Charlene Phelps reaps the benefits of planning ahead

Charlene Phelps is a realist. It’s why she believes in South Franklin Circle.

“I have always tried to plan ahead for each phase of life,” she admits. “This may have something to do with being a nurse. Nurses have to be planners and be organized, and are often faced with their own mortality,” says Charlene. “Each phase of life presents opportunities for planning ahead and experiencing new situations and challenges.”

“When I talk to people about the idea of moving to a retirement community, they often say they’re not ready yet,” says Charlene. “I say not ready for what? Don’t you want the freedom to do the things that really count in your life, and not have the burden of maintaining a house?”

This no-nonsense life-view served her well during a 42-year career, primarily spent at University Hospitals of Cleveland, where she retired as senior vice president of University Hospitals Health System in 2003.

When University Hospitals recruited her as the Assistant Director of Medical-Surgical Nursing of its Hanna House facility, she thought she’d be there for three or four years and move on but she served in four different positions over 34 years. She worked with nurses, support service directors and other administrators to design and redesign support services and processes that focused on patient-centered care, improving patient outcomes, and keeping nurses at the bedside to provide direct care more effectively.

Charlene was born in Louisville, Kentucky. “I was an Army brat,” says Charlene. “My family moved a lot. We lived in Japan, Italy and Turkey; I went to high school in New Jersey, and then earned my Bachelor’s degree in nursing from the University of Connecticut.”

She came to Cleveland on the reputation of Western Reserve University’s Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing and its newly appointed visionary dean, Dr. Rozella Scholtfelt. She was intrigued by the school’s innovative two-year Master’s program where students could choose a clinical specialty as well as education or administration as a functional specialty. After earning her Master’s degree she taught medical-surgical nursing at the University of Massachusetts and was a research associate at Yale University School of Nursing and a head nurse at Yale New Haven Hospital.

Currently, Charlene co-chairs the capital campaign for the Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing at Case Western Reserve University, and is a board member of the Cleveland Eye Bank Foundation. She also serves on the board of Judson Services, Inc., where she sits on both the Executive and Quality First Committees.

“Judson is well-managed administratively and fiscally, which is not easy in today’s healthcare market,” notes Charlene. “It’s been in business for over 100 years–which is nothing to sneeze at–and highly rated by its peers.”

In addition to her professional commitments, Charlene enjoys the culture of University Circle. “It’s still very convenient to get to the Circle, maybe an extra ten minutes,” she notes. At South Franklin Circle, she regularly attends the Dialogue Series lectures. In addition, her home is next to one of the community’s many walking trails and her deck is a prime location for bird watching.

“There are certain points in life when you need to make major decisions,” notes Charlene. “I didn’t want to wait until I was faced with a crisis. That’s why I’m glad I moved to South Franklin Circle now while I can still contribute to my profession, stay connected with the community, and do things that I didn’t have time to do before.”

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