When a light went on in Shirley Hultz's office, it meant a surgeon had just finished his job — and hers was about to begin. The light signaled it was time to head to an operating room, where she'd listen to a surgical report and take notes on the procedure. "It usually took about five minutes for experienced surgeons to dictate their notes," Hultz recently told our friends at Mayo Clinic Alumni magazine. "Then we went right back to our office and typed the notes. At the end of his work day, the surgeon came to our office and signed all of his cases. I usually handled 20 to 30 cases a day."
The use of his is no accident. Hultz, who began working at Mayo in 1967 and retired last year, "was on the job for a decade or two before a female surgeon joined the staff," Alumni reports. By the time she retired some 50 years later, that — and many other things — had changed. "I was fascinated over the years by the progress in techniques and surgical abilities," says Hultz, who transcribed more than half a million cases. "The progress in surgery was amazing, and I had a front row seat to it."
The tools and techniques of her own job changed, too. Computers began to replace typewriters in the late 1980s, and "shorthand was replaced by handheld recorders soon thereafter," according to Alumni. Then surgeons began dictating notes into a telephone. By 1990, Hultz and her colleagues no longer raced to operating rooms to capture notes directly from surgeons as they completed procedures. Instead, they began "dialing into a telephone system to retrieve physicians' dictation." Today, "some physicians use voice-recognition software to record notes, and transcriptionists edit rather than transcribe," Alumni notes.
"It was a pleasure to do what I did over all those years," Hultz tells the publication. "It was a great growth and learning experience, too. I met so many wonderful people who helped me along the way."
It was a favor she returned to countless surgeons during her half-century of service. "I learned how to dictate properly structured operative notes from Shirley," Michael Farnell, M.D., a retired surgeon and member of the Mayo Clinic Emeritus Staff, tells the publication. "She fixed issues of syntax and diction so our notes flowed smoothly. Despite my fumbling oration, she would structure a beautiful operative note that was a work of art. Shirley is the epitome of the Mayo Clinic culture at its best — professional, dedicated and striving to be the best she could be."
You can read more about Hultz's career on pages 41-42 of Mayo Clinic Alumni, Issue 4, 2018. Then transcribe your thoughts below before using the handy social media tools atop this page to share this story with others.