April 26, 2023 – They’re the voices on the other end of the line. They’re the first faces to greet visitors as they open an office door.
And collectively, the 48 administrative assistants and two executive assistants employed by ARH, have contributed 514 years of service to the system.
Rhonda Kania, Patricia (Trish) Williams and Charlotte Caudill account for 88 of those years.
Rhonda has been with Beckley ARH Hospital since 1978.
The Oak Hill, W.Va., native didn’t know exactly where she wanted to work when she grew up. She did, however, know what she wanted to do.
“I had play typewriters, telephones and money from games, and I just played like I was in an office,” Rhonda said. “I always wanted to do that kind of work.”
Determined to make her dream a reality, she took typing, shorthand, accounting and other business classes in high school. And during her senior year when her hometown hospital contacted the school looking for business students interested in working right away, Rhonda got the recommendation.
“I went for an interview and started work the next week,” she said.
Rhonda learned the ropes for the next two years, but when she was offered a position as a stenographer in the psychiatry department at Beckley ARH, she made the leap.
Before long, she moved into a secretarial position in the same department. Her goal, however, was to work as the administrative assistant for the hospital’s CEO, an opportunity that arose two years later.
“That was 1980 and I’ve been in administration ever since,” she said.
Trish and Charlotte spent decades in other professions before finding their homes at ARH.
Charlotte, a native of Mousie, Ky., spent 20 years in the suburbs of Chicago before she and her husband Ted returned home in 1997.
While in Illinois, Charlotte put her English degree to use, working for an international publishing company. Back home in Mousie, she found employment with the local weekly newspaper, The Troublesome Creek Times.
She said she enjoyed her job as a reporter, but an attractive benefits package enticed her to apply for a position as administrative assistant for risk and performance improvement at Hazard ARH Regional Medical Center.
“I applied and got the job and I’m really blessed and happy to be here,” she said of the position she assumed in October 2000.
It was also the promise of benefits that attracted Trish to her position as administrative assistant to the CEO at McDowell ARH Hospital.
The Littcarr, Ky., native who graduated with a business degree from Morehead State University, had worked in banking, county government and as a bookkeeper for a family business before joining ARH in September 2001.
Though her title hasn’t changed over the past 21 ½ years, her responsibilities have varied, as, in addition to traditional administrative assistant duties, she’s also helped with marketing and community events.
“I really enjoyed the marketing aspect,” she said, adding organizing events and participating in other activities in the tightknit community are still duties she performs. “I help with all the hospital activities like Nurses Week, Hospital Week and Doctors’ Day. It’s always a lot of fun.”
The benefits attracted both Trish and Charlotte to ARH, but it’s the work and the people, they say, that have made it home.
“Over the years they’ve come and gone, but they’re the reason I’ve stayed,” Trish said. “I know everybody says, ‘We’re like a family.’
“But we really are. I have true, true friends here.”
Charlotte added, “I’m surrounded by wonderful people. This job has fulfilled me.”
Forty years after making the move into administration, Rhonda, who also serves as editor of Beckley ARH’s internal newsletter, can still be found in the same spot in the same office.
Though the scenery hasn’t changed, she said advancements in technology have brought about some of the biggest changes she’s experienced on the job.
“If you look, you’ll see my old typewriter is still out there,” she said, adding she’s used everything from manual and electric typewriters to word processors and computers through the years. “Everybody laughs at me for my typewriter, but when we had our computer crisis a few years ago, you should have seen the people coming back here to ask if they could use it.”
Coworkers – many of whom she considers lifelong friends – have come and gone over the years, and Rhonda isn’t sure how many CEOs have sat in the adjacent office over the past four decades. She said it’s those changes, however, that have helped keep her job fresh.
“People have asked me if I’ve gotten bored and I say no because with every change in that office – every administrator or CEO – my duties have changed somewhat,” she said. “So, I’ve never been bored. Everybody’s been different.”
Rhonda, Trish and Charlotte are all in their 60s now with grown children and grandchildren, but none of them have immediate – or even long-term – plans for retirement.
“I’m starting to think about it but it’s a lot to plan,” Rhonda said of retirement. “ARH has been very good to me.”
Trish added, “I do better when I stay busy. And I’m happy. I’ve made a lot of amazing friends and had a lot of wonderful opportunities through my job.”
Charlotte, who organized Hazard ARH’s internal newsletter for 12 years and continues to write a weekly column for The Troublesome Creek Times, said she finds satisfaction in knowing her work – as well as the work of every other administrative assistant throughout the system – makes a difference.
“Administrative assistants are the backbone of an organization,” she said. “They have a variety of skills and provide a wide range of services. I think they’re very important, and I take a lot of pride in that.”
That sentiment is one shared by ARH President and CEO Hollie Phillips.
“ARH is extremely fortunate to have many long-term administrative professionals working throughout our system who wear many different hats on a daily basis,” she said. “I cannot thank them enough for their devotion and for the many contributions they bring to our system as they so selflessly help us behind the scenes.
“On behalf of our leadership team, thank you to all our administrative professionals for your service, support and the major impact you make at ARH every day.”
Appalachian Regional Healthcare (ARH), is a not-for-profit health system operating 14 hospitals in Barbourville, Hazard, Harlan, Hyden, Martin, McDowell, Middlesboro, Paintsville, Prestonsburg, West Liberty, Whitesburg, and South Williamson in Kentucky and Beckley and Hinton in West Virginia, as well as multi-specialty physician practices, home health agencies, home medical equipment stores and retail pharmacies. ARH employs more than 6,500 people with an annual payroll and benefits of $330 million generated into our local economies. ARH also has a network of more than 600 active and courtesy medical staff members. ARH is the largest provider of care and the single largest employer in southeastern Kentucky and the third-largest private employer in southern West Virginia.