I graduated from nursing school back in 1980, so I’ve been in nursing almost 40 years!
My background is in acute care as a critical care nurse. At the time, we had a consultant who was looking for a nurse to oversee a sub-acute care unit. I was looking for a new challenge, because I had been in acute care for quite a while. I agreed to go interview with the administrator. The reason I did that was I’m always challenging myself to take risks, and I felt like I could really have an impact on what they were trying to do with my background in the ICU and the residents that were there with the acute respiratory conditions. I got the position, and from there, I was hooked!
Everyone told me I would be bored. I taught trauma classes, advanced life-support, and CPR in the past. However, I’ve never been bored for one day!
My motivation for becoming a nurse leader was to share my skills and my knowledgebase, and it was a different care setting with the nurse staff. I’m a teacher by heart. I like to teach and coach and mentor – all sorely lacking when it comes to the nursing profession today.
I always tell people that I have had some great clinical mentors over the years, and that is so essential. With the healthcare system in this day and age, whether they are new nurses or new graduates, who come to our care setting, I tell a DON or MDS coordinator to take the time no matter how busy we are with all of the multiple tasks and competing priorities to consider stopping by and helping someone new. We are obligated to give back to the new staff.
I take that advice into my own work as well. I am the director of clinical operations in Texas, and I talk to at least 10-20 nurses a day on the phone. I’m always trying to encourage them, whether it’s a DON or reimbursement specialist. I try to tell them thank you for all that they do. I try to make that a priority, because they don’t hear that a lot. Particularly one of the areas I oversee is regulatory compliance and the feedback they typically receive is often negative regarding what they are not doing, I try to flip that message and tell them the positive. “Here is what you are doing to improve the lives of our residents. It’s really appreciated.” That is one of the most rewarding parts of my job, being able to encourage others.
My advice to someone looking into long-term care and nurse leadership as a profession is that if you are looking for a daily challenge, an opportunity to use every skillset that you have learned over the years on both a personal and professional level, and a chance to develop professionally, I do not think you can find a better field than working in long-term care with the elderly and with geriatrics. If you’re looking for the challenge of a lifetime, this would be it!