I’ve been in nursing since 1985. I started my career as an LPN. It was during my clinical practicum in a nursing home where I had a very rewarding experience which led to my decision to work with the elderly and further my professional development and went back to school. Once I obtained my RN, I became a Medicare coordinator, then a weekend supervisor. I spent a short time as an assistant director of nursing and then was a director of nursing for 10 years. And I loved it, loved it, and loved it! I think being a DON was my true calling. I say this because I considered the center staff at my center as my extended family. It was very much a family-oriented environment and this included residents/patients and families too.
Pursuing my journey of climbing the career ladder, I became a manager of clinical operations, director of clinical operations and am currently corporate vice president of clinical operations. Needless to say, I have spent my entire career in long-term and post-acute care. I also just got my doctorate in nursing last May!
In my current role, I have the 30,000-foot view and I am charged with working toward improvements in nursing practice, systems, and processes to increase efficiency, safety, and cost effectiveness — all part of the Triple Aim, the goals of which are to achieve better outcomes for our residents/patients.
I think the best part about long-term and post-acute care really is the people – the residents/patients and their families, the center staff and the visitors. Interacting with them and making their day better is what it is all about. Some of the residents/patients do not have any family, and it is so heartwarming when you smile and touch them on the shoulder and their eyes light up.
Our setting is very rewarding. The public perception of long term care and post-acute care is a challenging one. However, as you know, our practice environment offers so much more than a place where people go to die, where they suffer abuse, and physical care is lacking. These negative perceptions are hard to dispel. But you and I know the truth — we provide good care in all domains. In addition, we get to establish relationships with others and you can see the direct impact that you have when you take care of the residents/patients.
Another great thing about our field of work is the inter-professional collaboration required to focus on the resident/patient. We keep the resident/patient at the center of care. Our approach is a holistic one. In acute care, you have many different physicians that are looking at the patient, but in long-term care and post-acute care, we are not just looking at the medical and clinical management of the patient, but also the psychosocial aspects of their care. We engage the residents/patients and their loved ones involved.
For example, a best practice many centers engage in is learning what the resident/patient did for a living. We continually want to learn about our residents/patients so they know they have a purpose. And that’s what it’s all about, right?
Our practice setting today is so different from even five years ago. We are seeing more acute, complex residents/patients. We will need to keep up with state-of-the-art practices and treatments. It is imperative that we collaborate with all partners, internal and external. As with everything, there is always room to learn, grow, and improve in how we provide care.
Nurses have a strong voice and we need to advocate on behalf of our residents/patients. We really, really do! We need to be optimistic and keep moving forward, because at the end of the day we want our elders to have the best quality of life possible.