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Aug 4, 2015 5:26 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

After More Than 40 Years, Nursing Assistant Hangs Up Her Scrubs

Aug 5, 2015 9:41 AM

After more than four decades of caring for patients at Southampton Hospital, Patty Zaloga is hanging up her scrubs and calling it a career.The nursing assistant officially retired on July 4, her 62nd birthday, after working every floor in nearly every department at the hospital since 1972.

“It’s been a pleasure—an honor, actually,” Ms. Zaloga said this week. “It really is the teamwork of the nursing staff at Southampton Hospital that is what has gotten me this far. I certainly don’t take all the credit.”

After graduating from high school, Ms. Zaloga, a Southampton native, was originally scheduled to attend the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan before she opted to change career paths. Her mother, Margaret Saladino, was a nursing supervisor at Southampton Hospital, and many other women in her family worked in the same profession. She said she was inspired to follow suit: “It’s not something that someone just decides to become—you really have to have it in you,” she explained. “The vocation was in my blood.”

After about two years of attending nursing school at Kings County Hospital Center in Brooklyn, Ms. Zaloga decided to take some time off, “but life happened.” Before she knew it, she had landed herself a job working the night shift at the hospital in the community in which she grew up. And it was where not only her mother worked, but also her mother-in-law, Violet Zaloga.

The retiree, who now lives in Riverhead, recalled many fond memories of her decades-long tenure: taking care of celebrity patients—though she declined to give names; taking strolls down Herrick Road to Parrish Memorial Hall, where she would sit on a bench and eat dinner during her break; and being part of Southampton Hospital’s float in the village’s annual Fourth of July Parade.

But the memory she will hold closest to her, she said, is the memory of working with all of her colleagues.

“We all work together so very well, for many years. We basically have each other’s backs, and it gets us through very difficult evenings,” she said. “Many of us got married together, had babies together, lost people together, divorced together. Life happened. I mean, after 43 years of being in one place, it really was my second home, in the true sense of the word. And these girls and men were my family away from my family.”

Southampton Hospital was a different place when Ms. Zaloga began her career there. For one, the northern part of the building had not even been constructed yet. It was a time before patient oxygen was installed in the walls rather than brought into the rooms in tanks, and a time when the only source of relief from the heat on a hot summer day was a large fan and an open window.

She also witnessed the hospital going through a period of financial stress, and expressed her gratitude to current president and CEO Robert S. Chaloner, for putting the institution back on its feet. “I want to thank him for restoring the integrity of Southampton Hospital again,” she said.

And with such a long career comes much respect. Linda Gordon, who served as Ms. Zaloga’s immediate supervisor for the last two years, praised the retiree for her work and for her commitment to caring for others.

“Nursing is a hard profession, and to be in it for 40 years … she was obviously very committed,” Ms. Gordon said. “We’re sad to see her go, but happy for her retirement.”

Ms. Zaloga said that while she will miss going to work, she is looking forward to finally being able to do what she wants, whenever she wants. Spending time with her children, Lisa, 40, and Edmund, 34, is at the top of her retirement bucket list, as well as seeing her other family members and friends more. Traveling up the East Coast to Maine and Canada and cooking and entertaining often are also on the list.

“I’m just very happy that I can now spend more time with my children, my family, and my friends. I can honestly say that’s probably the biggest perk I can feel right now,” she said. “I’ve missed parties, I’ve missed family gatherings, I’ve missed outings with girlfriends. And now, I don’t have to do that.”

Ms. Zaloga celebrated her retirement about two weeks ago with a party at the Meschutt Beach Hut in Hampton Bays, surrounded by close family and friends. It was a bittersweet moment, she said, but it marked the beginning of a whole new chapter in her life.

“Southampton Hospital has served me well, and I have served it well,” she said. “It has been an honor to serve the medical health needs of this community.”

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I too am a retired nurse. At times nursing a very sad and difficult profession however the rewards are many. I wish you a healthy joyful healthy retirement.
By greeneyedlady (55), East Quogue on Aug 7, 15 9:25 AM
1 member liked this comment
Congratulations Patty!!! You are going to love it:)
By sandydog21 (195), Southampton on Aug 7, 15 6:09 PM
1 member liked this comment