Caregivers at Heart, Nursing Assistants Bring Smiles to their Patients’ Homes

June 8, 2020

National Nursing Assistants Week, June 18-24, is dedicated to recognizing the efforts of Nursing Assistants –  LNAs (Licensed Nursing Assistants) and CNAs (Certified Nursing Assistants). With much of its patient care provided by these compassionate and dedicated professionals, Visiting Nurse Home Care & Hospice sees it as a chance to highlight these caregivers and how much they mean to the patients and families they support.

VNHCH Executive Director Sandy Ruka explained the role of the nursing assistant, a little understood but incredibly valuable part of her team. “Nursing Assistants may go by different names depending on where they work and in which state they are licensed. Sometimes you may hear about LNAs or CNAs, or just nursing assistants. They may work in home care, hospitals, nursing homes or hospices. No matter where they work, they receive daily satisfaction from those they care for. The reward of easing pain and providing help in daily tasks is highly motivating for them. They are committed to caring for others … what an amazing calling in life.” When asked who exemplifies the role of nursing assistant, Ruka without hesitation named Tamara Sayers, LNA, a member of their team since 2007.

After relocating to Mount Washington Valley from Michigan, Tamara started out working as an agency homemaker, then quickly realized she wanted to get certified as a licensed nursing assistant. “I said to myself, yeah! I want to do that. I love making people feel better, putting a smile on their face and making them feel independent as possible. I love people and I’m a caregiver at heart.”

VNHCH offered to pay for Tamara’s LNA certification after working for the agency for a year as a homemaker. LNA classes can take place around an individual’s work schedule as classes are offered nights and weekends. In Tamara’s case, she started study in the fall and finished by Christmas studying full time in the evenings. This allowed her to work during the day and still pursue her LNA training at night.

Training as an LNA was not her first course of study. She has found her previous training in theater to be surprisingly valuable in her work as a nursing assistant. “I have learned to read people’s expression, if they are in pain, if their eyes darting, I can gauge by their expression where they are at. In theater, that’s what you do!”

“Wearing a mask (due to COVID-19) has been hard. I love to connect and smile. When I smile, they smile. Now I’ve lost that connection. But they can tell that I’m smiling through my eyes.”

The role of nursing assistant has grown even more important during the current pandemic. Tamara shared, “We bring the outside world to patients. You are the eyes outside. You get the energy of the community and bring that world to them. Now more than ever, people are not seeing family. The Gibson (Center for Senior Service) Bus isn’t taking them places. They aren’t getting that social interaction. We are doing more of that for them.”

Despite the challenges of providing healthcare during the time of COVID, Tamara highly recommends a career as a nursing assistant as it exposes you to a variety of healthcare specialties.  “For a high school student considering healthcare as a course of study,  I would recommend it as a good way to get into it. You get a big picture of what everyone is doing – physical therapists, occupational therapists, doctors and nurses. You get to work with them all. You get to see all kinds of things you wouldn’t see otherwise. You might learn if you don’t want to do it! It’s cheaper than finding out after going to college! It’s a great learning experience to figure it out.”

A career as a nursing assistant also offers a versatile work environment. Tamara enjoys the flexibility of her work schedule, and the variety of her job. “You’re never sitting still. Sometimes I’m helping nurses with wound care. Sometimes grocery shopping. Sometimes helping with a shower, with exercise, or a walk. If you don’t want to sit at a desk or do the same thing all day long, nursing assistant is a great job to consider. You get to work on your own, but be part of a team. It’s the best of both worlds.”

At the end of the day, it’s all about improving the quality of life for patients in their homes. A great day at work can be as simple as a smile or helping a patient meet a goal. “I had a patient who had trouble talking with her doctor, and she couldn’t remember everything she wanted to say. I helped her write it all down, and she was able to call him and do it all by herself. It made my day!”

VNHCH is always looking for caring and compassionate individuals to join their team. Anyone interested in learning more about careers at VNHCH, please call 603-356-7006.
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