When I graduated from nursing school, I never thought of long-term care (LTC) as a place of employment, let alone that I would be here for twenty-five years. But as bills compiled and funds shortened, it became the answer. And it is so good that time and perceptions change, because over time, it has become not just a financial answer but a place to learn and grow.
I had a really good supervisor in my career, and that person promoted nursing’s art of caring and understanding, showing me how we affect the lives of those in our care and how to empower others. Her vision stuck with me and inspired my own vision of nursing over the years.
I have seen the culture of LTC nursing change. “Eating our young” is now frowned upon, and that has been a wonderful transition. We now work to inspire and engage new employees. And because of that culture change, we grow better nurses; ones who are compassionate and caring, not set in routines and tasks.
I finished my Associate of Science in Nursing right after gaining custody of, and later adopting, three grandchildren who are ages one to six. Needless to say, there was no time for more school with a family and full-time employment. However, when they became teenagers and somewhat independent, I enrolled in school for my Bachelors of Science in Nursing. Yet, as my luck would have it, life crises struck again: my mom and oldest daughter/granddaughter were killed in auto accidents four months apart. Learning became my therapy.
Because of the culture that long-term care currently has of educational and professional growth, I was able to go from a Licensed Practical Nurse to become a Master of Science in Nursing with a role as a nurse executive. Due to these changes in our culture, I have been given the opportunity to climb the ladder from a care nurse to a lower nurse leader role, and there are still higher ladder rungs to reach.
LTC nursing has changed from institutionalized tasks to person-centeredness. This person-centeredness is not just for the clients though. It is also inclusive of families, staff, and the community, as we keep everyone’s needs in mind.
Long-term care nursing for me is about healing, caring, empathy, relationships, and values. It can be both emotionally enlightening and heartbreaking. As such, someone looking into a career as a nurse leader must be able to balance oneself, be controlled but not cold, and be willing to celebrate any accomplishment no matter how small.