote a card and told her thank you for all those shots. I'm going to miss her when I get my shots, now."
Mrs. Bradshaw's service has overflowed from the health department into the community. She serves on the board for the local American Heart Association chapter, on the advisory board for the Cooperative Extension and the Health Occupations program at the high school, as well as the Entrepreneur Readiness Council.
"Virginia was wonderful to work with," said District Nursing and Clinical Services Director Donna Scott. "She's consistent and dependable. She cares about this community and that was her strength."
But Mrs. Bradshaw's family is looking forward to claiming her time during her retirement. Her husband, Edwin, said they plan to spend a lot of time at their get-away home in the North Georgia mountains. And her daughter, Teri, said she's "just glad to finally get her back, and hope she doesn't get too tied down with something else."
It seems everyone knows Mrs. Bradshaw's nature. Her coworker, Kathleen Boyer said "you can't keep her away, she'll still be around." And when Mrs. Bradshaw looked at her gifts during her reception, she saw that Augusta Tech nursing instructor Linda Young had given her a pillow that said "enjoy the simple things" with an application to come to work taped to the back of it.
Mrs. Bradshaw said she got a laugh from that gift, and she cherishes other notes she's received from nurses that told of the influence she had on them.
"I don't know that I made any great accomplishments at the Health Department," Mrs. Bradshaw said in an interview. "But it was important for me to work towards making a difference in somebody else's life, and I do feel that I was able to do that through public health. ... The pay's not very good, but it's extremely rewarding."