KANSAS CITY, Kan. — 82-year-old Lillian Diaz is retiring after dedicating 52 years to Kansas hospitals. Friday marked her last day as an intensive care unit secretary at Providence Medical Center in Kansas City, Kansas.
“This has been my life for so long,” Diaz said. “Maybe it’s time for me. I’m 82.”
Some may call it a job, but for Diaz, it has always been a calling. Her two sisters went into nursing and inspired her to seek a career in health care.
“You just do it. Get up in the morning, come to work and you just do it. I never had to change my calling,” Diaz said.
Working as a secretary in ICUs across the state, Diaz wore many hats throughout her career in health care. She remembers starting at her first hospital in Topeka before computers existed.
“Before, we didn’t have computers. Everything had to be typed,” Diaz said. “You know when they first brought this in, I go, ‘Oh my god! I don’t think I can do this!’”
The journey to retirement was anything but easy. She moved to New York in 1959 from Puerto Rico, finished her studies, created a family and volunteered her life to be in the frontlines of major health crises.
She continued to answer her calling even through the COVID-19 pandemic. But after two years, it was also the final straw.
“Somebody needed to be here to answer — it was just continuous phone calls,” Diaz said. “It’s very hard, very sad.”
Her favorite colleague, Steve Goldak, says Diaz leaves behind a void hard to fill.
“She does as much if not more than someone half her age,” Goldak said. “She’s gonna be hard to replace.”
Diaz wants the next generation of health care workers to know the key to a long and successful career comes from within.
“Don’t come do this with the idea of money,” Diaz said. “You want to do it from your heart. You want to do it because you want to do it. It’s very hard.”