I’m originally from the Philippines and came to the United States when I was 18. I’ve been a nurse since I was 19 years old. My first career choice was physical therapy, but while in school I decided to shift my studies to nursing. I wasn’t quite sure about it at first, so I decided to start working as a CNA to see if it was the right fit for me. I took some CNA courses and fell in love with every part of the program. I started working in a long-term care facility for about a year and found that serving an aging population appealed to me. I was determined to continue to learn as much as I could about the long-term environment.
Very soon after that, I became an LPN, and then pursued becoming an RN. The long-term care environment truly inspires me. It’s not a place of death and dying as it is often portrayed, but more of a caring environment and a place to enhance the quality of life for the residents. We bring back a better quality of life to them. We promote empathy. Often, we plan to discharge patients to go home, so it’s also exciting to see our resident’s progress with therapy.
From 2003 to 2012, I found myself completely immersed in the field of nursing. Each week, I worked two very demanding jobs. I spent 24 hours in the ICU, and then finished the week working four 10-hour days as an ADON at a long-term care facility in Upland, CA. The experience of the hospital setting was incredible, as it provided me with an opportunity to see how I could integrate knowledge gathered there to create a safer transition for our residents to a long-term setting. As a nursing supervisor in long-term care, I felt better equipped to handle residents arriving from the acute setting. The experience of working in both settings was so beneficial that I’ve encouraged as many nurses as I can to seek additional experience at the acute hospital.
Most recently, I’ve spent the past year and a half as director of nursing at a facility in South Carolina. In the move to South Carolina, I’ve discovered that the work is every bit as enjoyable as any assignment I’ve had in California. Our chosen profession is one for which it is easy to develop a passion. What a privilege it is to work to respectfully handle both aging, and end of life issues, and make very sensitive situations better for the residents and families. Wherever possible, we really give them a quality of life and make them comfortable. It is such a privilege to work side-by-side with nurses to enact positive change and provide the best care.
As a DON, when the other nurses see you on the floor with them, they see that you love what you do and there’s a reason you do what you do. You have to love what you do and they have to see that. And when you love your job, it sometimes doesn’t even feel like a job. In long-term care, we really work as a family who loves each other, and it shows in our patient care. I’m so grateful for our family of nurses and for the untiring support they provide.
The advice I would give to someone considering a career in long-term care and nurse leadership is that you need to love what you do and have a passion for what you do. Be dynamic and encourage and inspire those around you. If you are going to be a leader, or a nurse manager, or a director of nursing in the SNF, you will have all kinds of patients. You need to be flexible and creative. Be innovative, always accept feedback, and have the strength to never give up.