CHARLESTON — Her cell phone rang for the fifth time in 20 minutes. She answered cheerfully, listened, then offered guidance to the employee on the other end, taking notes in her overloaded portfolio — her mobile desk.
It wasn’t yet 10 a.m. on Sunday morning, the quietest time of Catherine Hutchinson’s work days.
First as a nurse and now as an administrative supervisor, Hutchinson wholly embraces her job as a vocation and sees the joy in doing the Lord’s work, at work.
Her prayerful attitude has touched countless lives during her 33 years at Bon Secours-St. Francis Xavier Hospital.
When her two children were settled in school, Hutchinson sought out a new avenue for her talents. She prayed about what to do and discovered that becoming a nurse was her calling.
“It allows me in a very direct way to serve our Lord and continue extending his healing mission,” she said.
From the beginning of her nursing studies, she knew she wanted to work for a Catholic hospital.
“I knew I would never be asked to do anything morally wrong, and their reason for being appealed to me — to do the Lord’s work,” she said.
Her husband, Clell, was in the Navy and his job brought them to Charleston, where she started her career at St. Francis. Her first position was as a staff nurse in intensive care, which is what she most enjoys.
“It’s necessary for you to use a lot of judgment — nurses always do — but you are frequently in life or death situations, and you better know what you’re doing. You need good skills and judgment,” she said.
Hutchinson was promoted to assistant supervisor under Mary McKay, her friend and mentor.
“Mary taught me so many things about people. She had a tremendous impact on my life and inspired me to be the best I could be,” she said.
In 1987, Hutchinson was promoted to administrative supervisor. It wasn’t until 2005, after 32 years of working the night shift, that she began working the day shift.
“There’s camaraderie that is absolutely inspirational,” she said of the night shift. “There’s a tremendous sense of teamwork. It has to be that way, because there are fewer of you. You have to depend on each other.”
She semi-retired in November 2004 and now works two days a week, Sundays and Mondays.
As administrative supervisor, she oversees hospital operations during her shift. One night in August 1996, her administrative skills were tested. The roof over the emergency room and imaging department caught fire. Hutchinson said that employees precisely carried out the hospital’s crisis plan, and luckily, no one was hurt. She said most patients probably didn’t realize there was a fire that night.
“I felt like I earned a year’s salary in one night,” she said.
Hutchinson certainly earned her stripes that night, but for many around the hospital she earns her stripes every day on the job.
“She’s a guiding force and mentor,” said Mark Dickson, director of mission. “She is collaborative, a team person, always keeping the sense of spirituality, and she does that in a very honest, open, gentle way.
“She helps us keep and promote the Catholic identity of the hospital, and with that is a keen sense of medical ethics, of Catholic moral teaching,” said Dickson, who promotes the hospital’s mission: to heal people with compassion, faith and excellence.
Since moving to the Charleston area in 1970, Hutchinson has been a member of St. Theresa the Little Flower Church in Summerville.
“[My religion] totally informs my practice,” she said. “When I look at another person, I know I’m seeing another soul made in the image and likeness of God. Christ was a healer, and I believe I’m participating in his mission.”
Jackie Molony, a patient representative, admires Hutchinson for her ability to inspire not only the patients, but also the staff, in a setting where she deals with a wide range of emotions.
“She’s someone that truly lives her faith,” said Dickson.
Hutchinson said her ability to appreciate the significance of working in a Catholic hospital came from her parents and her brother, a Cistercian priest.
“My job was a family project; it was a team effort,” she said of her family’s constant support.
Now that she’s semi-retired, she has more time for her family. Her two daughters are married and live in the Charleston area with their husbands and children.
She also enjoys painting, but there is something else that she enjoys most about retirement.
“I’m enjoying being around my wonderful husband. We’re enjoying the opportunity to be with each other. We never really had that opportunity,” she said.
“There were certainly times in my life when my faith wasn’t as strong as it is today,” she said. “My brother prayed me through and talked me through those times. If I make it to heaven, it’s because of my brother.”
It is this lesson that Hutchinson carries with her: to care for, and love, your brothers and sisters.