Coronavirus Diaries: True caring is seeing people for who they are.

True caring is seeing people for who they are.

By Sue Vitone, RN

I’ve worked as a Registered Nurse in many capacities before joining the staff of Elim Park Health Care Center, a senior living community in Cheshire, CT.  Up until this past spring, I served as a Nursing Supervisor and the Staff Development Educator at Elim Park. Training other nurses and sharing my love of caring for seniors was a perfect fit for me. As the coronavirus pandemic made its way through Connecticut, I took up the role of Post Acute Unit Manager and Night Shift Supervisor in the COVID-19 care unit in Elim Park’s Health Care Center.

As a nurse, your training and instincts direct you to where you can do the greatest good. Caring for residents in the COVID-19 unit in our Heath Care Center was where I knew I needed to be. Elim Park has been so proactive in providing us with all the Personal Protective Equipment that we need. This means our staff can work with greater safety and confidence because we have the resources we need to do our job.

Though this virus is new for everyone, our Chief Nursing Officer Janet Lexton led the way through this uncharted territory. She worked literally every day for months on end and went above and beyond to care for and protect our residents. The entire Elim Park management team has been incredibly proactive in providing us with all the Personal Protective Equipment we need. Our staff here works with greater safety and confidence because we have the resources necessary to do our job.

A big difference of working within a community like Elim Park is that, unlike in a typical acute care hospital setting where nurses typically see patients quickly come and go, we have longtime relationships with the people we care for. Beyond just their medical history, we know our residents’ personalities and life stories. We know their special interests and likes…the big and little things that make them unique.

However, these special relationships make it harder in some ways, because you just care so much. Frankly, I’ve cried more in the last few weeks than I have in the last few years. I was a Hospice nurse for many years but it’s different because the family cannot be here right now. We do everything within our power, though, to bring comfort to a loved one. We hold the person’s hand. We talk with them about things that are important in their lives. We call the families as much as possible. I hope this makes it a bit easier knowing we’re doing our very best to make sure their loved one doesn’t feel alone.

And as nurses, we don’t do this work alone. Everyone at Elim Park —nurses, CNAs, therapists, the dining staff, security, you name it— works together as one family. This teamwork is like nothing I’ve ever seen before.

Elim Park Place’s management team is incredibly responsive and compassionate. While dealing with big challenges every day, our management team still takes the time to see the person—and that goes for patients, families and staff. An example of this was when I had served a double shift overnight and then was conducting an orientation for new nurses in the morning. Brian Bedard, our CEO, saw me and said, “I’ve been looking for you!” My first thought was, uh-oh, what happened? Then Brian said, “I heard you’ve been working around the clock. I’m sure you’re really tired. Before you leave this morning, let me know and I’ll drive you home.”  The fact that with so much going on, the CEO is concerned about the staff as people makes all the difference.

Here’s one more example: Elim Park Place is a faith-based community open to all faiths and we have a lovely chapel here. At a recent employee meeting, Brian invited the staff to use the chapel any time they needed a quiet moment or to pray. He then added, “Stop by my office and just ask, and I’ll come pray with you.” This is just another reason why I am so thankful to serve our seniors in this community.