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Want a Career that Provides Research Opportunities, Autonomy, and the Ability to Make a Difference? Try LTC!

My first degree was in science education. While getting my education, I worked in the nursing home right across the street at night as an aid. I also worked there as an aid in high school over the summer, and I became really comfortable and enjoyed being around the older adult population. I felt that the patients were very grateful, even if they didn’t always show it.

Throughout my career, I’ve worked in acute care, home care, outpatient dialysis, and the operating room, so I had plenty of opportunities to work somewhere else, but I always came back to long-term care. Even when I was in my other positions, I worked in long-term care on the weekends, and I just never left.

In long-term care, most of my career has been as a supervisor, or working with the MDS and reimbursement. I am currently working toward my Master’s degree in patient safety and quality, and I really hope to do some research in long-term care. I think most of the research about long-term care is adapted from short-term care. There’s not a lot of research done within our own population, which is a huge opportunity for long-term care nurses today to research and help improve the quality of care for our residents.

I would really like to research uninterrupted sleep for dementia residents to see if the impact of longer sleep is more beneficial than the “two-hour wake and re-position” regimen currently practiced. There’s a recent study that six hours of uninterrupted sleep has shown a decrease in falls and agitation, which causes a decrease in psychotropic medication and ADL function. The study is trying to investigate what is the best practice. 

I was recently a quality nurse for a facility in Connecticut, but in July 2017, I started as the interim director of nursing. As I take over the role of DON, one thing I’m really excited about is being able to test some of my theories while I am working and see if we can improve the quality of care.

My best advice to all the nurses out there considering long-term care and nurse leadership would be: don’t get discouraged. New graduates come and they see the sadness that we see, patients are dying, but it’s necessary to really stand back and look at what we do in long-term care, which is provide the best quality care for the residents.

I would also say this is a perfect career for someone looking for a lot of freedom. There’s a great amount of autonomy in long-term care for really good registered nurses (RNs). Advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) are also doing almost everything; we hardly ever see doctors anymore, especially in smaller facilities.

I encourage nurses in long-term care to work toward advanced degrees. When you have more education, you can deliver better care. Since I’m going to get my Master’s and I’m working with a lot of new topics – evidence-based nursing and nursing theory – I can see where these things can really help in our profession.

I’m also one of nine OASIS Master Trainers for the Music and Memory program who were trained on how to integrate that program into dementia care. We are trying to change the way nursing has been done for eons. It’s a challenge, but it’s definitely one I’d like to see us overcome. We have the ability to really make an impact and change lives for the better in long-term care.

So be sure to learn, learn, learn – get out and know what’s going on in the field. You can’t get discouraged and you have to keep getting better at it; you have to keep learning. Get your education, get your certifications, and get better at what you do. You’ll make a difference and love it at the same time!

This is our time in long-term care. Nurses in long-term care are major players in the overall impact of older adult health and it’s our time to show what we have and what we can do. Let’s show the best side of care and show what we do really well in our field. I’m hoping we are ready for this, to show our best side. I know there is a purpose for what we do. No matter what Medicare throws at us, there will always be patients who need and rely on long-term care.