Called to serve St. Mike’s for 45 years

  • August 27, 2007
{mosimage}TORONTO - When Chuckie Shevlen graduated after three years of nursing school at St. Michael’s Hospital in 1965, she decided to stay on and work at the hospital for a few years because “it seemed like the logical thing to do.”
In time, her logic gave way to dedication and passion, and before she knew it, Shevlen had been serving St. Michael’s Hospital in one way or another for 45 years.

“I never thought I’d stay for my whole career,” said Shevlen, who retired on June 30. “It’s been 45 years, but it doesn’t feel that long.”

Shevlen began her career working as a staff nurse in the obstetrics and gynecology unit, and after five years she became the department’s head nurse. In 1972, she was promoted to co-ordinator, and when that position was eliminated in 1985, she became responsible for women’s health at the hospital.

After a few more role changes and renaming of departments, Shevlen found herself presented with a unique opportunity. In 2000, the hospital’s executive team invited her to become the new director of Mission and Values, a position that exists in 12 of Ontario’s faith-based hospitals and works to maintain the tradition of Catholic health care set out by the Sisters of St. Joseph.

Even today, the mission of St. Michael’s Hospital reflects the Sisters’ commitment to care for the sick and to treat all patients with respect, compassion and dignity regardless of race, culture, class, belief, age, gender and sexual orientation.

Shevlen was the first layperson to serve as director of Mission and Values at St. Michael’s Hospital. Prior to Shevlen’s appointment, the position had always been held by a Sister of St. Joseph.

“I felt fortunate. I had been around a long time and was trusted by the executive team,” said Shevlen, who described the role of director as being defined by the values of the hospital and what qualities a person brings to the job.

“I developed the role like an ombudsperson.... I was on many committees and tried to get my hands into as much as possible. I had a finger on the pulse of the hospital at all times, ensuring that it was always living up to our mission,” said Shevlen. “Mission and Values is the conscience of the organization.... it ensures congruency with values. Not just Christian values, but basic human values.”

Most importantly, said Shevlen, “Mission and Values is not pieces of paper. It is engrained in every decision that the hospital makes. We walk the talk every day.”

During her tenure as director of Mission and Values, Shevlen took a particularly keen interest in human resources.

“The staff also often need help,” she said. “That help comes in the form of a non-judgmental person in the organization who can help strategize what’s best for them.”

As Mission and Values director, hundreds of people came knocking on her office door just to talk.

“It was an honour and privilege when staff came to me with issues and concerns. I felt privileged to be able to help and guide them.... (Being director of Mission and Values) gave me the ability to connect with staff and be part of people’s lives when they really were struggling,” said Shevlen.

 But now, she says, it is time to turn her attention to another important group of people in her life: “It’s family time now.”  

Shevlen plans to continue serving the hospital as a volunteer in the palliative care unit beginning this fall. She sits on the Hospice of Peel board and feels that clinical volunteer work in end-of-life care will allow her to stay connected with the work of the board.

“I still feel the call to serve,” said Shevlen. “I want to be close to humanity, whether through joy or sorrow.”   

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