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When Nathaniel Lett joined WakeMed at just 19, he was one of the youngest people working in what is now Surgical Services. Today, after 51 years and nine months, Lett is retiring from WakeMed with the distinction of being our second-longest tenured employee, having spent nearly his whole career as a surgical technician.
Over the course of 50 years, Lett says one thing that made him excited to come to work day after day, year after year, is being part of the team that helps make sick patients feel better. Having a front-row seat to the recovery process – from seeing a patient in the Operating Room to waving at them in the hallway days later – is what he will miss the most in retirement. Over the years, Lett has assisted with thousands of surgeries (including a memorable 16-hour heart procedure!) and worked with countless physicians, nurses, surgical techs and others.
He credits his coworkers for helping him become the person he is today. “It’s the people that energize you and teach you. My strength comes from people pouring into me every day, and that’s what makes it hard to retire,” he said.
In five decades, Lett has seen many changes at WakeMed but says the most meaningful has been in WakeMed’s role in the community. “At the beginning, we were a place where people came to die because we didn’t have the tools and technology to save them. Now, saving lives is what we do – it’s what we are all about. I look around at the lives we save and the people that survive – and it makes you feel good.”
As he hangs up his scrubs for the last time, Lett hopes to leave a legacy of kindness at WakeMed. “When I was younger, I didn’t know enough to thank people for what they’ve taught me. Now I work hard to make everyone feel that they are of value – because they are.”
With a long, successful career behind him, Lett plans to enjoy his retirement by spending time with his wife and family and by traveling the world.
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