Behind the scenes with coroner, former CSU professor
Charleston County Coroner Rae H. Wooten, former nursing professor at Charleston Southern University, gave a presentation Wednesday to current students about her job as coroner. The Alpha Nu Omega Student Nursing Organization hosted the presentation and question-and-answer session.
Wooten shared her path to becoming a coroner, explaining that she started as a nurse. She said it was her first love, and she has held the title of a certified nurse for a little more than 50 years, officially being registered in 1969.
During her presentation, she spoke about the different causes of death: natural causes, suicide, homicide, accidents and undetermined. She also discussed her efforts to prevent them. She said that her job of determining what caused the death is what inspired her to become a coroner.
As she told the audience about the exciting parts of the position, she also addressed the drawbacks of the job, such as informing the next of kin of the deceased. She stated that it is one of the saddest parts of the job. Wooten referenced the Sofa Super Store fire in 2007, in which several firemen died that she was acquainted with, as well as the Emanuel AME Church shooting in 2008.
Wooten said that when she informs the next of kin about the deceased, she said that she often will set them up with other family members, a chaplain, or some other form of counsel to support them – often staying in touch with the next of kin for a considerable amount of time after the incident.
“I’ve always felt like everybody deserves to have someone that cares about them and to tell their story as completely as possible, and through it, the ripple effect of death can lead to many different things,” Wooten explained. “As we learn about the different ways of death, we can work on prevention of these deaths. It’s not just ‘Yes, they died,’ but, ‘Where does it go after that?’”
Wooten has been a nurse in both private and public hospitals across the state for about 15 years, and taught at different institutions for about 10 years. She then taught at various universities such as USC, MUSC, Trident Tech and Charleston Southern University.
Having worked in the Coroner’s Office since 1995, she held the Chief Deputy position from 1996 to 2000, and was then elected Coroner, which amounts to 20 years of office. “I believe that being a nurse has greatly prepared me to be a coroner,” Wooten said
She also stated that she chooses her team wisely in order to succeed in her profession.
“In my world now, I hire deputies, nurses and people with law enforcement backgrounds. They make for a great team if they have the right mindset and approach.”
Wooten ended her presentation with an expression of gratitude and satisfaction of her job. “To me, if I can do one good thing for a family in a bad situation, it’s a job worth doing,” she said.
Andrew Boyles is a student contributor for Marketing & Communication and is a senior majoring in communication studies.