by James Coburn
Sue Gibson was ready for a change in her nursing career before she found her niche with Mercy.
“Fate brought me here. This is where I was meant to be,” said Gibson, RN, nurse manager of Mercy Home Health, Oklahoma City and Midwest City.
She discovered that Mercy shares her values when she first interviewed at Mercy with one of the hospital’s vice presidents, she said.
“He opened the interview with a prayer,” Gibson said. “At that point, I knew I was home. They really focus on the patient. That’s the most important thing. We’ve lost that a little bit in corporate America. It boils down to money sometimes and Mercy has made it all about the patient.”
Gibson has seen how faith can reinforce a person’s resilience in life, adding to its texture and quality.
Gibson was a licensed practical nurse in 1978 when she decided to go back to school to earn her Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree in California. Her husband was in the military, which brought her nursing career to many places.
“I’ve worked med-surg, orthopedic. In Germany I worked in the emergency room there for three years,” Gibson said. “I flew with the Medevac crew and went out with the ambulance crew.”
Gibson worked in home health in California twice, serving the farmlands and diverse metropolitan areas. She has worked in home health for 21 years in Oklahoma, where she has encountered a diversity of weather conditions.
“Even this week when you have ice, or when you’re having tornadoes, they’re out in this all the time,” Gibson continued. “They’re so committed. No matter what’s going on — no matter the environment — it’s not like working in the hospital where everything is clean and everything is a certain temperature.”
“Home health is not for everyone,” she said. “It’s difficult sometimes. You’re driving in weather, getting bit by dogs and things — things of that nature, and you have to love what you do by having that faith and being able to pray with your patients.”
Mercy Home Health pays close attention to the weather forecast, sometimes five days before turbulence arrives in Oklahoma. They begin to prepare the patients to have enough medicine and food in the house. This is to ensure the patients will be alright if an ice storm prohibits travel or delays a visit, she said.
“Some of them are on oxygen and they have to have extra oxygen bottles. We have to make sure the company that provides that — we would contact them and make sure they can provide that.”
If a patient is in a place where there is a prolonged black-out of electricity, the nurses make sure the patient can stay with a family member or go to a community center, Gibson said.
This commitment to outstanding patient care is reassuring to Mercy’s home health patients. Some patients that she has gotten to know do not have anyone else in their lives but themselves and a friendly home health nurse bringing some home and cheer into their lives.
“The only person they may see that week is the home health people,” Gibson said. “So you really play such an important role in their well-being and their recovery.”
Mercy Home Health nurses share a common thread of faith in what they are doing, she said. Her confidence was instilled long ago when she considered a nursing career.
“I guess I don’t remember not wanting to be a nurse. I grew up around my grandparents. You know care giving was just what you did,” she explained.
Being a nurse is a calling and those who think of it as merely a job are in the wrong business, Gibson continued. What keeps her dedication primed in home health is a continuity of care, not a snap-shot of a patients life that comes with working in a hospital, she said.
“When they’re home, they’re in their own environment,” Gibson noted. “And that’s where the healing kind of takes place.”
Home is a place where nurses can offer one-on-one care and witness a difference in a patients recovery. Sometimes there are patients who do not get better, who can be offered palliative care and comfort measures as they transition, Gibson said. Mercy Home Health has a seamless relationship with Mercy Hospice when a terminal illness presents itself.
“It makes it an easier transition for the patient,” she said.
Gibson also brings her caring spirit to the love of leading a full life.
“You know I’m kind of an outdoors person,” she said. “I hunt. We have property in southwestern Oklahoma where I hunt with my husband and my son.”
It’s not the act of hunting that she enjoys. It’s being on a deer stand before daylight, watching the sunrise beckoning a new day of possibilities, Gibson said.
“It’s just a calm, quiet time with all the animals coming out,” she said.