After the death of her father, Catherine Baxter went to work at Ascension Via Christi St. Francis’ Nutrition Services department as a young teenager to help support her family and continued to do so through high school. After earning her degree from the St. Francis School of Nursing, she began a nursing career at Via Christi that would span 50 years.
Recently, the now 86-year-old retiree returned to St. Francis wearing her nurse’s cap and white scrubs.
“It meant the world to Catherine and her family,” says Kimberly Berkley, of Glen Carr House, who arranged her visit as part of the Derby senior living community’s “Remember to Dream” program, which helps residents with memory problems relive a meaningful life experience before Alzheimer’s or dementia.
Catherine cared for children in St. Francis’ and St. Joseph’s Pediatric units for most of her career, then spent the last 15 years serving at what is now the Ascension Via Christi Family Medicine Residency Clinic on South Clifton.
It was a job she truly loved, according to her daughter, Karen Felts, who accompanied her on her nearly two-hour visit at St. Francis.
During that time, Catherine visited with nurses on the unit, stopped to play with a young patient on the unit and exchanged waves with children from the hospital’s Child Development Center and toured the Chapel of the Sorrowful Mother.
“Do you like my hat?” she asked Lissa Ward, RN, a long-time Pediatrics nurse.
“It looks lovely,” Ward responded, adding she “missed out on the hat” as they were no longer worn when she began her career 33 years ago.
Staff showed Catherine the vein finder nurses now use to make placing an IV easier and less painful for their patients, to which Catherine commented, “That would have been nice to have.”
Catherine also shared that she found her former unit “beautiful, fun and friendly,” says Ward, noting that the visit was equally heartwarming and meaningful to the team members with whom she interacted.
While she did not encounter any former teammates on the unit, Catherine ran into Security Officer Greg Dick as she was preparing to leave. “I think I remember you,” she said, before it was determined that there was an overlap in their careers at St. Francis.
And while Catherine has gaps in her memory, those who did work with her say she left an indelible impression on them.
“She was an excellent nurse,” says residency program faculty member Don Seery, MD. “What really made Catherine shine was how caring she was. She had a healing touch and attitude about her and patients really responded to that.”
From top to bottom: Catherine and daughter Karen Felts laughing together; Lissa Ward, RN, and Catherine chat in the Peds unit; Catherine tries out the vein finder; Catherine says hi to a patient; Catherine visits the Chapel of the Sorrowful Mother; Catherine shows off her nursing school graduation picture to the Peds unit nurses
*photos courtesy of Oxford Senior Living