Catherine Blankenship, director of home health care for NHRMC, will retire on Dec. 31. But after an on-the-go career in health care, she’s not ready to take a seat just yet.
Blankenship has worked for NHRMC since November 2016, but she’s spent almost her entire career in health care. She started working as an operating room technician for Duke Medical Center in 1976, then went to nursing school and graduated from the Watts Hospital School of Nursing in 1981. Since then, she’s done a combination of intensive care and surgical floor nursing, as well as managing a cancer center and, now, working in home health.
The last five years of her career, all at NHRMC, have been some of the “most intense” of her career, she said. Her team cared for 550 patients during Hurricane Florence in 2018 and successfully maneuvered through three regulatory changes that “really rocked” the home health industry, she said. And, of course, she has spent the last 20 months living and working through a global pandemic – “the only healthcare emergency of any type I’ve worked through,” she said.
“I’m grateful to have the background I’ve had and the ability to work with people who are so dedicated,” she said. “It’s been, I would have to say, an extraordinary career.”
Despite Blankenship’s long career in health care – which she has loved – she didn’t want a job in the medical world. She wanted to be a music major instead. But health care is in her family’s history, going back at least eight generations: Every new set of family members has at least one person working in a medical profession.
That family history has come full circle for Blankenship. Her grandfather was a local physician in North Carolina who had a house call practice. Blankenship has a photo of him from 1918 on his horse with his medical bag, which she still has to this day. It reminds her about her past and connects her to her present. She knows she and her team in home health are able to do much more for their patients today than her grandfather could ever dream of. But the basics – taking care of patients as best they can – still connect them.
Blankenship said her favorite part of her career has been meeting those patients’ needs and being involved in all aspects of health care. She’ll miss that involvement the most, and in addition to her plans to sew and quilt and see her grandchildren, she also hopes to find a local cause or activity to which she can devote her time and energy.