One nutrition aide said her piece of the puzzle is nourishing people so they can heal.

Elayne Hartman joined Jamestown Regional Medical Center about six years ago. The 71-year-old worked for several other employers and even retired once. However, she enjoys working, saying it gives her purpose. In 2012, Hartman left retirement to accept a position with JRMC.

Her purpose at JRMC is serving others. In her role, Hartman works front-of-the-house duties like running the till and stocking the salad bar. She’s also cross-trained to work back-of-the-house duties like cooking and prep work.

And while she’s mixing crab dip or sautéing peas, Hartman knows she’s serving a greater purpose. She knows that she is a critical piece of the patient experience.

“You have to feed them to make them get better. Without food, they don’t have the strength to heal,” she said.

Keeping patients and their families fed and informed is important to her, she said, because she understands what it feels like to have an ill family member. She practices extra patience when she sees guests navigating the cafeteria. Those guests don’t usually know where they’re going or how the cafeteria operates, so she said she always offers a helping hand.

“I help them find what I can,” she said. “Because I know how they feel.”

Hartman understands, because she’s been there too.

Two years ago, her husband of 24 years, Myrle, began his medical journey. He suffered a heart attack, landing him in the hospital and requiring several follow up visits. In addition, Myrle suffers from diabetes, leukemia and even needed cataracts removed. Hartman remains by his side, helping care for him.

“The last couple years haven’t been easy for him,” she said. “This experience taught me patience.”

The years haven’t been easy on her either. But caring for others is in Hartman’s nature. As a child, she helped her mom and aunt run a restaurant. As an adult, she’s cared for four children, seven grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren. Hartman even moved to Rugby, N.D. for a year to help her daughter care for Hartman’s grandson with special needs. Now that her children are grown, it is not uncommon for Hartman to work extra at JRMC. She picks up shifts for coworkers who are ill or on vacation. She’s also been known to spend nights at JRMC during winter storms. Someone has to make breakfast in the morning, she said.

In addition to caring for guests, Hartman says she also cares for employees, especially providers.

“Sometimes, they barely have any time, so I get them what they need quickly,” she said.

JRMC is like family, she said. Since her husband has been ill, the medical teams ask her about her his health, checking in and offering kind words.

“This is my home away from home,” she said. “I really enjoy working here.”

Hartman said that’s why she gives back. Since she started with JRMC, Hartman says she’s given more than $1,000 to the JRMC Foundation. Giving back is her way of paying it forward, she said. Plus, after driving her husband to Fargo for chemotherapy, Hartman is passionate about offering cancer care close to home. Those miles matter, she said.

“We need oncology here,” she said.