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A career of caring for people

Arlene Bosek attended the University of Minnesota in the mid-1950s to become a radiology technician. She started her career at Douglas County Hospital in 1956. (Contributed)

Arlene Bosek worked hard, but there’s hardly a moment she didn’t enjoy it.

For 57 years, she worked as a radiology technician at Douglas County Hospital and Alexandria Clinic.

For her, it was all about the people.

“My patients have been wonderful people. I could never complain about my patients and I hope I’ve helped make their life better,” she said.


After graduating from high school in Alexandria, Bosek attended the University of Minnesota to become a radiology technician. Her first job was at Douglas County Hospital in 1956.

“I graduated on a Friday and started work on a Monday,” she said.

“In those days, I think I made $200 a month, but I put in probably 12-hour days and then you’d get called back in at night… you didn’t get extra pay or anything, you just worked for that.”

Her job often reached beyond taking X-rays. She also helped out answering phones, drawing blood, typing reports, helping with bed baths and more.

“You just helped each other. It was such a close bunch of us – the nurses the techs – we were so close. If I had time, I’d go help the nurses, but in-turn, when I was swamped… they would help me. We were a family,” Bosek said.

Early in her career in the early 1960s, she recalled being called in to the hospital in the middle of the night after a bus crash near Evansville.

“We worked all night. They had people laying on gurneys all over with a slip on it saying what you should do for them. There were like 30 patients or something. Then, at 7 o’clock in the morning you did your regular routine so you never went to bed and there was nobody to replace you,” she said. “It was a whole different thing back then.”

In fact, Bosek was so committed to her job that shortly after giving birth to her son, Jim, in 1963, she was working.

“There was a major car accident that night, the other tech got sick, so who was there? ‘Arlene is down in Room 106.’ They needed X-rays so I did it. Then, the next morning, the tech was still sick so [for three days] I had to do 13 barium enemas and GIs. I worked every day doing X-rays and then the girls in the nursery were feeding my baby. They said, ‘We’ll take care of him. He’s fine.’ Well, I guess it was handy and it was easy to get to me,” she laughed as she reflected.


When asked to describe the change in technology she’s seen over the years, Bosek simply said, “Tremendous.”

“To take the X-rays you had to expose [the patient] quite a bit; it’s not like it is now where you just push a button for a second. There were no MRIs, CTs or any of that. It has come a long way,” she said.

She used to dip the X-ray film in developer, water, fix, hang it and let it dry for an hour or two. During hip-pinning surgeries, there was no portable X-ray equipment like there is now.

“Everybody sat down and waited for the film because they couldn’t do anything until they saw the film. So they’re sitting there waiting and I’d hurry up and develop the film. Then, I’d take a towel, put it under [the film] and run to the operating room,” she recalled.

Technology may have changed drastically, but Bosek said patients haven’t changed that much over the years.

“I don’t think I’ve ever met an ornery patient. I don’t think I’ve met anybody that’s hard to get along with. They don’t feel well, you want to make them better, you know? You don’t want them to suffer and be in pain and if you can help them any way you can, you want to do that. That’s my thing. I do like people. They all are special.

“I’ve done lots of mammograms over the years and I do it just like everybody else, but I talk so much that they don’t know I hurt them,” she laughed.


“People are very important to me,” Bosek said. “That’s what I enjoyed the most about patients; helping them and being able to explain things. More than the money or anything, I enjoyed the people and being their friend. To know somebody is to be their friend.”

That love of people and helping better others continues into retirement. Bosek volunteers for the Senior Companion program, United Way Mobile Food Drop, and auxiliaries for the American Legion, VFW and Eagles Club. She even voluntarily feeds her grandson’s baseball team at Brandon-Evansville High School.

Other than spending some quiet time fishing and hunting “Up North,” Bosek said she doesn’t anticipate slowing down much in retirement.

She said she’s blessed with wonderful friends and family. She and her husband, John, have six children: Kathleen, Debbie, Johnnie, Jim, Tom and Jeff; 21 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.

Amy Chaffins

Amy Chaffins is a journalist working for the Echo Press newspaper in Alexandria, Minnesota.

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