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Jan Esme retires after 45 years in X-ray department

PRINCETON — Jan Esme of Princeton has seen quite a few changes in her 45 years as an X-ray technologist — from the advancement of technology ... to the responsibilities given to technologists in training ... to when you can marry.

Esme will retire Friday from Perry Memorial Hospital, where she has worked for more than 30 years, working not only with X-rays, but also in other specialized areas like mammograms, CT scans and angiography tests.

Esme said it’s amazing the changes in technology during the last 45 years. When she started her career at OSF St. Francis Hospital in Peoria, they were still hand-developing X-ray film. Later, when the “automatic processor” was developed, it was still a seven-minute process. Today, now everything is digital and pops up in just seconds, she said.

The changes is mammography have also been great, Esme said. In the early years, technologists took images in a cardboard cassette, and the radiation dose was more for that one image than what is given for a full mammogram today. Also, there is no comparison of those early mammograms to the detail seen in today’s mammograms, she said.

“Back then, if the lesion was maybe an inch or half-inch across, that’s when we would see it,” Esme said. “Today we see tiny little specks.”

Policies surrounding student training have also changed through the years, Esme said.

Originally from Morton, Esme got her medical training from the St. Francis Medical Center in Peoria. She was one of six students in her class, five women and one man. Only she and the man completed the two-year training, with the others dropping out for various reasons. For instance, one woman got married, and therefore was not allowed to continue the training, which was the policy back then.

When she was getting her training, the second-year students were considered on-call staff and slept in the convent connected with St. Francis. One night she was called into work to handle X-rays when 10 gunshot victims were brought to the hospital after a racial riot in Peoria. Obviously, today that would never happen, Esme said.

In another example, Esme remembers the time when she was nearing the end of her training and was asked to run the X-ray department at a hospital in a nearby town for a couple weeks. Again, that would not be done today, Esme said.

After she graduated, Esme stayed at St. Francis and worked. it was there she met her future husband, Steve, who had been an earlier student at St. Francis but had left school when he was drafted into the military. He completed his training and took his national boards while in the military, then returned to St. Francis to work after leaving the military.

After Steve and Jan began dating and decided to get married, they had to get permission from the head of the hospital because a married couple could not work in the same department at that time, Esme said.

In spite of all the changes during the past 45 years in the medical field, there are a couple things that haven’t changed, Esme said.

When she graduated from high school, her father told her to make sure she went into a career which would support herself and her family if something happened to her husband. A woman can support herself and her family through the medical field, Esme said.

But the most important thing that hasn’t changed during her career has been that sense of satisfaction she has gotten from helping people, Esme said. The most rewarding part of her job has definitely been the patient contact, especially in the mammography field when she can help women feel at ease and help educate them about their health.

That part of the medical field, helping others, should never change, she said.

Comment on this story at www.bcrnews.com.

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