Jody Sprout retires from MVMC after 50 years
‘Roll with the punches and enjoy the ride’
How many people can say they found a career they have been passionate about for 50 years? Forty years? According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a person changes jobs 10 to 15 times throughout their career, with an average of five years or less in each.
While the era of lifelong employment might be over, Madison Valley matriarch Jody Sprout is proving to be the exception. Sprout retired from the Madison Valley Medical Center on Dec. 29 after a career spanning 50 years.
Sprout grew up in the Madison Valley and lives on what is left of her family’s ranch just outside of town. She remembers life on the ranch and riding her horses along the base of the Madison Mountains. “It was an awesome experience growing up here,” she said.
Arriving at Sprout’s house was nothing short of a warm welcome. A picture window allowed for great views and wildlife watching, and the smell of coffee filled the kitchen. Laid out along the counter were pictures, articles and books chronicling the last 50 years. “I still haven’t been able to grasp everything,” she said about her retirement. “I’m still not used to it.”
As we sat and chatted, Sprout sipping her coffee, I instantly felt a sense of warmth. My first time meeting Sprout, she quickly welcomed me into her home and celebrated my arrival, when I was there to celebrate her. It was easy to tell that taking care of people is what she does best.
“She was so earnest about everything – she loved her patients, her doctors and she loved this place,” said Debbie Martello, who worked with Sprout at MVMC for the last five years, and has known Sprout her whole life. “We always looked forward to coming into work and seeing the cute scrubs Jody would have on. With all the season changes, she would have different scrubs and she loved her snowmobiling scrubs – and she had the best earrings!”
Originally planning to become a veterinarian, Sprout quickly turned to nursing after learning animals weren’t always going to be taken care of. “I wanted to be a vet to begin with, but imagine me learning that you have to put animals down,” she said. “That’s when I turned to nursing, because you’re always going to take care of people.”
After graduating from Ennis High School, Sprout briefly attended Montana State University before taking a work-study program in soil conservation studies. She then decided to get back into nursing and completed her core classes. She started at the MVMC in 1967 as a hospital aide. “We did everything, really, in those days – cooking, cleaning, facilities,” Sprout said. Working in a small, rural, nine-bed hospital you had to do everything in order to be successful, and as long as part of her day was spent caring for the valley, Sprout was happy.
Sprout enlisted the help of a family member to start the new clinic. Her uncle was an EMT in Rochester, N.Y., and sent medical instruments to the clinic when it first started. “I had forgotten about that,” she laughed. “But my uncle was the only other one in family that worked in the medical field.”
She worked in both the hospital and the clinic throughout her 50-year career – from a surgery scrub tech to helping deliver babies to becoming a certified medical assistant. She saw a lot of change, both in the valley and in the field of medicine. She worked alongside some of the best rural doctors, Doc Losee, R. E. Lose and Gene Wilkins. She cared for a lot of patients and never left before the job was done. “I knew all of my patients and they always came first – I didn’t leave the floor till the job was finished.”
One of her most critical work experiences came in the summer of 2003, after an early morning shooting spree in downtown Ennis left one person dead and six critically injured. “I wasn’t at the hospital when it happened, but they called me to come in – that shooting changed my life forever.”
Sprout found a career she was passionate about and centered her life around it. She found a new type of family in her patients, doctors and staff. “How many people work their whole life doing what they love?” she mused. “Find what you’re passionate about, stick with it, roll with the punches and enjoy the ride.”