CAREERS IN NURSING
CARING HEART: DON HELPS TO PROVIDE A HOME LIKE SETTING
by James Coburn – Writer/Photographer
Communication and customer service are important factors in a nursing home and skilled rehabilitation unit, said Sue Smith, RN, director of nursing at HCR ManorCare Midwest City.
Smith earned her Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree at the University of Vermont in 1978. She has done various type of nursing, but predominantly long-term care. She worked as a school nurse for several years at a boy’s school for emotionally disabled teenage boys.
“I was a Red Cross nurse for a few years drawing blood,” she said.
Her heart has always been with long-term care. What drew her to it was realizing there is such a need for geriatric nursing. Many of them do not have frequent visitors so they count on HCR ManorCare’s nursing staff to become their family, she said.
She had been with HCR ManorCare since 2013 when she worked at another Oklahoma City facility. She transferred to the Midwest City ManorCare in October, 2014.
“I most admire the staff here for their compassion,” she said. “They truly care about their patients. And that’s one of the things we emphasize and work towards — this genuine concern — I can hire nurses all day that have the skill set to come in and pass a pill and take vital signs.”
“I want nurses who truly care about these patients and these residents.”
Working in a nursing home requires a lot of patience, Smith said. Many of the patients would be at their former home if they were able to care for themselves or have somebody to look after them. But there comes a time in life when living at home is no longer in somebody’s best interest for health and safety reasons.
“The very fact that they’ve had to come to us often means that the level of care and supervision that is required to meet their needs is above-and-beyond what the average family member can provide,” Smith said.
Along with that may come behavioral challenges, confusion and a life with dementia as the population ages. Some people have forgotten that they are not safe to do certain things, Smith said.
“So they continue to try to get up and walk when they aren’t really physically capable of that,” Smith continued. “And so it can be challenging.”
Sometimes patients have been in a hospital setting not long enough for a hospital staff to realize that the patient was developing adverse complications from some of the medications, Smith said.
“Because we didn’t know the patient beforehand, we can’t identify it right away, so sometimes it is a challenge to be able to determine what is causing some of these things,” Smith explained.
Leaving one’s home and familiar environment to live in a long-term care setting is not always a smooth emotional process. HCR ManorCare nurse are trained to make their transition as loving as possible.
“Orientation to a new environment is key,” Smith said. “I’m frequently talking to my staff about customer service.” It’s up to the staff of HCR ManorCare to serve the residents with respect and kindness.
“Especially when they first come to us, they don’t know us or their environment. Sometimes they don’t really understand what they are really here for. So it’s our job to make them as comfortable as we possibly can, making sure they are aware of the services we are providing to them.”
The nursing staff helps the residents understand their routines, which goes a long way in calming anxiety, Smith said. Therapists arrive at certain times of the day to help them become stronger.
“That’s something they want to know,” Smith said.
Sometimes providing the best customer service may be as simple as noticing that a battery died in a clock. And the residents need to know what time it is, she said.
“Dietary preferences. If they get served something they didn’t like they can let us know,” Smith said. “…We will make those things available to them to make them feel a little more like they’re at home.”
Residents like to pay Bingo and attend church services. There are music groups from the community who perform for them.
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“There is a lot of interaction between our staff and our long-term care residents,” she said.
Smith balances her career with a healthy home life. She and her husband purchased a new home in Yukon and are doing a lot of yard work.
“Probably my greatest pastime is my eight grandchildren,” she said. “I just love spending time with them.”