by James Coburn – Writer/Photographer
Trisha Allen’s first love as a registered nurse is long-term care, she said.
“I was probably about 14,” Allen said of her first inclination to join the nursing profession. “My dad was in the hospital and that’s when he told me I would be a great nurse. So that was the first seed that was planted.”
Today Allen serves as the assistant director of nursing at HCR Manor Care in Midwest City. She is a graduate of Oklahoma City Community College and has been an RN for six years. She was a licensed practical nurse for two years and was a CNA/CMA for five years beginning in 2001. In 2013 she joined the team at HCR Manor Care.
“This is the only job that you can be the extension of somebody’s feet,” she said. “In other words, we’re their arms, we’re their hands, we’re their legs. We’re their heart and we’re their family. And you can’t do that anywhere else.”
She said working in long-term care is different than working in a hospital where she said nurses mostly focus on responding to a disease but not the patient.
“Here we are an extension of their lives. They are unable to function on their own and we have to complete each patient with whatever it takes for them to be a normal functioning human being,” Allen explained. “And so that’s what drives me.”
She follows them through their lives. When a resident needs help with Bingo, the nurses are there to help them. The nursing staff helps residents complete cognitive tasks when necessary as well as their showers and feeding.
“We do it without the equipment. We do it on nursing assessment,” she said. “Long-term care does not have EKGs and respiratory therapists and all the different things the hospital has. In long-term care, the assessing tools of the nurse are completely dependent on their training.”
Long-term care is the “real deal” when it comes to nursing, she said. The nurses work without heart monitors as they make their assessments, she continued. Anything that is not consistent with normalcy will be followed up with a physician’s orders, she said.
“That’s the medical part of it. But we treat the whole aspect of the patient,” Allen said. “We treat their activities, their life, their family, their tears, their critical diagnosis, their dying, their living, laughter and partying, meals, oral care.”
Completion is at the core of long-term care, she said. Allen stays with her profession for that reason. Nurses help new residents adjust to their new homes at HCR Manor Care. She said the first thing nurses do is to get the new resident out of their rooms. Residents are involved in activities.
“You really just have to love them. And loving them means loving them unselfishly,” Allen said. “You have to approach them as if they were the only thing on earth.”
It is love that will motivate new residents to become involved in activities and making friends with other residents. It’s important for them to develop a life outside of their rooms so they can interact with their new family, Allen said.
Allen appreciates each individual of the nursing staff for their professional growth they experience at HCR Manor Care. The company demands a lot from every nurse aide and nurse, Allen explained.
“It amazes me every day on how much each individual climbs to our expectations and over compensate for everything that we ask,” Allen said.
She said she is amazed when seeing how the nurses accomplish their goals from making sure they get their clarification orders to assessing a patient. They notice subtle differences when a resident does not seem the same as the day before when placed in a wheel chair.
“They assess their vital signs and heart rate, just some simple things like making sure they are drying the patients appropriately,” Allen noted. “Give them their showers and rotate them. The CNA’s are making sure people are turned.”
Allen said she is impressed by how the staff follows through with what is required to produce excellent patient care. As a group, they operate consistently 24-hours daily on every shift, she said.
“It’s amazing about the staff that works here,” Allen said.
Allen said she will train each new nurse until she knows them well enough to discern their qualities and faults. She provides training based on what is needed, she said. HCR demands much of its nursing staff. Allen said she develops the core qualities of new nurses in order to fit them in where they are most effective. The job requires more than skills.
“Some nurses are long-term care nurses and some are acute care nurses,” she said. “The number one quality that you have to have here is you have to care about these people. If you don’t you will never last because we follow up and demand it. If you’ve got the heart we can develop everything else.”
Allen’s altruistic nature extends to her family. She has a son living with autism. She and her husband also have a daughter, 13. Together they spend a lot of time doing yard and house work.
“During the summer we spend a lot of time swimming. I just like to spend it with my family. Even if it’s raking leaves, I don’t care.”