Duke Nurse Dedicates Career to Women's Health

For National Nurses Week, Cathy Gustafson reflects on 41 years with Duke

Sarah Dotters-Katz, MD, a maternal-fetal medicine specialist at Duke and a Duke Fertility Center patient, left, and her son, Ben, pose for a photo with nurse Cathy Gustafson. Photo credit: Sarah A. Brady, Duke OB/GYN
Sarah Dotters-Katz, MD, a maternal-fetal medicine specialist at Duke and a Duke Fertility Center patient, left, and her son, Ben, pose for a photo with nurse Cathy Gustafson. Photo credit: Sarah A. Brady, Duke OB/GYN

With 41 years of service at Duke, mostly in Labor and Delivery, it’s no wonder former patients stop by Cathy Gustafson’s table when they see her out for dinner.

“It’s nice to be remembered and to be told you’ve made a difference in people’s lives,” said Gustafson, RN, IBCLC, RLC.

If you count her four-year nursing degree, Gustafson has been at Duke for 45 years. Upon graduation, she was offered a position in Labor and Delivery (L&D) at Duke South, where she stayed for more than 20 years. Women’s health is her calling and she’s remained at Duke for more than four decades by taking on new roles in the field. She’s worked as a lactation consultant at Duke University and Duke Regional hospitals. She spent eight years with Duke’s Maternal Fetal Medicine team. And she is currently one of five ambulatory nurses with the Duke Fertility Center

“Cathy has certain skills that you can’t teach – empathy, compassion, integrity and selflessness,” said Randa Blenden, BSN, RN, CCRN, nurse manager at the Duke Fertility Center. “Cathy also has a gift for meeting patients where they are at and getting them through the hardest, most devastating moments.”

Gustafson is grateful for a career at an academic medical center because the research breakthroughs have allowed her to keep learning and provide compassionate care in an environment committed to excellence.

“The care and concern she always displays for her patients is exceptional. I was always glad to have her assigned to my patients because I knew we could handle whatever mischief the labor gods handed out,” said Charles Harris, MD, assistant professor emeritus of obstetrics and gynecology. “And then there were the cookies!”

From old-fashioned Chex mix to brownies to blueberry crumble, Gustafson bakes to keep her co-workers happy. 

“I have been blessed to be at Duke for more than 40 years,” Gustafson said. “I have had the pleasure of meeting and working with a wide variety of people and patients, and have learned from the many experiences that I have been involved in. Learning never gets old!”

National Nurses Week is May 6 to 12. Check out some of the scheduled activities that celebrate Duke nurses. 

Send story ideas, shout-outs and photographs to Working@Duke through our story idea form or write working@duke.edu.