CCNH Difference Makers – Josh Whatley

“Difference Makers” is a blog series highlighting many of the incredible employees at Catholic Charities NH, each making a positive and unique impact in helping individuals and families across New Hampshire move their lives forward. Today, we meet Josh Whatley, LPN, the evening nurse supervisor at St. Francis Rehabilitation and Nursing Center in Laconia. Exactly how Josh got to Laconia from his native Mississippi, with many stops in between, is a story in itself, but he has fallen in love with both St. Francis and New Hampshire and considers both his new home. Above all, Josh exudes an obvious passion for serving those seniors at St. Francis that he cares for each day – work that he says completes him. Let’s get to know Josh!

How long have you worked at St. Francis and how would you describe your roles during that time?

I first arrived at St. Francis in February, 2020 as a traveling nurse, just as COVID was beginning, and stayed on as a traveler for a year. After a brief move to a facility in Merrimack County, I accepted an offer in March, 2021 to return to St. Francis full-time, bringing my traveling days to a close. My role has remained the same since then – I am the evening nurse supervisor and I’m responsible for making sure that the residents are safe and being properly cared for, that we are fully staffed and our staff members are fulfilling their responsibilities, and that the facility is operating properly.

As a traveling nurse for many years, in many locations, are you surprised that you have settled in New Hampshire?

Yes! I don’t know what caused me to come here because I could have gone anywhere in the United States. In fact, I had plans to go to Alaska and Hawaii after my contract was up in New Hampshire. But something pulled me here. It’s odd, because in all the places that I’ve gone – about 25 over a 10-year span from California to Atlanta and everywhere in between – I never really felt that ‘home’ feeling. I hadn’t felt that in a long time because, as a traveler, you always feel like an outsider, but not here. I felt acceptance, caring and love ever since the plane landed. I was a guy from a foreign place – Summit Mississippi – and I had never been here in my life but, unlike the other places I’ve been, I fell in love with it. It became my home.

What do you enjoy most about your work at St. Francis?

It’s the little things like a smile from a resident after I’ve helped them, even if it was something small like giving them a sip of water. When a resident or a family member looks you in the face and says, ‘thank you,’ that is the best, it hits home. I know it sounds a little funny, but helping people heals something in me and kind of completes me in a way. It’s knowing that at the end of the day, I made someone’s life a little better. I also love the atmosphere at St. Francis which, as I said, really feels like home. The connections that are developed among staff are strong and we all work together for the same goal – to provide the highest level of care for our residents. The center point of our approach is called resident-centered care, which is about caring for each person holistically – mind, body and soul. Certainly, we care for them clinically, but just as importantly, we are also here for their quality of life. I love that St. Francis and Catholic Charities emphasize this, and it should be a model for all nursing facilities nationwide. It also reinforces the idea that they are not just our residents, they’re our family.

What is your favorite memory of working at St. Francis?

When I left St. Francis in 2021 after my contract year, everyone pitched in and created a big banner, wrapped around the nurse’s station, which said, ‘We’re going to miss you, Josh’ and it had every resident’s name handwritten on the sign. That really meant a lot to me because it showed an appreciation for my efforts. Normally when traveler leaves a facility, you don’t even get a goodbye, but St. Francis showed me so much love and compassion that left me wanting to come back, which I did a month later and I’m still here today.

How has working at St. Francis helped develop you professionally and personally?

St. Francis and Catholic Charities have allowed me to reach my full potential. As a traveler, nobody really cares about your opinions, but St. Francis was different and the administration valued my input, even when I first arrived as a traveler. They gave me enough leeway to where I could broaden my horizons, learn new things and establish myself as an actual professional, rather than just bouncing around from facility to facility. I’ve grown as a person because I feel more empowered, more confident. Having that validation from co-workers and our management that I’m doing a good job just spurs me on to grow and be even better.

The mission of CCNH is, Grounded in the life and ministry of Jesus Christ, Catholic Charities NH responds to those in need with programs that heal, comfort and empower – what does this mean to you?

Our mission statement is the life force that beats through the organization – it’s why we do what we do. Sometimes, if I have a staff member that’s struggling a bit, I will remind them to read the mission and remember why we are here. I understand the daily struggles and this is by no means an easy job, it takes a toll on your mind, body and soul. But you have to remember what our purpose is – to heal, comfort and empower just as Jesus did. Helping those in need is our calling, it’s who we are.

How would you characterize the work/life balance at STF?

At St. Francis, it’s more possible than anywhere that I’ve worked to have a healthy work/life balance because it’s a smaller facility and we have such a great team that works together. They actually consider the needs of other staff members, so if you have two people putting in for a particular day off, they’ll usually get together and figure out how to work it out. Everybody pulls their weight and they help each other. We all know we need down time when you are away from work to de-stress and decompress. Ultimately, if you’re not happy outside work, you’re not going to be happy inside of work, so you have to be able to balance them.

Describe STF in three words…

Caring. Compassion. Love.

What do you enjoy doing outside of work? What are some of your hobbies?

Shortly after arriving in New Hampshire, I noticed that kayaking appeared to be the hobby of choice around here. I saw cars with kayaks everywhere, so I figured I’ve got to get in on that. I never kayaked before in my life and now I love it!

What do you love about New Hampshire?

I’ve been all over this country and there are so many great things to see, but very seldom do you have a bunch of them in one place. Here you have mountains, you have gorgeous lakes and rivers, beautiful woodlands, access to major cities and an ocean, all within a few hours’ drive. Anywhere else in the country, you’ll have one and you might have two but you’re not going to have all of them. So, this is a very special place.

What is your favorite motto or quote?

“Only a life lived for others, is a life worthwhile,” by Albert Einstein. It resonates with me because I feel most complete, and I feel most like me, when I’m in the service of others – that’s when I’m happiest and that’s who I am.

Who is the person you admire most?

My parents. I admire them because they did, in my mind, the impossible. I came from humble beginnings in Summit, Mississippi and my parents didn’t have very much, but they made a very good life for my sister and me. I remember at one point when I was a boy, sitting at the kitchen table eating with my sister and my parents were not eating. I asked them, ‘why are you not eating?’ and they would say, ‘we already ate’ or ‘we’re eating later.’ As I got older, I began to realize the seriousness of our financial situation and that the reason they didn’t eat was because we didn’t have enough food – they went without eating so my sister and I could eat. They still managed to raise us and we had a great childhood and good education, so somehow, with nothing, they managed to do everything.

If you were to write a book about yourself, what would you name it?

My first thought is “Hope.” Almost anything is possible as long as you have hope, and the pandemic really brought this into focus for me. If you just believe that it can be better, that it has to be better, then that’ll give you the energy and strength you need to keep moving forward.

What is one thing people might not know about you (or be surprised to find out)?

Anybody that works with me knows that I’m pretty much an open book, but one thing they don’t know is that when I was a teenager, I was a roadie for bands that would come to Mississippi. I worked for company out of Jackson, MS and we set up concerts – I carried speakers, loaded cables and I had a blast! One thing I learned is, if you can’t be the rock star on stage, be the guy handing him his guitar. Are you interested in becoming a key part of our mission-driven team and amazing culture, helping others while growing a rewarding career as Josh has? Click here for our many openings in healthcare, social services, administration and more!