LPN brings kindness and curiosity to patient care
story and photo by James Coburn
Belinda West entered the health care field because the she believes the elderly are often overlooked when it comes to their health. They are also forgotten, said West, LPN, MDS coordinator, Willow Creek Health Care, located in Guthrie.
“We just don’t seem to respect them as other cultures do,” West said. “I just feel the need to care for them, take them in and love them.”
She thought she was going to become a teacher when she began college. She had considered nursing before then. West discovered she wasn’t “cut from the same cloth” as teachers. So she developed her love for science in the medical field. She had been a CNA before.
“What really got me wanting to be a nurse was the respect for nurses when my son was born,” she said. “Twenty-four hours after he was born he started dying. So he is now 21; he did live. I just have a respect for the nurses in the tragedy we went through with him. It kind of birthed this passion for nursing.”
A nurse for 13 years, West’s first job was in the field of endoscopy at a free standing clinic. Working with four doctors there was fun, she said, and she learned a lot. West also has experience in home health, in which she had a passion for wound care, she said. But most of her career has been in long-term care.
A recruiter attracted her to Willow Creek Health Care.
“I knew nothing about this place, and a recruiter was very emphatically trying to contact me,” she said. “And it is an amazing fit. I’m really glad that they did.”
She found the nursing staff to be nice and helpful, West said. Not everywhere she has worked before has been friendly, she continued. West felt at home when she first entered the door of Willow Creek Health Care. It was peaceful and serene, she said.
“The fact that the other staff are nice and genuinely cordial towards you is very different,” said West, who highlighted patience and compassion as qualities essential to long-term nursing care. It takes the understanding that the resident who can no longer feed himself was once a person who could have been president of a large company. Their present circumstance does not define who they are as a person.
“To understand who a person was before really helps to understand them now in what they’re dealing with, and how to help them live a quality life,” West said.
They want to relate with people and to be understood, accepted and loved. It’s not that hard to show somebody a tiny bit of respect and compassion, West said. Life must be hard for them when knowing the situation, they are in, she continued. A year ago, they may have been driving. West said it is a struggle for them to have to rely on others to take care of their needs on a daily basis.
Some of the residents took a liking to West right away. They continue to visit with her often, she said. The residents enjoy conversation just like anyone else.
“The highlight of their day is five minutes with somebody,” West added. “I invite them in to sit and chat.”
West is a very inquisitive person, she said. Her curiosity invites a love for learning, making the role as MDS coordinator the perfect fit.
West has already started her path to becoming a registered nurse. She already has some credits from Wichita State University where she once lived.
At one time she was going to become a physician’s assistant. But she moved to Oklahoma where she had to wait for six months to receive in-state tuition at the University of Oklahoma.
“I was not going to wait that long,” she said.
She attended OSU/OKC for a few classes, but raising a family as a single mother while working full time made her career path a long road, she explained.
“I’m nearing the end,” West said. “I really don’t have the drive to get my PA anymore. It just doesn’t seem that’s where I want to be right now.”
“This is where I want to be right now,” West said. “I’m pretty sure I will stay in long-term care.” Interaction with residents keeps her focused.
“One of the residents on her birthday got a package. She got so excited and had to share that moment with me,” she said. “They came in to my office and sat down. They had me open it. They wanted me to feel I was special enough to share that moment.”