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Now working at the hospital where he was born, RUSH staffer brings heart to work each day

If you’ve ever had been a hospital patient, you know what a crucial difference a calm, reassuring voice can make.

At RUSH University Medical Center, one of those voices belongs to Melvin E. Bender Jr., whose job is to move patients from Point A to Point B. That means guiding patients in wheelchairs, transferring them from a hospital bed into a bed-on-wheels, steering them into and out of surgery, and a whole host of similar responsibilities.

It’s a full-circle, fulfilling and everyday learning experience that Bender cherishes and takes pride in. After all, RUSH — then St. Luke Presbyterian — is where Bender, 43, was born; where his godson was born, and where his grandmother received radiation treatments for lung cancer.

“I love working with people and taking care of people,” said Bender, who grew up less than a mile from RUSH in the former Henry Horner Homes.

He sometimes sees fear in patients’ eyes, and sometimes they cry.

“I say, ‘Hey, everything is going to be OK,’” he said. “‘You’ve gotten through worse than this before. You’ll get through this as well.”

Tragedy is an inevitable reality field, but in those moments, Bender leans on his faith and leans further into his work. “I try to stay focused. I pray and ask God to get me through this day.

Now working at the hospital where he was born, RUSH staffer brings heart to work each day field, but in those moments, Bender leans on his faith and leans further into his work. “I try to stay focused. I pray and ask God to get me through this day.”

Bender started his job in July 2020, at the height of the COVID pandemic, which had led his former employer of nearly eight years, PACE paratransit, to cut drivers for people in wheelchairs and with disabilities.

It turned out to be providential.

For anyone considering working at RUSH, Bender says, “Rush spoils their patients and their workers.” During a recent recognition week honoring patient transport workers, Bender and his colleagues were treated to free meals, gift cards and trivia quizzes.

Bender attributes his empathy and work ethic to his father, Melvin E. Bender Sr., who told him, “Always give 110 percent in anything you do. If someone needs help and you’re able to do so, help them.”

Sometimes patients’ family members stop Bender outside of the hospital to thank him for how gently he handled their relative’s care, or for his inspirational advice when they needed reassurance.

“You get that a lot working at Rush,” he said. “It’s a great way to be impactful. That’s all I need. ...It’s all about the patients.”