Local Visiting Nurses Embody the Values of Their Profession
VNHCH nurses, shown outside their offices last month. Front row Lisa Whitney, Paula Brown, Kelly Peckham, Margaret Robertson, Back row Kate Milbury, Anita Duncan, Maureen Smith, Sandy Ruka Not pictured: Martha Armington, Sarah Desrochers, Betty Jo Heney, Julie Lanoie, Britta Means, Francesca Piestman, Melissa Rendleman and Sue Davidson.
May 9, 2019
NORTH CONWAY, NH -- The nurses were gathering in the Maryellen LaRoche Great Room at the headquarters of Visiting Nurses Home Care & Hospice of Carroll County (VNHCH) in North Conway, NH for their twice monthly meeting. The nurses shared their perceptions of the nursing profession and what drew them into this line of work. The setting was appropriate as Maryellen LaRoche, who passed away in 2009, was a mentor and an inspiration for many nurses in Mount Washington Valley over the years. Her commitment to patients and the nursing profession was echoed by the nurses who have followed in her footsteps, as they reflected on National Nurses Week, which is being celebrated by VNHCH starting May 6 and ending May 12, Florence Nightingale's birthday.
The nurses represented a diversity of experiences. The newest had joined the organization just a few months previous. Others had decades of experience. Almost all provide direct patient care either as a case manager (responsible for overseeing and providing care to a group of assigned patients) or assist the nurse case managers in providing care. Common themes came out of their discussion, that they were committed to their profession due to a hard-wired desire to help people and educate them about their health and their own care.
No matter how long each nurse had been practicing, they all shared the need to have work with meaning. Lisa Whitney, who became a nurse in 2013, shared, “I wanted to help people. I wanted a purpose. At my last job, I was making money for other people but I wanted to do something for others.”
Fellow nurse Kate Milbury added, “I’ve been a nurse for 42 years and it’s been a privilege. I’ve done everything from hospice to acute care. Every job has been an honor to be part of another human’s care. It’s been a rewarding career and I’d do it all again.”
Other positive comments about being a visiting nurse included helping people be in their homes and to recover in an environment where they are comfortable; and contributing to your community in a meaningful way.
Visiting nurses also provide hospice care, an especially meaningful service provided by VNHCH. Whitney said, “Hospice is rewarding, helping families provide care and deal with grief. They are very appreciative with all the support they get from our team.” Hospice is a specialty where nursing helps not only the patient but the entire family.
After sharing what is attractive about the nursing profession, the group also quickly agreed on what is most challenging… documentation. VNHCH Executive Director Sandy Ruka, RN, shared that sentiment. “If nurses could do what they came into nursing for, that would be great. Documentation is time consuming. Regulations, although well intended, can be burdensome in a variety of ways.”
But despite the challenges, nurses never forget the real focus of their job, helping people. Maureen Smith, RN, stated that her most important role is that of teacher. “I like working with people as they learn about their disease and help develop a sense of empowerment as they take care of themselves. Nurses are teachers. The second you arrive at someone’s home, as you walk through the doorway, you ask how they are doing but you are really assessing what they need. It’s interwoven. It’s not always recognized by the patient and families, it’s just ingrained in what we do, we teach.”
Paula Brown, RN agreed. “When you review medications with patients, they may say they are familiar with their medications, but when you ask more questions you realize that the patient and family may not understand their medications. So by talking and teaching about medications the patient and family develop a better understanding of why they are taking them.”
The U.S. is projected to experience a shortage of Registered Nurses that is expected to intensify as Baby Boomers age and the need for health care grows. Compounding the problem is the fact that nursing schools across the country are struggling to expand capacity to meet the rising demand for care given the national move toward healthcare reform. Despite this, this roomful of nurses were eager to share their advice for those wishing to enter the profession. Their advice was simple. Get some good supportive shoes, and find a good mentor.
That mentorship piece was also cited by VNHCH Trustee, Sue Ruka, RN, PhD. She attributed much of her success to her mentor and the namesake of the meeting place of these nurses, Maryellen Laroche. Ruka said, “Maryellen was a great mentor to me and Sandy, encouraging us to look at the big picture and outside the walls of the hospital. She was one of the first grads of the Boston College combined master program (nurse practitioner and clinical specialist). She was the person who led me into aging work and helped me see the value of working with seniors.”
National Nurses Week is a time for everyone – individuals, employers, other health care professionals, community leaders, and nurses – to recognize the vast contributions and positive impact of America’s 4 million registered nurses. VNHCH encourages the community to thank their nurses during National Nurses Week, and every day, for their commitment to the care of our friends and neighbors. For more information on VNHCH, call 603-356-7006 or visit them online at www.vnhch.org.