93-Year-Old Volunteer Reflects on Storied Career at Cone Health
Jean Caudle has devoted more than half her life to serving patients at Moses Cone Hospital.
Greensboro – Waiting for a loved one to get out of surgery can be confusing and frightening for families. At The Moses H. Cone Memorial Hospital, those families are greeted by a friendly face who can help them through that difficult time.
“If I can sense that a person is having anxiety and there is some way that I can reassure them, that’s why I want to be here,” said Jean Caudle, a volunteer at the hospital’s surgical information desk.
It’s a mission Caudle takes seriously – not only because of her empathetic love for others but also because of her longtime connection to the hospital. At 93 years old, Caudle has been part of the Cone Health family for nearly six decades.
Caudle joined the hospital in 1966 as a nurse in Moses Cone’s operating room. Her dedication to the hospital and the community led to her promotion to department head just two years later in 1968.
Back then, the hospital consisted of a single, five-story tower. In the years since joining the health system, Caudle has witnessed every innovation imaginable. She’s seen Cone Health built essentially from the ground up and observed countless advancements in medicine.
“I could write a book,” she laughed. “It’s been fascinating to see the new innovations over the years, and I still keep up with all of them.”
Caudle attended then-Greensboro Senior High School, Greensboro College and the St. Leo’s Hospital School of Nursing before later joining Moses Cone’s operating room 56 years ago. She left an indelible mark on the hospital. So much so, that in 1986, the system named the Jean Caudle Ceremony Award for Excellence in the Operating Room in her honor. Each year, the award is presented to a member of the operating room staff who exudes excellence in operating room nursing and best exemplifies Caudle’s passion, character and commitment.
She became a nurse out of a love for helping others and a fascination with the power of medicine. Her dedication to the field carried her through her retirement in 1993, but after 27 years, she wasn’t quite ready to give up health care altogether.
Soon after her retirement, Caudle took on a role as a volunteer at the hospital. She’d always wanted to serve patients’ families at the surgical information desk because she realized just how meaningful that desk was to families. As someone who worked in health care, was treated at the hospital and had family treated at the hospital, Caudle knew the family’s experience mattered just as much as the patient’s.
“I realized how important families are to the patients and patients are to their families,” she said. “There should always be someone families can connect with while their loved one is in surgery, and that’s what I wanted to do.”
Caudle is still serving the community 29 years after her retirement. But instead of treating patients in the operating room, she’s greeting their families, answering their questions or simply offering a calming presence when they need it.
“What I do is take information – that’s the technical side of my role,” she said. “But what I’m really doing is thinking about those families sitting there with no clue what’s going on. My job is to reassure them that someone is taking care of them.”