Health care a family affair for three generations

Three generations of Donna Panzella’s family are employed by Orlando Health - Health Central Hospital in Ocoee and occasionally pass in the halls and meet for lunch.

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Working at Orlando Health – Health Central Hospital is a family affair for three employees. Donna Panzella, Kristin Yager and Sabrina Yager represent three generations, and hospital officials said this is a first for the facility.

Kristin Yager was the first of the three to start working at the Ocoee hospital almost 10 years ago. She is a graduate nurse coordinator, and she mentors the nurses in their first year.

Her mother, Donna Panzella, has been the department secretary for surgical services for five-and-one-half-years.

“The secretary just kind of fields everything, which makes it kind of fun,” Panzella said. “It just feels good to do that.”

The youngest family member and the most recent hire is Sabrina Yager — Panzella’s granddaughter and Kristin Yager’s daughter — who joined the hospital’s badge security team five weeks ago.

The three work staggered shifts, so they don’t always see each other, but they said it’s always fun when it does happen.

“It’s interesting because I’ve always been … independent,” Kristin Yager said. “I’ve always gone off to work and come home and told stories. With everyone here, they say, ‘Yeah, we already know.’ It used to be ‘the world I worked in’ and ‘the world I came home to.’”

“I’m still not used to running into them in the cafeteria,” Panzella said.

Sabrina Yager always enjoys the chance meetings.

“It’s fun because we get to see each other in the hallways,” she said. “I’ll deliver something in the volunteer services, and it’s like, ‘Hey, Grandma!’”

Kristin Yager has worked in hospital settings her entire career, which spans nearly 25 years. She was a traveling nurse when she took a position at Orlando Health Dr. P. Phillips Hospital. She served in perioperative nursing, conducting orientation and staff development for all the team members in the surgical services department.

“That’s how I had the connections to get her in the surgical department,” Kristin Yager said of her mother.

Always one to seek new challenges, Kristin Yager expected to get some experience and move on, but three months into the job, she realized this is from where she wanted to retire.

“It’s really warm here,” she said. “I’m an independent person, and I like to see change. When I came here this was the very first hospital I’ve encountered where if you have a voice and want to see change or want something to progress … they not only say, ‘I hear your point,’ but they also give you resources to (see it through).”

Three generations of one family are employed at Orlando Health – Health Central Hospital: Donna Panzella, left, Kristin Yager and Sabrina Yager.
Three generations of one family are employed at Orlando Health – Health Central Hospital: Donna Panzella, left, Kristin Yager and Sabrina Yager.

Panzella had been a stay-at-home mother for most of her adulthood, and she was ready to get a job.

“Kristin said, ‘’I have just the place for you,’” Panzella said. “She talked to my boss at the time who wanted someone who knew Excel, and we hit it off.”

For Sabrina Yager, it feels like she has more than two family members working with her.

“I grew up here visiting my mom at work,” she said. “I made a community with her colleagues, so I already knew people when I got here.”

Sabrina Yager is a performer in the Central Florida area who needed a supplemental job with flexible hours.

“My mom suggested going down the non-surgical route in the hospital,” she said.

Sabrina Yager’s position as team assistant in the badge room requires her to make employee badges and assign the appropriate access to each.

“She found the one job with crafts,” Panzella said, laughing.

This isn’t the first time the trio has worked together. When they lived in Franklin, New York, the small town had limited places to work, Panzella said, and the three of them were employed at the local McDonald’s.

But this time is different because they are working in separate departments doing work that appeals to them.

“In our positions in life, this is perfect: the end, beginning and middle of our careers,” Panzella said. “It’s all family here. It’s like that; it’s wonderful.”

“I feel respected by my coworkers here and (by) my family,” Sabrina Yager said. “It’s nice to be respected on that level.”

Danielle DeJarlais, media relations manager for Orlando Health, said there have been many examples of two generations of a family working at the hospitals but staff could not recall there ever being three.

“It’s that small-town feel in the hospital that attracts family members to work here,” DeJarlais said.



Amy Quesinberry

Community Editor Amy Quesinberry was born at the old West Orange Memorial Hospital and raised in Winter Garden. Aside from earning her journalism degree from the University of Georgia, she hasn’t strayed too far from her hometown and her three-mile bubble. She grew up reading The Winter Garden Times and knew in the eighth grade she wanted to write for her community newspaper. She has been part of the writing and editing team since 1990.

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