CAREERS IN NURSING
GENERAL THREADS: DECADES OF LIFE IS SHARED AMONG ELDERS AND YOUNGSTERS
by James Coburn – Writer/Photographer
Charity Casey’s drive to become a registered nurse comes from her experiences with her grandmother, who lived in a nursing home for five years.
“It really touched me. I was a teenager,” Casey said. “It really led me to pursue geriatrics instead of a hospital setting. And I have fallen in love with it,” said Casey, an RN at Willow Creek, a long-term care and rehabilitation center located in Guthrie.
The nurses at the facility where my grandmother was at were always very nice, very pleasant,” Casey said. “And they seemed to love their job.”
Her grandmother was also a nurse who often spoke of her everyday life in the profession. She had been a surgery nurse in Enid for 10 years before working in a long-term care setting.
When Casey would injure herself as a child, perhaps with a cut on the back of her foot, her grandmother would apply the bandage and wrap it up properly.
“It was those little things when I was growing up with her being in the house that she used to do,” Casey said. “She loved being a nurse. She talked about it often.”
As the MDS coordinator, Casey is responsible for managing the data sets the government needs to facilitate Medicare and to oversee regulatory requirements for care. She has worked at Willow Creek for three years.
“I do a lot of paperwork and send it to the government. I do assessments. I also develop care plans for my residents,” said Casey, who has been a registered nurse for three years since she earned her Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree from Northern Oklahoma College. What she liked about NOC were the small classes that were not too big, she said.
“It was really nice to go to NOC,” Casey said.
She started as a floor nurse and charge nurse at Willow Creek. After four months, she made the transition to MDA part time. Then about one year ago, her role as MDS coordinator became a full time position.
“I do occasionally work as a charge nurse when it’s needed,” she said.
Casey loves her residents at Willow Creek, she said. They keep her dedicated to serve others.
“I love my team, but I love my residents more. I’ve gotten to know my residents and I love them,” Casey said. “You’ve got to love what you do to be a nurse or a CNA to work in geriatrics. Sometimes it’s very trying, but at the end if you love what you do and love the residents, you’re going to keep at it.”
The nursing staff works cohesively as one unit to get things done, Casey continued. When challenges come, they go to each other to brainstorm for a solution, she explained.
“That, you don’t find everywhere. I work with a lot of great nurses here that do their jobs will,” she said. “Communication is very important to stay on the same page to know what’s going on.”
Communication also applies to the residents as Casey and her residents share stories. She learns about what life was like in past decades. Sometimes the conversations are comical, Casey said. But sometimes due to health factors they cannot always communicate as effectively as in years past.
“By just talking about their day or their grandchildren, you really get to know their family. As MDS coordinator I talk to family members and the residents themselves. Just to know their family and where they came from is a different side of my job that at other places I wouldn’t be able to do.”
Some the residents will say, ‘Back in the day, mom was a flight attendant.’ They will show an old picture and that’s just fun to see that side of the person because they may not remember or tell me they used to do that, but their family will,” she said.
The celebration of holidays and other festivities will also help the residents feel a sense of home. Lot’s of family joins in for the Christmas celebration and Thanksgiving dinners. Watermelon has been served on July 4.
During the school year, local pre-k children will visit the residents, sing and perform skits for them and sometimes will sit on the residents’ laps.
The intergenerational pre-k program brings the children to greet the residents three times a week for an entire school day. Casey explained of the program that has been ongoing for three years.
“They absolutely love it. When they come around, our elders really love to see them,” Casey said.