by James Coburn – staff writer
Heather Schenck was looking for a home-town nursing position close to home in Stillwater. Golden Oaks Village stood out to her from other places as being very family oriented, said Schenck, LPN, director of nursing. She found that a life of serving seniors is mutually beneficial. It helps Schenck to be centered in her own life.
“Not only do I feel like being a nurse, I’m making a difference,” she said. “Not just making a difference when they are very ill but being able to invest in their daily lives by being part of their lives and love them and care for them.”
Golden Oaks Village is located on 40 acres in Stillwater in a wooded country setting that is filled with ponds and wildlife. A peaceful view accompanies a paved walking trail. Independent and assisted living facilities serve more than 100 seniors and the elderly every day. (story continues below)
Her affinity for working with the senior population began in nursing school. Schenck earned her education at Shelton State Community College, located in her hometown of Tuscaloosa, Ala. At first, she thought she would enter the field of labor and delivery. She had already married at age 18, started a family with three children, and went into nursing at 25.
“Then I did my preceptorship in a nursing home. I had one patient that was mine that I took care of,” Schenck said. “I got to sit and talk with her. I had never really got to visit nursing homes. I had never been in that environment, and I just realized it’s not a very glamorous part of nursing — long-term care. But they just need people who care.”
Her patient in Alabama related that she was at the end of her life as they looked through photographs of her children. Some of the woman’s children had already died. She was a picture of peace while telling stories about her life and had accepted that her life would end.
“I realized that they all need someone who can care for them and love them and be kind to them at that end stage of life,” Schenck said. “I felt the calling.”
Seniors also share their life story at Golden Oaks. By doing so, the residents share a similar time of their life that Schenck currently enjoys in her 30s.
“And so, it helps me to go home to love my husband and love my kids, and appreciate the moments every day, because they’re fleeting,” Schenck explained. “I think sometimes you forget that in life. So, I think it’s grounded me about how precious life is, because I get to work with seniors all the time.”
The nursing staff forms loving relationships with residents and their families. Her work teaches her the value of patience, empathy and kindness — all the things she wants in life. Schenck said nursing is more than just a job for the Golden Oaks staff members. Compassionate nursing is what the staff choses to do every day.
“It’s a tight-knit group that loves their residents fiercely,” she said. “That’s what attracts me with the staff here. I feel we are like-minded in that way.”
It’s normal for a change in residence to be a bit stressful when leaving one’s home for assisted living, Schenck said. She recalls one man who was a little grouchy. So Schenck set her course to help him adjust and win him over.
“The girls are like-minded. And we did, we had won him over. We’d go in there and he would pat our hands and pat our face. He loved that. We loved him, wanted to care for him and support him as he was going through what he was going through,” she continued. “He did pass away, but it was very special. As he was declining, he almost craved our touch as we went in there.”
There are many couples living at Golden Oaks. Whenever a spouse becomes very ill, the nursing staff comes to their side to nurture both spouses. Being a nurse is not just taking care of a sick person, but supporting both spouses, Schenck said.
“If their spouse is acutely ill, then their heart is hurting, so I see the staff rally around that person and offer support and love,” she said. “It’s a great group here.”
After work, Schenck goes home to be with her family that has grown to nine kiddos, she said. She and her husband play with them outside or sit in their chairs and watch them.
“We like to binge-watch shows like Downton Abbey.”
Her oldest daughter is 19 and already has nurturing qualities. Naturally she feels like a nursing career is in her future, too.
“I come home and talk about the things that touch me and share it with my kids,” Schenck said. “I feel like it is so important every day to realize how precious moments are.”
For more information visit: http://goldenoaks.net or call 405-377-1114.