Reflections: Phyllis Sandel

Sun and Hand

Phyllis Sandel

 

Chateau Retirement’s “Reflections” series highlights the rich life experiences of our residents. 

 

I was always aware of my inner drive for growth.

 

I’ve lived in a lot of places and with each move what I realized was that I was unprepared for all the learning involved in a move. Different parts of the country have different ways of looking at things, present different challenges and while I didn’t realize it at the time, moving and the learning involved became the catalyst for my desire to seek change.

 

Coincidentally the feminist movement of the 1970’s intersected with my new-found self-awareness. The country was about to embark on a major change, feminism. The feminist movement was a series of political campaigns for reforms on issues such as reproductive rights, domestic violence, maternity leave, equal pay, women’s suffrage, and sexual violence.

 

My growing-up years were spent in Texas and Colorado where I attended the University of Denver and met my husband. While he finished law school, I taught fourth grade. Our three children, Rebecca, Beth and John were all active in Scouting. I volunteered training Girl Scout troop leaders in the Bear Valley neighborhood of Denver, later taking a professional staff position at the local Council office which provided me a regular paycheck – not common for married women in 1967. My husband, a successful attorney, was very uncomfortable with his wife “working” and asked that I not bring these checks home, illustrating his own internal struggle with the growing feminist movement and the changes in our culture.

 

I opened my own bank account and spent as I wished. Meanwhile, our two daughters, now 12 and 14 along with their Mom were facing the incredible paradigm shift affecting all families, and I realized we would have to learn together how to change with the times. Not surprisingly, I was optimistic, not threatened.

 

A career change for my husband took us to Chicago where I again volunteered with the Girl Scouts, recruiting and training volunteer troop leaders and implementing programs for neighborhood day camps. The national Girl Scout programs for leader-training were revised to help leaders grow and excel. I felt fortunate that I was to pilot this new program in Chicago.

 

I have often thought of my 35 years with the Girl Scout organization like a college education. My career path started in child education, morphed into adult education and grew into a challenging role in health care delivery, developing  supervisory and management skill programs for health care professionals.

 

With the children off to college, I decided it was time to get into the business world and found help in a small employment agency to decide what to do and how to get started. I interviewed for a variety of different positions, learning so much about myself in the process. Eventually I narrowed down my interest to a huge suburban, geriatric hospital associated with the inner city Cook County Hospital.

 

The Oak Forest Hospital campus, originally built to care for tuberculosis patients and their families, now housed 6,000 elderly and disabled patients – a small city with a fire department, post office and grocery store. With a wealth of training and development challenges, I tackled needs for management skills, providing workshops and support, all the while working side by side with supervisors.

 

My next big step was a Masters’ Degree in Organizational Behavior and Development, the study of how organizations function. That degree gave me the ticket for what I needed to move ahead. I then took a position with Evangelical Health Care System.

 

The mission was to serve the inner city. The Health Care System built smaller hospitals in the suburbs to support the inner-city hospital. The money was in the suburbs. I created the Department of Human Resource Development and with a team of 8, we worked with supervisors and managers in the system.

 

We provided workshops and skill building for 220 supervisors and mid-level managers in both the nursing and technical/professional departments. A $5mm grant from the WK Kellogg Foundation funded broader management development support, allowing us to demonstrate over three years the effective improvement in quality health care delivery.

 

Then it was time to retire. My husband was working at the American Bar Association and he too was ready to retire. My mom and dad were still in Seattle as were our two daughters. Soon we too were in Seattle.

 

I had four careers: wife and mother, work with the Girl Scouts, training and development at Oak Forrest Hospital, and creating a model for effective management in a large Chicago health care system.

 

I was eager to learn, my knowledge and skill base increased and along the way I had wonderful mentors. I GREW! Now, as a resident of a large retirement community, I find my knowledge and skill base once again providing support and how-to for a resident board and various committee chairs. Going keeps me young!

 

 

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