When did I determine that caring for others in the nursing profession was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life? Between birth and elementary school age, I required several surgeries at two large hospitals. It was here, between the ages of four and nine that I watched the nurses do their everyday work. As a child, I was excited by the human body and realized that I had a love for the health care profession.
I was given the opportunity to do some community service in ninth grade. I knew immediately that I wanted to be a candy striper in a rehabilitation facility. I remember my first day at the center dressed from head to toe in a red and white candy striper uniform. I remember sitting on the edge of Maggie’s bed and despite her glass eye that wandered around, was focused on the detailed stories of her past. I was captivated. She would share with me how happy she was to see me every week and I felt incredibly special. I felt like I was doing something good with my life, and I felt cared for by a bunch of strangers. I was to deliver the mail to clients, and I was to fill water pitchers. I also cherished my time with a man who was toothless, named Charlie, and who absolutely loved baseball. Charlie was the first experience I had with death. I remember going to his room and seeing the stark, white, crisp linens staring up at me and coming to the realization that Charlie was not of this world anymore. This was where I realized I wanted to become a nurse.
When going through college, I worked as a student nurse helping a family get respite. I would arrive at the home, fix dinner, do some light housekeeping, spend time with a very special lady who suffered from dementia, do some ADLs, and get her ready for bed. Every time this lady smiled, it would drive me a little harder to do even more to have it happen again. I was driven by success, the success of lighting up someone else’s life. I also would sing to this client and she would sometimes hum despite not being able to speak.
After graduating college, I worked at an adult day program. In this program, I did nursing tasks such as medication administration, dressing changes, nutrition management, paperwork, applying TED stockings, etc. However, I was also lucky enough to do activities with the population such as word games, discussing current events, singing with them, leading an exercise group, teaching small health care seminars, participating in bowling, and many other similar activities. I felt needed by this population and appreciated it. I worked in the ADP field for approximately thirteen years. When leaving the ADP realm I grieved over losing the ability to see my clients that I had cultivated for years. One of the best parts of this particular job was the notion that I would be able to see the same clients every week and not have the ever-revolving door that can happen in the nursing profession.
I also worked in a nursing home for several years and I worked on a very busy rehabilitation unit where I learned significant skills. I had the benefit of being promoted to charge nurse where I learned how to lead others, and also how to globally meet the needs of over forty residents. This was where I learned I loved teaching nursing to others and I ultimately taught LNA classes at this nursing home. I immensely loved watching a group of strangers learn and become caregivers themselves due to my instruction. It was extremely rewarding. There is nothing more powerful than seeing how a caregiver’s help can affect someone’s life. Whether it is a proper assessment, a suggestion, sharing knowledge, reaching out to a stranger, caring with the depth of the soul for another human being, a letter of recognition, holding a client’s hand, watching a caregiver get a much-needed break, etc. Being a nurse is a natural reward. There is not another career I can personally think of that naturally injects a feel-good feeling into someone. There was nothing more special than being with my clients at end of life with families surrounding their loved ones. I would sit with the client holding their hand, performing mouth care, and just caring. I would be the person who would go and get breakfast in the early morning so the family members would not need to leave the bedside. Family members felt comfortable with me, and I felt appreciated. I felt like I became their security blanket. The power of respect is extremely strong. The idea that a stranger can be cared for and ultimately smile and melt your heart is beyond words. It can give you a great sense of pride and accomplishment when working with others that depend on you. Of course, being a caregiver can also be very painful when you care with your whole heart.
At TLC Home Care Services I was chosen to be a case manager for Chittenden County and to work with over 120 clients in three independent living facilities. I have also worked in the community in this capacity, outside of the buildings I work in. I find this extremely rewarding work. I have taken vital signs, I have counseled, I have held hands of clients, I have listened, I have taught, I have assisted in tasks, and I have assessed. This is such a wonderful opportunity to share what I know with others, support when I need to support, monitor, and assess. My knowledge helps to answer questions of clients, and if I am unable to answer I find the answer and follow up with them.
I have also been selected to teach a number of courses. I feel that teaching others and sharing my knowledge in an interactive fashion is in direct line with my personality. I feel a strong sense of accomplishment when I am able to graduate a group of students and then have them perform what I taught them. I especially love when teaching, incorporating my nursing experiences into my repertoire. This allows my students to picture the concepts when learning them and ultimately they remember these stories when they need to recall the material. I teach a course called Powerful Tools for Care giving and I can’t illustrate how incredible it is watching a person depleted and burned out walk into my class and six weeks later walk out feeling empowered and ready to care for themselves properly so they can best care for their loved one.
I also lead the policies and procedures of orientation for new employees of TLC Home Care. This is a great opportunity to meet all the new employees, share my knowledge, and answer any questions that they may present. This position makes me feel empowered and helpful. I am also a support group leader for dementia. This is where my passion lies. In the many years of experience with dementia, I have a great desire to help family members understand and cope with dementia. I strive to give others hope by my sharing my personal stories and experiences. I also hope to hook people up with the proper resources when they are struggling.
I feel that I positively represent the nursing profession, incorporating teaching, assessment, family relationships, sharing knowledge, listening to clients, and ultimately giving all of myself to every client. I try and treat every client as a family member. The aging population is growing and with my knowledge base and compassionate attitude towards others I feel that I am strongly prepared to be able to care for others, as well as share my stories and experiences with others that can then take my experiences and apply it to their own future careers. The best way that I can describe my feelings about caregiving is that is that it “makes my heart sing.”